Per state law, physical custody of a child means the child is physically in the care and control of a parent. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes five types of physical custody of a child. This post will provide a brief overview of this topic, but, as always, one seeking legal advice for their child custody issues should consult with a professional.

One type of physical custody is shared physical custody. In this situation both parents will enjoy significant periods of time with the child in their care. Another type of physical custody is primary physical custody. In this situation one parent has right to have the child in their care for the majority of the time.

A third type of physical custody is partial physical custody. In this situation, a parent has the child in their care for less than a majority of the time. A fourth type of physical custody is sole physical custody. In this situation one parent alone has the child entirely in their care. Finally, there is supervised physical custody. In this situation a parent may have custodial rights but will be monitored by an agency or court-designated adult during those custodial periods. Partial physical custody, shared physical custody and supervised physical custody all fall under the umbrella of “visitation.”

For parents here who are divorcing, it is important to understand their options for physical custody. In the end, any child custody decisions must be made based upon the best interests of the child. For some families this means each parent will enjoy shared physical custody. For other families, it may be preferable for a parent to have primary physical custody while the other parent has partial physical custody or supervised physical custody. And, in some situations, an award of sole physical custody to one parent is appropriate. Because child custody decisions can affect parents and children for the rest of their lives, it is important that these decisions are fair and appropriate and meet the needs of all involved.