Custody & Family Law

Custody & Family Law PAWhy hire an Attorney who is experienced in Custody and Family Law?

In the event that you have a highly hostile or contested custody issue you should seek the assistance of counsel to protect your interests and rights. It is especially advisable if the other parent is using the services of an attorney. The Court of Special Appeals has held that representing yourself is not a good enough excuse for not answering a motion by an attorney of the opposing party.

An order for custody is signed by a Judge who determines the provider of care for a child. There can be confusion as to legal terms with respect to custody. Essentially, custody is broken down into two main components, physical custody and legal custody.

A decision to give a parent legal custody allows the parent to make important decision for the child. These decisions could encompass a child’s education, medical treatment and even religious upbringing. Sole legal custody is an order allowing one parent to make these decisions while shared legal custody allows both caretakers to make those decisions.

Physical custody means exactly how it sounds; the physical location of the child (where the child actually lives). Physical custody involves four different types:

  • Shared custody (also referred to as joint custody) This type of custody literally means the parents are sharing the custody of the child.
  • Primary custody allows one parent the legal right to have the child reside with that party most of the time (a Court Order can provide those specifics)
  • Partial custody assigns the parent who does not have primary custody certain times with the child away from the parent with primary custody under specific conditions and time periods.
  • Visitation is another means for the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child but in this instance, the parent given visitation cannot remove the child from the parent who has custody. The parent given visitation rights is supervised by either the custodial parent or another adult such as a family member.


Ultimately, the decision made by the Court in awarding custody is based upon what is in the best interest for the child. There are many factors that can determine who is given custody. Some of these factors can be who the child currently lives with and how the child is faring in those living conditions. Other issues in deciding custody can involved the parents’ lifestyle, mental health or a history of criminal activity or substance abuse.

There are many factors involved in preparing for a hearing before a Judge or a Master and it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney. There are many avenues to pursue to safeguard the best interests of your child which should always be the primary consideration involving custody.

Understanding Custody

Temporary Custody – “De facto” (means “in fact”) custody refers to who actually has custody of the child at this time. This can be different from “court ordered custody”. In order to formalize custody before you begin litigation, you will need to file for temporary custody. Temporary custody will be based on the “best interests” of the child standard. It is not an “initial” award of custody. Instead it is temporary custody while you wait for the court to hold a hearing.

Sole Custody – Sole Custody is when both legal and physical custody are given to one parent. The child has only one primary residence. Custody is made up of: legal custody and physical custody.

A person with legal custody has the right to make plans and decisions for the education, religious training, discipline, non-emergency medical care and other matters of major significance concerning the child’s welfare.

A person with physical custody has the child living primarily with them and they have the right to make decisions as to the child’s everyday needs.

Split Custody – Split custody most often refers to a situation where there are two children and each parent obtains full physical custody over one child. Some of the considerations that may bring about this result are age of the children and child preference.

Joint Custody – The court looks very closely at Joint Custody agreements. The most important factor to Joint Legal Custody to Shared Physical Custody is the ability of the parents to talk about and reach joint decisions that affect the child’s welfare. If you are constantly fighting over what religion or what school, the court may strike down your agreement. Joint Custody is actually broken down into three categories: Joint Legal, Shared Physical, and Combination.

Joint Legal custody is where the parents share care and control of the upbringing of the child, but the child has only one primary residence.

In Shared Physical Custody the child has two residences, spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent.

Additionally, you can make your own special joint custody agreement that is any combination of Shared Physical and Joint Legal Custody. One example of this is when there is one residence for the child and the parents live with the child there on a rotating basis.

When you need an attorney to represent you with your legal matters, contact We Care Legal in order to obtain the best results possible in each case.

1-855-LAW CRIMINAL (1-855-529-7464)

1-855-LAW FAMILY (1-855-529 - 3264)

1-855-DEBT DONE (1-855-332-8366)

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Factors that are considered when awarding custody pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328

In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following: (1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party. (2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party's household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child. (3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child. (4) The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life. (5) The availability of extended family. (6) The child's sibling relationships. (7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment. (8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm. (9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs. (10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child. (11) The proximity of the residences of the parties. (12) Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements. (13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party's effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party. (14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party's household. (15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party's household. (16) Any other relevant factor. (b) Gender neutral. — In making a determination under subsection (a), no party shall receive preference based upon gender in any award granted under this chapter.