Father’s Child Custody Rights

According to a 2011 United States Census report, about 18.3 percent of custodial parents were fathers. This was an increase from the 17.8 percent reported in the 2009 Census report. Roughly translated, this means that for every six custodial arrangements, five find the mother with custody and only one out of six sees the father with custody of the children.

There is no real reason for this statistic; certainly, the courts have made fathers and mothers equal in the eyes of the law, but whether its societal pressure or judicial prejudice, the facts remain, men are less likely to live with their children when the parents are not married.


What type of custody arrangements do fathers have in Pennsylvania?

According to the law in Pennsylvania, all parents regardless of sex have equal rights to custody. The law does not distinguish that the mother is preferred or the father is preferred.

To that end, the Pennsylvania Code Section 5323 states that the following types of custody are available:

  • shared physical custody – an arrangement where the child spends significant time in the homes of both parents;
  • primary physical custody – where the child spends the majority of his or her living with one parent and visitation for the second parent;
  • partial physical custody – similar to shared physical custody but the child spends the majority of time with one parent, although the second parent retains partial physical custody rights;
  • sole physical custody – where only one parent has physical rights to the child;
  • supervised physical custody – where a parent only has rights when an agency or individual appointed by the court is there to monitor the visitation;
  • shared legal custody – an arrangement where both parents can make legal decisions regarding the health and welfare of the child; and
  • sole legal custody – where only one parent has the right to legal decisions for the child.

It is possible to have a combination of these types of custody. For example, it is not uncommon for the mother to have primary physical custody in Stroudsburg while the father lives in Palmerton and both parents enjoy shared legal custody.


Special Concerns for Fathers Seeking Custody

Men who wish to be a custodial parent who are not married to the mother and who did not sign the in-hospital acknowledgement of paternity when the child was born must initiate an action to establish paternity. This is done by filing papers with the Prothonotary’s Office at your local county courthouse.

For Bethlehem, the court house is located in Allentown and Eaton; for Palmerton, the location is in Jim Thorpe; and for fathers in the Stroudsburg area it is located right in the city of Stroudsburg.

There are many good fathers in Pennsylvania who deserve to have equal or primary custody of their children, or who have a right to exercise visitation. A child needs a positive and safe environment and a man can provide that as well as a woman can.