Of all the complicated issues that are involved in a divorce case in Pennsylvania, the parties usually hope that, above all else, they reach a satisfactory arrangement regarding child custody. After all, even if a happy marriage is no longer realistic, the couple will be forever bound together as parents of their children. That means they must attempt to reach an arrangement that works for all parties involved.
In most cases, the right result is a form of joint custody. Put simply, joint custody is an arrangement that recognizes that the parents must, and should, share responsibility for how a child is raised and cared for. But, there are two different aspects to joint custody: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child will actually reside. If a family court in Pennsylvania enters an order for joint custody which includes joint physical custody, that typically means that the child will split time residing with both parents. Arrangements vary, but it is not uncommon to see the child spend alternating weeknights with each parent, as well as alternating weekends. Spending alternating holidays with each parent is also common.
Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions in a minor child's life. For example, all parents make decisions about their child's schooling, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities and healthcare. When a couple is ordered to share joint legal custody, the couple is intended to work through these issues together to reach a resolution that is best for the child.