Divorce and separation can be full of contentious issues, but possibly the most contentious is child custody. Parents always have strong feelings about where their children should live and how they should be brought up. While sometimes parents in Pennsylvania can agree about how child custody should be handled, other times they need help from mediators or the court. This blog post will provide a quick introduction to how child custody issues are handled by family law courts.
When most people think of child custody, they are thinking about the concept of physical custody — the issue of where the child will live. In many cases, one parent will have physical custody of the child. This means that the child lives with that parent most of the time. Usually, the other parent will have visitation rights. The other parent either can visit the child, or the child will be permitted to live with the other parent for brief periods of time. In other cases, the parents will have joint physical custody, where the child live with each parent for about 50% of the time.
There is another aspect of child custody — legal custody. Legal custody is the right to make important life decisions on the child’s behalf. These decisions can include which school the child will attend and which religion the child will practice. Usually, parents have joint legal custody, meaning they share the right to make these important decisions for their child.
Pennsylvania has guidelines that govern how child custody decisions are made. The overarching concern is the best interests of the child. A judge must find that a child custody plan is in the best interests of the child for the plan to be approved.