Relevant factors that the court will consider include the following:
- Sibling and extended family relationships.
- The child’s wishes.
- Stability and continuity for the child.
- Parenting duties performed by each party for the child.
- Proximity of residences.
- Whether one parent is more likely to attend the child’s needs, maintain a loving and nurturing relationship, or turn the child against the other parent.
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse and the current mental and physical conditions of the parent and those in their household.
- Any current or past abuse or risk of harm in the household.
- Any other relevant factor.
Shared custody, also called joint physical custody, is an arrangement where custody is shared by both parents in a manner that both parents have continuous contact with the child. Furthermore, parents may have shared physical and legal custody.
Sole custody, on the other hand, is the granting of both physical and legal custody of the child to one parent. It should be noted that sole physical custody is rarely granted in the state of Pennsylvania.
Physical custody refers to the actual custodianship of the child. Primary physical custody refers to the physical custody of a parent over a child if the child stays with the parent on the majority of days. Partial physical custody refers to physical custody of a parent of a child if the child stays some weeknight with the parent. If one parent has exclusive physical custody of the child and the other parent does not have any specifically outlined physical custody rights then the custodial parent has what is called “sole physical custody.”
A court can always order visitation rights to a parent who has no physical custody rights over a child.
Legal Custody refers to the parent’s authority to make legal, medical, educational and religious decisions for the child. It is common for the parents to obtain ‘shared legal custody’ of the child, which means that both parents would be involved in the making of any decisions the would be deemed legal, medical, educational or religious in nature. Sometimes a court may decide that it is in the best interest of the child that one parent makes all such decisions. In that case, the parent that’s given the authority has ‘sole legal custody’.