Practice Areas - Custody

Practice Areas


When parents separate, or when parents have children together while not in a relationship themselves, disagreements often arise between those parents regarding where the children will live, and who will get to make decisions about/for the children.

In Pennsylvania there are two categories of custody: physical custody and legal custody.

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions concerning a child, including, medical, religious, and educational decisions.  In Pennsylvania, the vast majority of separated parents have shared legal custody, which means both parents have the right to make major decisions about the child’s welfare, and further they must have the agreement of the other parent before making any major decisions. 

Physical custody refers to where the children live, defined by the number of overnights they spend with one parent or another.  If a child spends the majority of their overnights with one parent, the parent with the majority of overnights has “primary physical custody”, and the other parent has “partial physical custody”.   

A lot of parents in Pennsylvania have “shared physical custody”.  Even though this category of custody is defined as both parents having “substantial custody time”, in practice, this term is used most often when each parent has an equal amount of overnight time with the child (for example, each parent has 7 overnight periods of custody every 14 days).  Parents who have “shared physical custody” may share custody on a week-on/week-off rotation, or they may share time during the week while also alternating weekends.

If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on where the children should live or what schedule you should follow, then the court will examine the custody factors to decide which schedule is in the best interest of your children.

Essentially, the court must decide what schedule is truly in the best interest of your child given the above considerations.

Whatever issues may exist or may arise in your custody case as it progresses, you can feel confident that Gibson Family Law has all of the care, compassion, knowledge, and expertise needed to counsel you through the entire custody process.

What are the Custody Factors considered?

(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.

(2.1)  The information set forth in section 5329.1(a) (relating to consideration of child abuse and involvement with protective services).

(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.


Pennsylvania is a “no-fault divorce” state.

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Equitable Distribution

Pennsylvania divides assets equitably not equally

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There are two categories of custody: physical and legal

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Child Support

Child Support is given to the custodial parent.

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Spousal Support/APL

Spousal Support is paid while separated but still married.

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Alimony is support received after a divorce is final.

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