The Two Types of Custody
March 19, 2016


Types of Custody in Pennsylvania

Harrisburg - Types of Custody
There are two basic types of custody in Pennsylvania. Legal and Physical.

When talking with clients that have separated from their spouse about custody, we as attorneys often hear from clients that they want “full custody” or they may want “joint custody”.  When talking with clients about custody it is important to first understand what they mean when they say things like they want “full custody” or “Joint custody”.  In discussing that various facets of custody,  often times, clients don’t always realize that there are two different types of custody:

Legal Custody

By definition, legal custody is the “right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.”  23 Pa.C.S. §5322(A).  In the majority of situations, the parents are going to equally share legal custody so that the parties both remain involved in making decisions on behalf of their child(ren).  Sharing legal custody also gives both parents access to information about their child(ren).  For example, generally, parents that share legal custody would have equal access to report cards from the school, they can both attend parent/teacher conferences, they can both obtain medical records from any hospital or doctor, attend appointments with the child(ren) or talk to any physicians.  Even though both parents have equal access to this information, it is also important that the parents share this information with one another on a regular basis.  Other important decisions that parents are often faced with include, in what extracurricular activities the children should be involved, what school the child(ren) should attend, whether or not a child should have their ears pierced, whether or not a child should be baptized, and if so, what faith, and whether or not a child should get their driver’s license.

Physical Custody

Physical  custody is the actual custody schedule – what days the children are with mom and what days the children are with dad.  The law defines physical custody as “the actual physical possession and control of a child.”  23 Pa.C.S. §5322(A).  Physical custody schedule vary across the board and are very specific to each family.  What will work for one family, may not necessarily work for another.

Within physical custody, a parent may have sole physical custody, shared physical custody, partial physical custody or primary physical custody.

  • Sole physical custody is when one parent has exclusive physical custody of a child and the other parent does not have any custody time with the children.
  • Shared physical custody is when both parents have physical custody for significant periods of time.  Often times, sharing physical custody may mean sharing on an equal basis with both parents having custody of the children an equal amount of time.
  • Partial physical custody is when both parents have physical custody, but one party has physical custody less than a majority of the time.
  • Primary physical custody is when both parents have physical custody, but one parent has physical custody the majority of the time.

In most custody cases, both parents will have some amount of physical custody of the child(ren), but how much and how often will vary from case to case.

Working Out Custody Issues?

If you need assistance with the various types of custody in Pennsylvania, DZMM is here to help. Contact us today at 717-724-9821.