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Joint custody: Will it work best for your Pennsylvania family?

When going through divorce, parents are naturally concerned with what will happen to their kids and how often they will get to see them. Often, the desire to protect the interests of the kids motivates Pennsylvania parents to work together on a parenting plan out of court. Parents and family courts alike see the many benefits of joint custody arrangements.

To make a joint custody arrangement work, it does not necessarily mean you will have to like the other parent or even get along with him or her. It does, however, mean you will need to understand your role and be willing to set the needs of your children above all else. It may be helpful to first understand how joint custody works and what it may mean for your unique situation.

The elements of a joint custody plan

When you think of a joint custody arrangement, you may assume this means that both parents will have their children for 50 percent of the time. This is not necessarily the case. While parenting time may not be exactly equal, it will be equitable. The specific arrangement will likely depend on circumstances such as school schedules, your work schedule and more. 

A joint custody plan will need to address both legal and physical custody. Custody orders are about more than how and when kids will see their parents; they should also outline how parents make decisions for the kids. Consider the differences between these types of custody: 

  • Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make important decisions in the life of the child, such as where he or she will go to school or religious upbringing.
  • Physical custody is the amount of time a parent will actually spend with his or her child. This includes summer vacations, holidays and even weekends.

In a true joint custody arrangement, parents will share both legal custody and physical custody, but that is not always the case. In some instances, one parent may retain legal custody while sharing joint custody with the other parent.

Custody arrangements differ from family to family, but you can pursue a final order that allows you to have a strong role in the lives of your children. Before you agree to a custody order or make any important decisions about your children, you may find it beneficial to seek an evaluation of your case and explanation of the legal options available to you.

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