Child Custody

Pennsylvania law divides child custody into two categories: physical custody & legal custody. Physical custody pertains to who actually has custody of the child. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for the child including medical, religious, and educational decisions. Child Custody is governed by the best interest of the child standard. In a custody action, the parties usually proceed first to a custody conciliation to see if the parties can reach an agreement regarding custody. If they cannot, the case will go to trial and a judge will determine the custody schedule based on the best interest of the child or children standard. The parties may also stipulate to a custody agreement, without going to court, if they can agree to a legal and physical custody schedule. If all the necessary language is contained in this stipulation, a court will sign it, and the custody stipulation will become a binding court order. Additionally, if an individual has committed any of the enumerated offenses contained in the custody statute, a custody conciliator will decide if they need a 5329 evaluation by a mental health professional stating that they are not a threat of harm to the children at issue. When a custody action is filed, a criminal verification will need to be filed with the custody action listing the convictions of any enumerated offenses along with any convictions for all adult members of the household.