Parents in Pennsylvania who are getting a divorce should be aware that there are multiple arrangements available regarding child custody. It is important that they understand what their options are before agreeing to child custody terms that are unfair.
Legally, a divorce requires assigning legal and physical child custody. Parents who have legal custody have the authority and duty to make decisions regarding matters involving the education, health and welfare of the children. The parents who have physical custody are the parents with whom the children reside. There is a range of custody arrangements derived from the two types of child custody.
Sole child custody gives a parent complete legal and physical custody of their children. The other non-custodial parent would have restricted access, or visitation, with the children.
A joint custody arrangement gives both parents legal and physical custody. While the ideal joint custody situation sees the children spending equal time with both parents as they collaborate to make important decisions regarding the issues affecting their children, this does not typically occur. Generally, both parents are left to decide what qualifies as a joint arrangement for their situation. In many situations, the children will spend the majority of their time with one parent, and there will be one parent making the majority of the important decisions affecting the children.
There is also a custody arrangement in which the parents will alternate custody. For example, the children may spend one week with one parent and the next week with the other.
An attorney who practices divorce law may evaluate a parent's legal options and then advise the parent about their child custody and visitation options. The attorney may litigate to protect a parent's rights and obtain favorable divorce settlement terms.