• The Leges Group LLC

The Primary Types of Child Custody, Decoded

If you're preparing to embark on a child custody journey, you're far from alone. In fact, the United States saw more than 13.5 million custodial parents in 2015. About 88% of these couples sought the court's assistance in coming to a custody agreement for their kids. Clearly, finding a harmonious setup for parents and children is easier said than done.

The best thing to be when heading into the custody arena is educated. Here are the primary types of child custody, and just what to expect with each one.

Physical VS Legal Custody

Custody has many faces. Every family is unique, and thus requires a tailored arrangement that works best for the kids in question. The two primary types of custody are physical and legal.

Physical custody means having the child actually live in the residence with a parent. When preparing to co-parent, you must come to an agreement as to which house the child will live in, whether it be full- or part-time. Whatever the case, the children must have an address that will be their primary residence.

On the contrary, legal custody determines which parent ought to make major decisions regarding the child's life. This refers to a number of issues, not the least of which are education, physical and mental health and even religion. If it's a legal decision that affects your children, legal custody will determine who gets to choose.

Types of Physical Custody

When coming to a custody agreement, the courts will appoint you one of four types of physical custody.

  • Full: When the court awards full physical custody to a parent, this means that the child will live with them full time. It's typically granted to parents who are already taking care of the children, or to parents who are more fit to do so.

  • Primary: Primary physical custody means that a child stays with one parent more than the other. More often than not, this type of physical custody is granted to individuals who show greater responsibility than their co-parent.

  • Shared: Shared physical custody is an agreement that states each parent takes care of the child equally. This type of arrangement can actually happen without court interference, so long as both parties (as well as the kids) are in agreement. However, it's not always a perfect world, and sometimes it takes an external factor to state that shared physical custody really is what's best for the little ones.

  • Partial: Sometimes, the court rules that one parent will take care of the child part of the time. This is what's referred to as partial physical custody. It differs from primary custody in that the child may stay with this parent on the weekends, or every other weekend. Every scenario is its own, but partial custody can prove to be a positive arrangement for many co-parents.

Types of Legal Custody

Legal custody comes in one of two forms. The outcome all depends on your family's personal dynamics.

  • Sole: Sole legal custody means one parent has the power to make major decisions for the minor. When a parent has sole legal custody, they're often awarded sole physical custody as well (though this kind of exclusivity is not always the case).

  • Shared: With shared—or joint—legal custody, both parents have the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of the child. With divorced parents, this means coming to an agreement collectively. Sometimes, co-parents who have already been granted shared legal custody are incapable of reaching compliance on their own and must insert the court into the decision. However, for the sake of the children, this is typically a last resort.

How Do Courts Decide Who Gets Custody?

There is no one-size-fits-all determination for child custody. Nonetheless, courts often look at things like who has been the caretaker of the child in the past, who has the resources (time, money and shelter included) to take care of the kids and even who lives within their existing school district. Of course, the kids have a say, and typically get to proclaim their preference. However, this in and of itself is not a determining factor when dealing with young children.

Quality lawyers are capable of guiding the courts in the right direction, ultimately granting a custody arrangement that fits the children and the co-parents just right. The welfare of the child is what matters most, and family law attorneys are in the business of bringing it to fruition.

Biological Parents Aren't the Only Ones Who Can Apply for Custody

In the state of Pennsylvania, you don't have to be a parent in order to file for custody. In addition to biological parents, grandparents and those who have acted as a parent to the child may also do so. As for the latter—also known as loco parentis—if you've taken on the role of caretaker for the child for a period of time, you may in fact be the best one suited for the job, but in situations like these the law is limiting and details are key so a well experienced family law lawyer should always be consulted.

With Child Custody Settled, a New Life Begins

Whatever child custody agreement you reach, the sense of harmony on the other side of the table is well worth the effort you put in now. Whether it be physical, legal or any of the intricacies that lie within, your children deserve to relish in stability in or outside of your Berks County, Pennsylvania home. It all starts with the family law attorney you enlist to be a part of the journey, so start doing your due diligence now. When all is said and done, you'll be grateful for the mentorship of a law expert who really cares about your kids.

When you need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney or child custody lawyer, contact the Law Office of Nikolas D. Capitano, Esquire., The Leges Group LLC today at (610) 228-2828. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips and will aggressively help you protect your rights and the rights or your family.


Law Office of Nikolas D. Capitano, Esquire., The Leges Group LLC


Business and Family Law Attorneys serving Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Lancaster County

49 Commerce Drive, Wyomissing, PA 19610



© The Leges Group LLC | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy