When parents no longer are living together, one of the issues that they will have to address is how to handle the custody of the children. In Pennsylvania you will often hear two types of custody talked about: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody refers to who the children will live with. Usually, one parent has primary physical custody which means that the children live with that parent more than 50% of the time. In that situation, the other parent will have partial physical custody on a schedule that is agreed to by the parents or set up by the Court. Sometimes the parents may share custody equally.
Legal custody refers to who gets to make decisions concerning the health, welfare and upbringing of the children. This includes things like non-emergency medical care and where the children go to school. Most often both parents with share legal custody equally.
When determining what the custody arrangement will be, the primary factor that is considered is what is in the best interests of the children. Often, parents work out these arrangements between themselves, either voluntarily or with the assistance of their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach a decision, however, or when unmarried parents are unable to agree on who will have custody of their child, the court may intervene and make a decision based on the child's best interests.
In the past year and a half, Pennsylvania has passed several new laws as that have significantly affected custody. These include new laws concerning relocation and the rights of parents and grandparents in custody.
If you have questions about custody, whether it is a new custody order or issues with an existing one, I would be glad to meet with you. Please contact me to schedule an appointment.