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The 50/50 Custody Debate in Pennsylvania

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CoParenting The 50-50 Target in PA

Awarding sole custody to just one parent after a divorce is outdated. Parenting should not be treated as a competition where one parent wins and the other loses. In Pennsylvania, parenting plans are comprehensive, allowing both parents to collaborate on decisions regarding school breaks and extracurricular activities. However, many parents still feel dissatisfied with the limited number of days allocated by the court to spend with their children. A proposed bill in the Pennsylvania General Assembly aims to default to equal division of parenting time, while still considering the children’s best interests through court determination. At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our child custody attorneys can assist you in working for court approval for a parenting schedule that suits your needs and benefits your children.

PA House Bill 1397: Equal Parenting Time for Children of Divorced Parents

In modern divorce cases involving families with minor children, the court often designates one parent as the primary residential parent while granting visitation rights to the other parent. House Bill 1397 proposes a presumption that it is in the best interest of children with divorced parents to spend an equal amount of time, 50 percent, with each parent. Naturally, each parenting plan will be tailored to the unique circumstances and preferences of the parents, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the children have substantial and meaningful time with both parents.

50/50 Shared Custody Is the Ideal in Pennsylvania, but It May Not Be Practical for Everyone

In certain scenarios, 50/50 timesharing can be more practical than others. Some existing parenting plans allocate equal parenting time to both parents, but circumstances can change, leading many families to later modify their plans. The 50/50 custody arrangement works especially well for very young children when the parents reside in close proximity to one another and, if both parents are employed, in close proximity to the child’s daycare. The arrangement of alternating weeks or transferring the child on Sunday evenings and Wednesday afternoons does not impose a burden on preschool-aged children.

As children grow older, the complexity of implementing a 50/50 timesharing arrangement increases. It can be disruptive for children to juggle their textbooks and school-related items between two households, and extracurricular activities during evenings or weekends can limit the time parents have with their children, even if they are in their care. The “weekdays with Mom and weekends with Dad” parenting plan is popular among families with school-aged children because it offers a manageable solution. With HB 1397, you and your ex-spouse have the freedom to determine what works best for your family.

How does child support work when you do 50-50 custody?

In Pennsylvania, child support is determined based on several factors, including the income of both parents, the custody arrangement, and the needs of the child. When custody is shared equally, meaning a 50/50 custody arrangement, it does not automatically eliminate the obligation to pay child support.

Under Pennsylvania law, child support is calculated using guidelines that consider the combined net income of both parents and the number of children involved. The specific formula takes into account the amount of time each parent spends with the child, which includes overnight stays. Even with a 50/50 custody arrangement, there may still be a child support obligation if there is a significant difference in the incomes of the parents.

Each case is subject to the court’s discretion. Sometimes, a court may deviate from the guidelines if it determines that the calculated amount is unjust or inappropriate. Factors such as extraordinary expenses, healthcare costs, and other special circumstances may be considered.

Ultimately, it is crucial to consult with a family law attorney who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and the applicable laws in Pennsylvania.

Fathers’ Rights in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, as in many states, the court’s primary concern when making custody decisions is the child’s best interest. While there is a growing trend towards equal shared parenting, Pennsylvania does not explicitly categorize itself as a “Father’s Rights” state. Rather, the law acknowledges the rights of both parents to have a meaningful relationship with their child, irrespective of gender.

The courts generally encourage shared custody arrangements, provided it aligns with the child’s best interests and the parents are fit to co-parent. A fit father in Pennsylvania can reasonably expect a fair custody arrangement. This could potentially be joint legal custody, shared physical custody, or a combination of both, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Pennsylvania law recognizes that children typically benefit from maintaining strong relationships with both parents, and courts strive to ensure that a custody arrangement promotes this goal.

However, each case is unique—Factors such as the child’s age, the relationship between the child and each parent, the ability of the parents to cooperate, and the proximity of their residences can influence the final custody determination. For a comprehensive understanding of what to expect, a father should consult with a family law attorney, who can provide about thier specific situation.

LGBTQ+ Parenting and Custody in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the recognition of parental rights extends beyond biological connections, addressing the unique circumstances that often arise in LGBTQ+ families. For couples where only one parent may be biologically related to the child, the law recognizes the concept of ‘de facto’ parenthood, meaning that a parent who has acted as a parent and formed a strong, parental-like relationship with the child can be recognized as a legal parent, regardless of biological connection.

