When a couple is divorcing, child custody may be one of their top concerns. It is helpful for divorcing couples contemplating a child custody arrangement to know how child custody is determined and the different types of child custody arrangements that may be available to them in Pennsylvania.

Child custody is based on what is in the best interest of the child. Since having a good relationship with both parents is considered best for the child’s development, if one parent has primary physical custody of the child, some form of visitation will typically be awarded to the other parent.

There are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Both physical and legal custody can be shared or separate custody.

The different types of child custody arrangements include:

  • Shared physical custody;
  • Partial physical custody; and
  • Supervised physical custody.

When determining child custody, and what is in the best interests of the child, the family law court will consider a variety of different, relevant, factors including:

  • The mental and physical condition of each parent;
  • Relationships with siblings and extended family members;
  • Maintenance of stability and continuity for the child;
  • Parenting duties performed for the child by each of the parents;
  • Proximity of the parents’ residences;
  • The wishes of the child;
  • Whether one of the parents is likely to be more attentive to the child’s needs, maintain a loving and nurturing relationship with the child and support the child’s relationship with the other parent; and
  • Any history of abuse.

Any child custody arrangement that is worked out is intended to support the child’s physical, mental, emotional and developmental well-being. Parents are encouraged to work together to develop a parenting plan that is best for their child, which is why it is helpful for them to understand how child custody is determined and what different child custody arrangements may look like.