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Child custody in Pennsylvania

Probably the most emotionally charged element in any separation proceeding is the discussion of custody of the children. The Pennsylvania family courts are often left with the difficult task of determining the best custodial arrangement for the children. With this in mind, the more parents understand what is involved in child custody determination, the more they are informed. The best interests of the children are the legal standard by which all custody matters are judged.

While every case is unique and potentially complex, what follows is a very basic overview of custody issues and some of the things parents should be aware of.

Legal vs. physical custody

According to, there are two types of custody. The first type is legal custody, which concerns decision-making about children and is usually shared between the parties. The second is physical custody, which is the amount of time each parent spends with their children.

Most cases include both aspects of custody.  According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, negotiation should be based on the law and in the best interest of your child. By doing this, the court can best eliminate variables that could leave the child vulnerable.

If a settlement cannot be reached and conciliation and mediation do not settle the case, the matter will proceed to a trial. It is important to remember that child custody proceedings are a process. Changes in you or your spouse’s employment schedule and residency, along with other factors, have to be considered when making a determination as to what is in the children’s best interests.