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How is custody determined in Pennsylvania divorces?

| Sep 11, 2020 | Child Custody |

As a parent, your bond with your children is likely one of the most special relationships in your life. Yet, you and your spouse may be preparing to divorce, which means you may spend less time with them than before. You might fear that your spouse will try to limit your access to your children once you split. But Pennsylvania law, in most cases, aims to ensure that both parents remain part of their children’s lives after they divorce.

Understanding Pennsylvania’s custody laws

Like most states, Pennsylvania’s custody guidelines prioritize your children’s best interests. As their parents, you and your spouse will understand these better than anyone else. If you two can work out a parenting plan together, its provisions will supersede the state’s statutes. Yet, if you do not see eye to eye on parenting matters or your custody schedule, you will likely settle your dispute in court.

When figuring out a parenting plan, a judge will weigh your family’s circumstances. Factors they may consider in making their decision include:

  • You and your spouse’s parental roles during your marriage
  • Your children’s relationship with their siblings and extended family
  • You and your spouse’s ability to nurture your children and provide them stability
  • Whether you or your spouse have tried to turn your children against the other parent
  • Whether you and your spouse can cooperate with each other about parenting matters
  • How close you and your spouse live to each other

Types of custody in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recognizes two different types of custody. Legal custody refers to your right to make decisions about your children. And physical custody refers to your right to have your children live with you. State courts often presume that joint custody will benefit children of divorcing parents. Likely, you or your spouse will receive joint legal custody of your children. You may share physical custody of them as well, yet you may not split it 50/50.

A judge may also decide that awarding primary physical custody to you or your spouse is in your children’s best interests. If one of you ends up being your children’s primary physical custodian, the other could still receive partial physical custody. This arrangement will allow your children to live with their non-custodial parent at specific times, like on weekends. If partial physical custody is not feasible in your situation, you or your spouse will receive visitation as appropriate.

By understanding how custody works in Pennsylvania, you can work to make sure you remain present in your children’s lives. A family law attorney can help you protect your parental rights.