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What is physical custody of a child?

During the divorce process, parents in Pennsylvania and elsewhere must take the time to consider what child custody agreement is best for their child. And, while it might meet the best interests of the child, it should be noted that it might not meet the needs and interests of both parents. In some cases, a parent might seek sole custody of their child. This results in that parent having physical custody.

What is physical custody of a child? When a court determines that one parent will have physical custody of a child, this means that parent is the one that provides care for the child on a daily basis. Additionally, it usually means that the child will live with that parent full-time.

While one parent might have sole physical custody of a child that does not mean the other parent does not have rights. In most of these custody arrangements, the parent that does not have physical custody of the child has visitation rights and shared legal custody of the child. Visitation rights typically grant the non-custodial parent exclusive time with the child every other weekend, alternating major holidays and a certain number of weeks during summer vacation. Legal custody refers to a parent's ability to make major decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, such as those relating to the child's education, medical care and religion.

If a parent is granted sole custody because the other parent is found unfit or incapable of caring for a child, the non-custodial parent may not be granted legal custody of the child. In these cases, visitation may be allowed but will be much more limited than parents in a shared custody agreement.

Custody agreements can take many forms. It can be difficult to make major decisions concerning your child, but it is paramount to keep their needs and interests first. While your custody agreement may not look like other divorced parents, it is important to determine the arrangement that works best for you and your child.

Source: FindLaw, "Physical Custody," accessed April 1, 2017

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