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The different types of Pennsylvania child custody

The end of a Pennsylvania marriage often can mean disputes about which parent should have custody of the children. In making their final decisions, courts focus on the best interests of the children. A court principally determines which parent is better able to raise the couple's children, thus ensuring that the children will get the love and support they need in their new lives. Pennsylvania law, like the laws of many states, recognizes two basic types of custody: physical and legal.

Physical custody means a child lives with a parent. It is subdivided into five subtypes: sole, supervised, partial, primary and shared.

Sole physical custody refers to one parent who has complete custody of the child. Supervised custody is a custody arrangement in which one parent is monitored by a third party during visits and when that parent is interacting with the child.

Partial custody refers to a custody arrangement in which a parent can spend time with the child, but often less than what the other party spends. When a parent has primary physical custody of the child, the child often spends most of his or her time with that parent. Finally, in shared physical custody, both parents can spend equal amounts of time with the child.

Legal custody is the right to make decisions about the child's welfare. It comes in two forms: sole and shared. In sole legal custody, one parent has the right to make all major life decisions on the child's behalf. In shared legal custody, both parents can make decisions for the child.

People who are in the middle of custody disputes should always consider what is best for their children. Each case is unique, so it is important for both parents to consult with legal professionals to determine which type of custody arrangement works best.

Source: Womenslawproject.org, "PA's child custody law: what you need to know," accessed on Dec. 7, 2014

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