Mother’s Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

Whether a mother or a father, all parents have similar concerns when it comes to child custody. Although Pennsylvania law finds that one parent has no more claim to a child than the other does, mothers accounted for 86.7 percent of custodial parents in the United States in 2011 according to a U.S. Census report.

But while mothers account for a majority of custodial parents, they are certainly not guaranteed it. Read on for more information about custody arrangements and modifications in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Custody Arrangements

The state of Pennsylvania recognizes the following different types of custody arrangements:

  • Shared physical custody – In this arrangement, the child spends a good deal of time in each parent’s home. This situation requires a great deal of cooperation and communication between the parents and works best if both parents are able to put their differences aside.
  • Primary physical custody – In this situation, the child lives primarily with one parent, while the other parent is granted visitation. In this type of agreement, it is important for both parents to adhere to the visitation schedules so the children have consistent access to the non-custodial parent. 
  • Partial physical custody – This agreement isfalls in the middle of the two above. There is more access to the child than a parent with just visitation rights.
  • Sole physical custody – In this custody arrangement, one parent is given sole custodial rights to the minor child or children.
  • Supervised physical custody – If the court has determined that the child is at risk in some way, it may mandate that one (or both) parent(s) must be supervised when in the presence of the child.
  • Shared legal custody – An ideal arrangement in which both parents make decisions about the health and welfare of the child. As in shared physical custody, this situation requires maturity and cooperation between parents.
  • Sole legal custody – Occasionally the court sees fit to grant only one parent the right to make legal decisions for the child.

Many mothers go into a custody hearing expecting they will receive primary physical custody, but this is never guaranteed. The court might find it benefits the child to reside primarily with the father and the mother must be the one to make visitations. Mothers who wish to pursue primary physical custody should prove to the court that it is in the child’s best interest. The same goes for pursuing legal custody.

The Right to Modify a Custody and Visitation Agreement

If you did not receive primary physical custody or otherwise are unhappy with the custody arrangement, you may request a modification. Mothers may wish to do so if they were – for whatever reason – deemed unable to provide for a child’s basic needs at the time the original custody agreement was drafted. Other changes in circumstances could also warrant modifying an existing custody order.

It’s important to go through proper legal channels. An informal agreement with the child’s father is not sufficient to enforce a modification. The court must deem the modification to be in the child’s best interests.