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For parents in Pennsylvania who are going through a divorce, there is oftentimes one primary issue that can keep them up at night as the case is pending: child custody. After all, parents always want what is best for their children. However, what that is, exactly, is sometimes a contentious point in a divorce case. When parents understand the basics about child custody and their legal options as the divorce case moves forward, they may feel better prepared for what comes next.

For starters, there are two aspects to child custody – “legal” custody and “physical” custody. Both aspects must be addressed in a child custody order. “Legal” custody refers to which parent – or both – will be awarded the right to make important decisions about the child’s life, such as where the child will attend school or church, or what medical care the child might receive, for example. “Physical” custody refers to where the child will actually reside. Whereas physical custody arrangements can vary widely depending on the unique circumstances of the family involved, legal custody is typically awarded as “joint” or “sole” custody.

Physical custody is usually either “joint” physical custody, where the parties share custody equally, or “primary” and “partial” custody, where one parent has more time with the children than the other.  Rarely, one parent has “sole” custody, where the other parent has no right to physical custody of the children.

Whether it is legal or physical custody being addressed, many family law judges prefer to award joint custody. It is widely acknowledged that it is best for a child to have both parents involved in their lives. However, each case is different, so our readers should be sure to get more information about their own unique situation.