One of the unknowns in your Pennsylvania divorce may be how the courts will divide responsibility for your child and his or her living arrangements between you and the other parent.

According to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, here are some facts about custody that may help you understand what to expect.

Physical custody

This refers to which parent has “possession and control” of your child, and it is divided up into four types:

  • Shared custody: Your child lives with both you and the other parent.
  • Primary custody: Your child lives with either you or the other parent most of the time.
  • Partial custody: Your child lives with one parent less than 50% of the time. This includes overnight visits.
  • Visitation: One parent visits the child but cannot take him or her anywhere outside the primary custodian’s care.

Legal custody

Ever since your child was born, you and the other parent have been making decisions for him or her about issues such as whether to belong to a particular religious group, whether to seek a private education or attend a public school, and what pediatrician is best. Legal custody defines who has the right to make these decisions after the divorce.

Usually, the courts require both parents to share these important decisions. For example, the other parent could not withdraw your child from private school and enroll him or her in public school without your consent.

If yours is one of those rare cases where only one parent receives legal custody, the court still wants that parent to consult with the noncustodial parent. Either parent can get the court involved if he or she disapproves of the way that the other parent handles a major issue.

When it comes to minor decisions, such as your child’s bedtime, screen time and clothing options, the parent who has the child with him or her at the time is responsible for the choices. This general information should not be interpreted as legal advice.