In Pennsylvania there are some unique terms that you should be familiar with, if you are involved in a custody case.
The word "custody" actually encompasses two different concepts. There is "legal custody" and there is "physical custody". They are distinct from one another, but they each deserve attention.
The term Legal Custody is the right to make major decisions that effect the best interest of the child. Such decisions include medical, educational and religious decisions. Generally, legal custody is jointly held by the parents, and that is called "shared legal custody". However, under circumstances where one parent has shown himself/herself to be adverse to the best interest of the child or where one of the parents has abandoned the child, the court might grant legal custody to only one party. That is know as "sole legal custody."
Physical Custody is the time that the child spends with one of the parents. "Primary Physical Custody" is the time spent with the parent who has the majority of the time. "Partial Physical Custody" is the time spent with the parent that has less than the majority of the time. In most states, Partial Physical Custody is commonly referred to as Visitation.
If one of the parents has lost all rights to physical custody, then the other parent has "Sole Physical Custody".
Under some circumstances, one of the parents may only be allowed to have physical custody with a monitor present. The monitor may be an adult or an agency designated by the Court or by agreement of the parties.
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