Pennsylvania law also acknowledges ‘assumed parenthood’ or ‘presumed parenthood’, where a person is recognized as a parent if they were married to the biological parent at the time of the child’s birth or if they have resided in the same household and demonstrated commitment to the child’s wellbeing. These provisions can apply to non-biological parents in LGBTQ+ relationships, ensuring their rights and responsibilities as parents are protected.

However, to secure these rights, non-biological parents may need to take additional steps to establish their parentage legally. These steps might include second-parent adoption, where the non-biological parent adopts the child while the biological parent retains their parental rights, or co-parent adoption, where both individuals in a couple jointly adopt a child. Securing a legal parenting agreement is beneficial, particularly when the law may be open to interpretation.

As with all custody matters, it’s recommended that non-biological parents consult with a family law attorney to understand their specific situation and how Pennsylvania law applies to them. This is essential to ensure the fullest protection of their parental rights.


1. What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions in a child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody, on the other hand, pertains to where the child physically resides.

2. How does a shared physical custody arrangement work?

In shared physical custody, both parents have an almost equal amount of time with the child. This arrangement can vary considerably based on the specific needs of the family and the child, but the objective is to allow the child to spend substantial time with both parents.

3. What does primary physical custody mean and how does it differ from joint physical custody?

Primary physical custody refers to a situation where one parent (the custodial parent) has the child for the majority of the time. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, implies that the child spends roughly an equal amount of time with both parents.

4. Are child support payments still required with an equal custody agreement?

Yes, even with an equal custody agreement, child support payments could still be necessary, especially if there is a significant disparity in the parents’ incomes. The higher-earning parent may be required to pay child support to assist in meeting the child’s needs.

5. Can the terms of a custody schedule be modified?

Yes, a custody schedule can be modified if the parties agree to the changes or if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child. Changes in circumstances, such as a parent’s relocation or changes in a child’s needs, can also necessitate modifications to the custody schedule.

6. What factors do courts consider when determining child custody in PA?

Courts in PA take into account several factors when determining child custody. These might include the child’s preference (depending on their age and maturity), the relationship of the child with each parent, each parent’s capacity to provide a stable, loving environment, the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes, and any history of abuse or neglect.

7. Can a child choose which parent to live with in PA?

In PA, a child’s preference may be considered in custody proceedings. However, it’s not the sole factor. The court will evaluate the child’s reasoning and maturity level, and will ultimately decide based on what is in the child’s best interest.

8. How is parenting time divided in joint custody arrangements in PA?

In joint custody arrangements, both parents share in the physical and legal custody of the child. The actual division of parenting time can vary, but the goal is to ensure the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The specifics of the schedule depend on factors such as the parents’ work schedules, the child’s school schedule, and the distance between the parents’ residences.

9. How do PA courts handle relocation requests in child custody cases?

In PA, if a parent with shared custody intends to relocate in a way that significantly impacts the existing custody schedule, they must provide notice to the other parent. The other parent can consent to the move or object to it. If there’s an objection, the court will decide if the move is in the child’s best interests.

10. What terms do PA family law courts use for custody?

In Pennsylvania family law courts, several terms are prevalent when discussing child custody matters. ‘Parenting time’ refers to the designated periods during which each parent is responsible for the child. ‘Legal custody’ denotes the right and responsibility to make significant decisions on the child’s behalf relating to aspects like education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. ‘Physical custody’ is a child’s physical care and supervision. The ‘allocation of time’ typically refers to the schedule outlined in the custody agreement, dictating when the child spends time with each parent. Understanding these terms can help parents navigate the complex landscape of custody disputes and agreements.

Looking for reliable child custody assistance in Pennsylvania?

Look no further! At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our divorce attorneys are here to guide you through the complexities of child custody cases, including 50/50 custody arrangements. With a focus on your child’s best interests, we strive to secure favorable custody decisions for you. Whether it’s physical custody, legal custody, shared custody or support, our team is well-versed in the related terms and custody laws. Don’t navigate this challenging process alone—contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC today and let us provide the support you need.

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