How are child custody rights divided in Pennsylvania?

With regard to parental rights and where a child will reside most of the time, Pennsylvania family law divides child custody into two areas: legal custody and physical custody.

A parent with legal custody has the right to make important decisions regarding the child, including decisions related to education, religion and health care. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and the parent’s actual control and possession of the child. Parents may or may not share in each kind of custody.

In other words, when appropriate, both parents can have shared legal custody and shared physical custody. In this situation, the child spends more or less an equal amount of time with each parent, and both parents can make important decisions regarding the child.

However, many family situations call for one parent to have primary physical custody, meaning that the child lives with that parent most of the time. The other parent may then have partial physical custody, which may involve parenting time on the weekends or some other arrangement.

When one parent has sole physical custody, that parent alone has the right to actual control and possession of the child.

Even if a parent has sole custody of a child — whether it’s physical custody or legal custody — the parent is not free to relocate without notifying the other parent and getting the court’s consent. If the other parent opposes the move, then the parent with custody may need to seek a modification of the court order.

The family law attorneys of Bononi & Company work with parents to develop child custody plans that meet the family’s specific needs. To learn more, please visit our Greensburg child custody overview.