If you are a parent who is getting a divorce, you may be wondering about child custody. What are the different types of custody? How do you go about getting a custody order? These are valid questions, especially if you've never been through this before.
When the court makes a decision about child custody, it decides who gets legal custody and who gets physical custody. Legal custody refers to making important decisions for your child, such as those involving medical care, religious upbringing and education.
Legal custody can be "sole" or it can be shared. When you share legal custody with the other parent, you both must make important decisions regarding your children together, whereas the parent with sole legal custody need not consult the other parent about such decisions.
Physical custody refers to the right to have the child in your care. There are four types of physical custody in Pennsylvania:
- Primary physical custody (one party has the child most of the time)
- Shared physical custody (both parties have frequent contact with the child)
- Partial physical custody (the right to unsupervised visitation)
- Supervised visitation (when one party is a known danger to the child)
Procedure for Getting a Custody Order
Usually, it is best for the divorcing parties to agree on who should have legal custody and who should have physical custody of the kids. If the parents are having difficulty reaching an agreement, a counselor or minister may help them.
Once an agreement is reached, the spouses ask the court to turn their agreement into an Order of the Court. However, if the parties are unable to agree on custody, one of the parties may file a Complaint for Custody or Partial Custody.
For Parents Living in Allegheny County
If you live in Allegheny County, once your Complaint is filed, you and your spouse will likely be asked to attend a 4 hour education seminar known as "Generations," which helps spouses communicate better for their children's sake.
Most parents are also ordered to attend mediation, which is where a neutral mediator tries to get the spouses to reach a custody agreement. However, victims of domestic violence do not have to participate in mediation.
In an uncontested divorce, one of the spouses may hire an attorney who puts the agreement in writing for both spouses to sign and for the judge to sign and enter as an order of the court.
To learn more about getting a child custody order, contact a Pennsylvania divorce attorney from Cairns Law Offices to schedule your free case evaluation!