“Custody” of a minor child (under the age of 18) is defined as the legal right to have custody of a child or children. Parents of children have custody or custodial rights. A non-parent may also have child custody rights. For example, grandparents or persons who act in the place of parents, but are not “blood related” may, in certain cases, be granted child custody. An unrelated third party, such as a person other than a parent, including an institution (such as Children and Youth agencies) that acts as a parent may have child custody under a legal doctrine known as “In Loco Parentis”. When parents or the parties involved are unable to agree on child custody, a custody action in court will result in a custody determination or Court Order to decide the following:

  • Who will be the “custodial parent” or “custodial person”
  • Who will have primary possession and control of the child or children
  • With whom the child or children will reside
  • Which parent, person or institution will have “partial custody” or visitation rights

Child custody actions are filed in the home county of the child (the county in which the child has resided for a period of six months or, if the child is younger than six months, from birth).

A custody action determines which parent will have primary child custody. The parent with primary child custody is the parent with whom the child resides and who will look after, manage the development of, direct the conduct of, nurture, protect, care for and preserve the child. 

The court’s decision in a custody action will also decide specific child custody issues of “legal custody,” “partial custody,” “physical custody,” “shared custody”, and “visitation.”

Child Custody Definitions:

  • “Legal Custody” – The legal right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child, including but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions. Pa. R.C.P. 1915.1 (2004).
  • “Partial Custody” – The right to take possession of a child away from the custodial person for a certain period of time. Pa. R.C.P. 1915.1 (2004).
  • “Physical Custody” – The actual physical possession and control of a child. Pa. R.C.P. 1915.1 (2004).
  • “Shared Custody” – The shared legal or shared physical custody, or both, of a child in such a way as to assure the child of frequent and continuing contact, including physical access, to both parents. Pa. R.C.P. 1915.1 (2004).
  • “Visitation” – The right to visit a child. Visitation DOES NOT include the right to remove the child from the custodial person’s control. Pa. R.C.P. 1915.1 (2004).

The court’s custody decision does not decide issues of child support or spousal support. A child custody action can include or can be included in actions or proceedings for divorce, separation, abuse or child dependency and neglect of a child or children. Our family law practice handles parental, grandparental, third party, and non parent custody and visitation matters for unmarried, unrelated individuals who have acted as parents. Our family law practice also deals with child custody cases of separated or divorced parents as it relates to divorce or paternity proceedings, as well as modifications of existing court orders.

Custody is always an emotionally charged issue and you need the advice and counsel of a family lawyer with experience in child custody matters.

Attorney Ghen has over thirty years experience representing clients in child custody and visitation actions in Berks County, Lebanon County and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He is also a Certified Custody Mediator and an appointed Custody Mediator in Berks County. As such he understands the emotions and impacts of custodial battles on the parents and the children. If a reasonable and sensible solution cannot be achieved by agreement between the parties then Attorney Ghen will represent you in court.