The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255


It’s back to school time.  Does the school know you and your legal rights?   If you are divorced or separated, you might be interested in some legal information and reminders to help make the beginning of the school year go smoothly.  The information contained in this article is not legal advice, and you should consult with a lawyer before you attempt to pursue any custody rights.

  1. In Pennsylvania, ‘‘legal custody’’ means “the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.”   23 Pa .Code 1915.1   Most parents have joint legal custody and are able to speak to the teachers, nurses and administrators in the school, attend functions, and transport their child to and from the school.  Parents are expected to talk to the other legal custodian before making decisions that affect the child’s schooling so that both have input.
  2. “Physical custody “is defined by law as “the actual physical possession and control of a child.” In a more human sense, physical custody is where the child lives, and it is usually shared by some schedule of custodial time. Schools may want to know who has physical custody and who can be expected to pick up the child after school.   If there are other adults who are not custodians but may be picking up the child, it is likely that the school will require the parent’s written permission.  Make sure that the school has your consent before the babysitter shows up!
  3. If there is a court order limiting or restricting the noncustodial parent’s contact with the child, you may want to have a copy of the court order in the student’s record. Even if a parent has restricted physical contact, they should be able to obtain information and see school records with joint legal custody rights. Without a court order, both natural parents have equal access to the child and the child’s school records.
  4. If parents disagree about custody and education issues, there are 16 factors that the Court considers when deciding what is best for the child, and some of them relate to a parent’s involvement in supporting the child’s attendance and good performance in school.  The factors include:  (a) the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life; (b) which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child; and (c) the parental duties performed by each parent on behalf of the child.

In disputes between parents about where the child will attend school, the Court will review all 16 relevant factors. “The paramount concern in a child custody case is the best interests of the child, based on consideration of all factors that legitimately affect the child’s physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being, and is to be made on a case by case basis.” See Staub v. Staub

If you have questions about school and legal custody, physical custody, or the best interests of your child, call the Mazza Law Group and speak to an experienced family law attorney.



SCHOOL and LEGAL CUSTODY was last modified: September 7th, 2017 by Judith Homan
Judith Homan About Judith Homan

Attorney Judith L. Homan graduated from Penn State in 1988, and obtained her law degree at the UNH School of Law. She has been with The Mazza Law Group since returning to State College from New Hampshire in 2014. Her primary area of practice is family law.