The decision to end a marriage is seldom one made hastily and can be made all the more difficult when there are children involved. While the couple may come to the conclusion that they can no longer remain married and decide to divorce, they will still be parents. Pennsylvania encourages parents to arrive at child custody arrangements that keep the best interests of the child in mind.
It is widely accepted that maintaining a relationship with both parents is best for the child. Spending as much time as possible with each parent can be critical to healthy physical and mental development. When considering child custody there are two main factors to keep in mind and they are the two different types of custody that must be addressed. These are physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody is where a child resides and how parents will allocate that time. Many things can contribute to this decision such as a parent's proximity to the child's school and a parent's work schedule. Legal custody pertains to who has the authority to make decisions for the child regarding such things as schooling, health care, playing sports, religious affiliation to name a few.
Pennsylvania courts first consider the best interests of the child when looking at child custody arrangements. This consideration also focuses on the child's safety. Parents are encouraged to develop a parenting plan to present to the court. Parents who are separated and contemplating divorce are encouraged to work on parenting plans with their respective attorneys as one way of helping to ensure that the best interests of the child are met.