Joint Custody – What Are My Rights as a Parent?


Joint custody of a minor child is a legal arrangement that may refer to physical custody of a child under the age of eighteen, legal custody of the child, or both. Legal custody establishes who has the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, while physical custody addresses who the child spends time with and who provides for the child’s physical needs. While sole custody means that only one party makes decisions or has physical control of the child, joint custody establishes that both parties must consult each other with regard to decisions such as education, medical interventions, or religion and that each party has the child in their physical custody for a significant portion of the time. The state of Pennsylvania makes all of these determinations based upon what is in the best interests of the child, and though it is most desirable for all parties to agree between themselves on a custody arrangement and then submit their agreement to the court for approval, there are many instances where this type of accord cannot be reached. If you need assistance in negotiating a joint custody agreement or in any other family law matter, contact the experienced Philadelphia attorneys at Smith & Horwitz.

If you are a parent who has shared legal custody for your child, then you have the right to participate and be consulted regarding any major decisions that are made on behalf of the child. Even if you do not have shared physical custody, it is expected that the custodial parent will contact you, and if both parties are unable to come to an agreement then you have the right to file a petition seeking an order from the court with regards to the decision being made. This does not apply to day-to-day decisions that are made while the child is in either parent’s physical custody – legal custody decisions refer to such issues as major medical interventions, religious upbringing, and schooling.

Establishing joint custody regarding where the child lives and who they reside with can be a complicated issue, as it is often difficult to split time evenly between both parties and still provide for what is best for the child. In many cases, a custody arrangement that is considered joint actually establishes a schedule where one parent’s home is considered primary but creates a balance by adding on additional time with the other for vacations or dinners. The goal of joint custody is to allow both parents to play an equal role in the child’s life while still providing a stable environment.

Coming up with a joint custody solution that is balanced and in the best interests of a child can be difficult, and that is why it is important to have representation from an attorney with extensive experience and a strong understanding of the child’s needs. The lawyers at Smith & Horwitz have earned their reputation for being clear and compassionate advocates for their clients and their clients’ children. Call us today to set up a convenient appointment to see how we can help you.

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