Custody

Forms of Custody

Seven forms of custody may be awarded by the Pennsylvania family courts:

  1. Sole physical custody (The right of one individual to exclusive actual physical possession and control of a child)
  2. Primary physical custody (The right to assume actual physical possession and control of a child for the majority of time)
  3. Shared physical custody (The right of more than one individual to assume actual physical possession and control of a child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child)
  4. Partial physical custody (The right to assume actual physical possession and control of a child for less than a majority of the time)
  5. Supervised physical custody (Custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights)
  6. Sole legal custody (The right of one individual to exclusively make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions)
  7. Shared legal custody (The right of more than one individual to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions)

23 Pa.C.S. § 5323 (a).

Factors to be Considered

In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

  1. Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party;
  2. The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child
  3. The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child;
  4. The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life;
  5. The availability of extended family;
  6. The child’s sibling relationships;
  7. The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment;
  8. The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm;
  9. Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs;
  10. Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
  11. The proximity of the residences of the parties;
  12. Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements;
  13. The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
  14. The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household;
  15. The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household;
  16. Any other relevant factor.

23 Pa.C.S. § 5328 (a).

Consideration of Criminal Charges and Convictions

When a party seeking custody (or a member of his household) has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to any of the following offenses, the court shall determine that the party does not pose a threat of harm to the child before making any order of custody. If a party learns that the other has been charged with any of these crimes, he may move for a temporary custody order or modification of an existing custody order, and the court shall hold an expedited hearing to consider whether the charged party poses a risk of physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the child.

  • criminal homicide
  • aggravated assault
  • terroristic threats
  • stalking
  • kidnapping
  • unlawful restraint
  • false imprisonment
  • luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure
  • rape
  • statutory sexual assault
  • involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • sexual assault
  • aggravated indecent assault
  • indecent assault
  • indecent exposure
  • sexual intercourse with an animal
  • conduct relating to sex offenders
  • arson and related offenses
  • incest
  • concealing the death of a child
  • endangering the welfare of children
  • dealing in infant children
  • prostitution and related offenses
  • obscene and other sexual materials and performances
  • corruption of minors
  • sexual abuse of children
  • unlawful contact with a minor
  • sexual exploitation of children
  • contempt for violation of an order or agreement
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
  • driving after imbibing alcohol or utilizing drugs
  • manufacture, sale or delivery, holding, offering for sale or possession of any controlled substance or other drug or device

23 Pa.C.S. §§ 5329 and 5330.

Related Vodzak Law Blog posts:

Restricted Child Custody Does Not End a Parent’s Duty to Pay Child Support

Pennsylvania’s Child Custody Laws for Deployed Military Parents

If you are seeking custody or are involved in a custody matter as either the plaintiff or defendant, contact Vodzak Law now to request legal representation.