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Protecting the Best Interests of Your Children

n a custody dispute, nothing is more important than the well-being of your children.  At Masorti Law Group, we will work with you to find a solution that best serves their interests.  There are several ways that custody can be split.  For example, a Court Order might set the amount of time someone can spend with his or her children (called “physical custody”) or state who gets to make life decisions for them (called “legal custody”). Our approach is in-depth, and considers all aspects of your family relationship, working with you to get the best custody arrangement for you and your children.  Below is an explanation of each type of custody that a court in Pennsylvania may award:

Legal Custody

Sole Legal Custody

Physical Custody

Primary Physical Custody

Partial Physical Custody

Shared Physical Custody

Sole Physical Custody

Supervised Physical Custody

Legal custody is the ability to make decisions about the child’s upbringing such as education, religion, medical care. Legal custody is almost always shared between parents unless there is a serious concern about one parent’s ability to share decision making power. Examples may be a parent that is seriously mentally ill, a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol, or a parent who is incarcerated for a lengthy period of time.

Sole legal custody is when only one individual has exclusive decision making authority for a child.

Physical Custody is the actual physical possession and control of the child.

Primary Physical Custody is the right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.

Partial Physical Custody is the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than the majority of time.

Shared Physical Custody is the right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child. (This term is often what people mean when they say “joint custody”.)

Sole Physical Custody is the right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.

Supervised Physical Custody is custodial time during which an agency or adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with these custodial rights. This term is often referred to as “supervised custody” or “supervised visitation.”

It is a common misconception that courts favor the mother when deciding issues of custody. However, the system in Pennsylvania does not outwardly favor the mother, and considers a variety of factors, including family history or personal circumstances, when deciding the type and extent of custody for each parent. If the circumstances are appropriate, courts also favor the idea of finding a role for each parent in the children’s life.

It is not uncommon for one parent to have primary physical custody of the children while the other has partial physical custody. This is one kind of “shared physical custody” or “joint custody.” A situation such as this is likely in cases where one parent lives some distance away, or one parent has the ability to spend more time with the children for some reason. Primary/partial custody is also appropriate if it is in the best interests of the children to provide them some stability, without as much moving back and forth between the households. A common way to set up primary/partial physical custody is to allow one parent to have custody during the week, and then rotate custody with the other parent every other weekend. The arrangement of custody days on the weekend is often flexible (for example, Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday), and it is not unusual for the parent with partial physical custody to have custody on some weekdays or weeknights as well.

Parents, though, often both believe that they should be the ones with primary physical custody of the children. If such an arrangement is possible, i.e., both parents are capable of caring for the child and live close to each other, the court may find that it is best to split custody time in half. Under this kind of joint custody, Pennsylvania offers a variety of custody arrangements. These custody arrangements or “schedules” can be divided up into an assortment of either fixed or rotating overnight plans. As an example, this can be done as a week-on, week-off schedule where one parent has a full week of custody, and then custody transfers to the next parent for the next week. This can also be done monthly in some cases. These time-block schedules are generally disfavored, though, especially when the children are young, but they may still be appropriate when parents insist on shared custody but are not interested in exchanging custody very frequently.

Because these time-block plans (week-on, week-off, for example) are not typically favored, courts may order a further split schedule when trying to share custody time evenly. The 5-2-2-5 schedule is a very common version of another split schedule. Under the 5-2-2-5 schedule, one parent (Mom, for example) always has custody on Monday and Tuesday, then the other parent (Dad) always has custody Wednesday and Thursday. The parents then rotate who has custody Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This way each parent will alternate having two days of custody one week and five days of custody the next week.

Another type of split schedule that is popular is the 3-2-2-3 schedule. Here, one parent (Mom) has custody on Monday and Tuesday during the first week of the month, then the next parent (Dad) has custody Wednesday and Thursday before giving custody back to Mom for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then the schedule flips, and Dad has custody on Monday and Tuesday, Mom has custody Wednesday and Thursday, and Dad has custody Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the next week. This reduces the amount of time the children are away from one parent by making separation from one or the other a maximum of three days.

Litigating custody can often be costly, both emotionally and financially.  The examples above, such as week-on, week-off and 5-2-2-5, are not the only schedules used to determine an appropriate custody situation.  Here, at Masorti Law Group, we will work tirelessly with you to reduce the strain on you and your children to get an outcome that everyone can be satisfied with. Please Contact Us Now to explore the many options available in your custody dispute and help us help you get what is best for your children.