State laws have two types of child custody; physical and legal. These custody forms have different setups. However, parents can decide among themselves the kind of arrangement that’ll suit their new family situation.

If they can’t agree, a judge will have to issue a custody order in the child’s best interest. This order will determine which parent gets legal or physical custody.

If you’re in a divorce situation involving minors, it’s best to know ahead what you’ll be facing. You may need to contact one of the best family lawyers in Norristown PA, to explain how the state’s law applies to your case. However, this article will explain the types of custody arrangements available in Pennsylvania.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the children will reside regularly. A custody order will always state which parent is physically responsible for the children and for how long. In awarding physical custody, courts consider several factors. Some of these include the children’s age, the parent’s relationship with the children, and their mental and physical health.

A judge will only grant physical custody in the best interest of the child. Depending on the court’s findings, Pennsylvania parents can get the following kinds of physical custody:

Sole Physical Custody

Except the court finds the other party unfit, it’s rare for a parent to get sole physical custody. In this type of arrangement, the children reside exclusively with one parent while the other parent gets supervised visitation rights.

Shared Physical Custody

With shared custody arrangements, both parents get equal periods of physical custody. The time the child splits between both homes may not be 50-50 exactly, but it’s close. Many courts prefer to award joint custody to enable the children to have regular contact with both parents. If a court doesn’t order this kind of physical arrangement, it means it isn’t best for the child.

Shared physical custody works best when both parents live close enough for the kids to commute between both homes easily. It’s also better when both parents are in an amicable relationship. In summary, it’ll ensure that there’s no disruption in the kids’ regular activities and foster a healthy relationship for the family.

Primary and Partial Physical custody

In a primary physical situation, the children reside with one parent for the majority of the time. The other co-parent then gets partial custody or unsupervised visitation for less time. Furthermore, the home where the children spend most of their time is called their primary residence.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make significant life decisions for the children. These decisions may pertain to religion, education, and medical issues. It’s important to note that the court grants legal and physical custody independently. So, a parent may have joint physical custody, but not have the right to make decisions in the children’s lives and vice versa.

Like physical custody, there are different types of legal custody arrangements; joint and sole. With joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights to make decisions on behalf of the child. For sole legal custody, only one parent can make these decisions. If you’re worried about your chances of gaining legal or physical custody, consult family lawyers in Norristown PA.


In any custody case, parents should always look out for the well-being of their children. However, for whatever decision you and your co-parent arrive at, know that it isn’t permanent. As the children’s needs change, you can contact family lawyers in Norristown PA, to help you file a modification of the order.