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Child Custody – What is Custody?

A dispute over child custody may be one of the most important and emotionally charged events you will ever experience as a parent. If you are in the process of divorce from a spouse or are involved in a custody dispute, it is critical to have a basic understanding of child custody in Pittsburgh and what to expect. A child custody lawyer is your best choice in helping you understand your rights. If you need legal advice on child custody in Pittsburgh, please contact our experienced lawyers. Sign up for a consultation and get help as soon as possible.

In Pennsylvania, custody is “the legal right to keep, control, guard, care for, and preserve a child.” A legal order outlining the custody agreement is a wise choice versus an informal agreement because it could be enforced through the court if necessary. Educating yourself on the different kinds of custody and which you wish to seek could help you make an informed decision with the best interest of your child in mind. Read on to learn the basics of different types of custody that exist in Pittsburgh.

What are the different types of custody?

  • Legal Custody
  • Physical Custody
  • Parental Alienation

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the power to make important life decisions for your child, such as decisions regarding education, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Legal custody may be shared between parents, meaning that both parents are entitled to share in the decision-making process and receive information together. In Pennsylvania, courts ordinarily award joint legal custody to both parents.

Violation of joint legal custody could look like one parent purposefully excluding the other parent from the decision-making process. If you think your joint legal custody agreement has been violated, contact a child custody lawyer in Pittsburgh now. An attorney for child custody could help you enforce the custody agreement in court.

Sole legal custody may be granted if one parent is unable to make important life decisions for the child. Another situation could be where one parent refuses to communicate with the other parent or is physically and/or mentally abusive. A court may award sole legal custody to one parent if it finds that it is in the best interest of the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child lives and spends their time, and which parent has the right to have the child and at what times. There are five variations of physical custody:

  • Shared physical custody: Shared or joint physical custody is where the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents equally. This situation works ideally when both parents reside relatively close to each other.
  • Partial custody: A parent with partial custody means the child resides with the parent less than 50% of the time. For example, every other weekend.
  • Primary physical custody: Where a parent has primary physical custody, (the “custodial” parent), the child resides with them a majority of the time. The other parent (the “noncustodial parent”), has custody or a visitation schedule the remainder of the time.
  • Sole physical custody: The parent that has sole physical custody has physical custody of the child all the time. The other parent may be unwilling or deemed unfit to care for the child. The other parent may still retain legal custody and/or visitation rights.
  • Visitation: A parent retains the right to visit their child, but it does not include the right to remove the child for an extended period of time from the custodial parent’s control. Visitation may be supervised or unsupervised, usually for a few hours.

A custody agreement order may be entered into by both parents through an agreement by the parties. It may also be ordered by the court through litigation. Some issues a custody order may address are:

  • legal custody, including schools, doctors, and religion; 
  • physical custody schedule;
  • holiday custody schedule;
  • vacation custody schedule;
  • transportation; 
  • telephone contact; and 
  • emergencies.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation occurs where one parent actively belittles or otherwise talks negatively about the other parent in front of the child. These strategies are used to distance the child from the other parent. This could happen if one parent tells the child the other doesn’t love them or doesn’t want to see them.

A child custody lawyer could help you resolve any issue related to child custody cases and visitation rights. It is important to have your rights represented by a knowledgeable child custody attorney in Pittsburgh with the experience in this type of matter to address all of your concerns.

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