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What kind of custody can Pennsylvania courts award?

There is a reason why many people refer to custody disputes as battles; they can be painful, scary and upsetting for any parent. In some cases, you can minimize the contention and conflict by resolving custody matters outside of court through mediation.

However, if you cannot or choose not to go through mediation, decisions regarding custody will be made by the courts.

Types of custody the courts may award

Broadly speaking, the courts will award two forms of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody allows a parent or parents to make important decisions for the child. Physical custody refers to the "actual physical possession and control of a child."

There are varying degrees of each type of custody.

  • Parents can share physical and/or legal custody
  • A parent could be awarded primary physical and/or legal custody
  • A parent could be awarded partial physical custody
  • A parent could be awarded sole physical and/or legal custody
  • A parent could be awarded supervised physical custody

How the courts determine the type of custody

In order to decide what type of custody to award each parent, the courts will assess numerous factors to establish what is in the best interests of the child. These factors include:

  • Any allegations or history of abuse or violent behaviors
  • The familial connections a child has with each parent
  • A child's need for stability with regard to community, family and school
  • The preference of the child (in some cases)
  • A parent's ability to meet a child's emotional, physical, developmental and special needs
  • A history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Each parent's ability to provide care for the child

The court will consider these and other relevant factors to assess the best interests of the child and will then award custody.

How parents can prepare for custody cases

Understanding the laws and legal process of child custody cases can help you prepare for your own case. It can also be wise to have the guidance and support of an attorney to help you make informed decisions that protect your rights and your family.

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