Custody & Visitation


In Pennsylvania, when deciding what custody arrangements will be set in place for the child, the Judge decides what will “best serve the interests of the child.” A determination of what is best for any particular child requires a case-by-case examination. The court will consider several factors outlined in Pennsylvania’s custody statute. Multiple factors including the child’s age, sex, relationship to each parent, emotional and physical needs as well as the respective parent’s employment and financial status, school district, and sobriety are considered.

There are four types of custody:

  • Legal
  • Physical
  • Sole
  • Joint

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right and obligation to make decisions about your child, including education, religion, medical care and discipline.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is the right to have your child(ren) live with you.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is when only one parent has legal and/or physical custody of a child.

Sole legal custody means that only one parent is responsible for making decisions about their child’s upbringing.

Sole physical custody means that only one parent has the right to have a child live with him/her.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is when you and your child’s other parent share legal and/or physical custody. Joint legal custody is when both parents share in the making decisions for the child such as education, religion and medical care. Joint physical custody occurs when both parents spend time living with the child(ren). Joint legal custody might mean:

  • Child(ren) lives with each parent for a set number of months, weeks or days
  • Children spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other
  • The parents move in and out of the child(ren)’s home

If you need a knowledgeable and experienced custody attorney, contact us today for your free consultation.

Partial Physical Custody

Although the New Child Custody Statute has essentially eliminated visitation, it references visitation often. Today, visitation has been replaced with “partial physical custody.”

A parent or family member who does not have full physical custody of the child may have the right to partial physical custody of the child (although supervised visitation may be required). For example, grandparents may seek partial physical custody when parents divorce and it is in the child's best interest.

From time to time, it may become necessary to modify a custody order. If both parties are in agreement, it is a fairly simple process. Otherwise, a Petition for Modification must be filed with the Court and a hearing is held before a Master/Judge who will make a decision. Otherwise, once the custody order is signed by the Master/Judge and filed with the court, all parties are bound by the order and could be held in Contempt of Court if the order isn’t followed.

If you need an attorney with knowledge and experience dealing with visitation issues, contact us today for your free consultation.

Supervised Visitation

The Court may order supervised visitation if a noncustodial parent has a history of violence, drug abuse or endangering the welfare of the child. A supervised visit occurs when another adult (supervisor) is present during the visit with the child. The supervisor may be court-appointed or court approved.

The information contained herein is dedicated to providing public information regarding Family Law issues in Pennsylvania. None of the information on this site is intended to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of attorney client relationship. Please contact our law firm for information regarding your particular case. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.