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Many times, the word "visitation" is used interchangeably with the term child custody by parents or other interested parties who are seeking time with a child away from their parent. In the state of Pennsylvania, all custody or "visitation" issues are addressed based upon the standard of what is in the best interests of the child.  As a result of the recent changes to the child custody laws in Pennsylvania, the types of physical custody awarded in a child custody case are as follows:

  1. Shared physical custody: both parties have equal physical time with the child.

  2. Primary physical custody: one party has the majority of physical time with the child.

  3. Partial physical custody: one party has less than the majority of physical time with the child

  4. Sole physical custody: one party has total physical time with the child at the exclusion of the other.

  5. Supervised physical custody: one party is supervised during their custodial time with the child.

Usually, all parents, grandparents or other parties with an interest in the custody matter (such as a step-parent) receive some level of visitation or physical custodial time with the child.

How Courts Will Decide On Child Custody in Pennsylvania

At the same time that the Court is determining the parties' physical custody of the child, it will also determine the legal custody of the child. In Pennsylvania legal custody is usually awarded to the parties on a 50/50 basis and pertains to the rights of the parties to make legal decision on behalf of, or for the benefit of, the child. Legal decisions can encompass factors such as the type of education the child will receive, the religious upbringing the child will be exposed to and any medical treatment which may be provided to the child. We can help you prepare a case that best represents your position.


If any of the following are true, you likely have the right to seek custody:

  • You are a natural parent of the child


  • You have legally adopted the child


  • As a grandparent, you have cared for the child for 12 months or longer


  • You have cared for the child for a substantial period of time


When the master or judge is considering a child custody order, many factors will be taken into consideration. Determining the child's best interest will require an assessment of the environment the child will live in and which party has the ability to care for the child. Feel free to contact either our Chester County of Delaware County offices to speak with one of our experienced custodial lawyers for help with your case.

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