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Legal Information: Pennsylvania


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Laws current as of December 15, 2023

In which state do I file for custody? Is Pennsylvania my child's "home state"?

If your child has lived in Pennsylvania for the last six months in a row, this is considered your child’s “home state” and you can generally file for custody in Pennsylvania. Temporarily leaving the state, such as going on vacation, does not change anything.1

There are certain exceptions to this rule.  You may be able to file in Pennsylvania even if your child has not lived in Pennsylvania for the last six months if:

  • Your child is less than six months old and has lived in Pennsylvania since birth1;
  • Your child is in Pennsylvania and it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because you, your child, or the child’s sibling are subjected to or threatened with abuse;2 or
  • Your child lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months but:
    • Moved away from Pennsylvania, although you must still be living there; and
    • S/he has not lived in any other state for 6 months in a row since leaving Pennsylvania.3

If you already have a custody order from another state and you want to change it, you will likely have to file a petition to change (modify) that order in the state where it was originally issued.4

If you’ve recently moved to or fled to Pennsylvania, a domestic violence organization or legal services agency in your area might be able to help.  For a list of resources, please see our PA Places that Help page.  You can also write in with a question to our Email Hotline for more information.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5402
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5424(a)
3 23 Pa.C.S.A § 5421(a)
4 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5423