When we get married, we envision our happily ever after with our new spouse. Sadly, not everyone’s marriage stays happy, and some may decide that it is best to divorce. If you have kids, you may be concerned about how your divorce will affect your relationship with them. Specifically, you may be concerned about your child custody rights. The following is a brief overview of child custody laws in Pennsylvania.
Types of child custody in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law recognizes legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right parents have to make major life choices regarding the child, such as which doctors the child will see, what religion the child will be exposed to and what school the child will attend. Legal custody can be sole or shared.
Physical custody refers to which parent has the child in their care at which times. Physical custody can be partial or primary. If a parent has primary physical custody, they have the child in their care for a majority of the time. If a parent has partial physical custody, then they have the child in their care for less than a majority of the time. Physical custody can be either sole or shared.
Child custody factors
Courts will consider numerous factors when determining how to allocate child custody. Some of these factors include:
- The relationship between each parent and the child
- The geographic location of each parent
- Each parent’s health
- The child’s wishes
- The child’s relationships with siblings and extended family
- The existence of parental alienation and/or domestic violence
This is only a partial list of the many factors a court will issue when developing a child custody order in Pennsylvania.
The child’s best interests
The standard used in making legal custody and physical custody decisions is the best interests of the child. This means parents and the court will prioritize the child’s needs above their own. Doing so helps ensure the child grows and thrives after the divorce.