By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney
Child custody issues are among the most difficult and painful challenges a family can face. They are also among the most common. More than a quarter of all children in the United States under the age of 21 currently have a parent living outside their household. In Pennsylvania, custody laws are designed to determine what’s in the best interest of those children by considering a host of factors, from family relationships to the child’s own wishes. Under the best of circumstances, parents will have shared custody, or joint custody, allowing both parents to spend meaningful time with their children and make important decisions in their lives.
If you are living in Lancaster County and are just entering the child custody process, you understandably have many fears and concerns. The team at Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster understands that every family story is unique, and they will provide your child custody case with the personalized attention it deserves, whether it’s simple mediation or aggressive litigation. Contact Going and Plank’s child custody attorney today to discuss your case.
There are also steps you can take on your own to improve your chances of a better custody agreement. They may not always be easy, but they can lead to a more positive outcome for you and your children.
Follow these tips and contact a lawyer at Going and Plank to ensure a fair custody hearing:
Demonstrate That You are a Responsible Parent
While this should go without saying at any time, it is particularly important during the process of determining child custody. Make sure you always put your children’s needs first, and that means more than simply making sure they have food, clothing and a roof over their head. You may be feeling overwhelmed by work or financial pressures but be careful not to let your children take a backseat to other responsibilities in your life. Try to avoid working long hours or doing anything that keeps you from being present for your children, whether it’s picking them up from school or getting them to soccer practice on time.
Spend as Much Time With Your Child as Possible
Whatever rights you’ve been granted under existing agreements, make sure you take full advantage of them. Use the time to do ordinary things like helping with homework, doing chores or attending dance recitals. Although this can be a stressful time in your life, resist the temptation to spend time away with friends. While you may feel like you could use a break, it’s more important that you show consistency and stability for your children. Even if you don’t have a great relationship with your spouse, offer to help them out by spending extra time with the children. It will show that your children are more important than any differences the two of you may have.
Protect Your Children From the Drama of Divorce
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but especially for your children. The best thing you can do to help them ease through the transition is to co-parent with your spouse, no matter how difficult that may be. If you repeatedly badmouth your spouse, a child custody judge may view it as a sign that you are trying to damage the relationship between your spouse and your children, and that you are unwilling to co-parent. Pennsylvania courts rarely favor the parent that is angry and insulting.
Put Your Social Life (and Social Media) on Hold During the Custody Process
Social media may be a natural part of your life, but even a seemingly innocent post can be used against you in a child custody dispute. In Pennsylvania, social media posts can be used as evidence that you are an unfit parent, even if they are taken out of context. Consider how a vacation photo on Facebook may appear if that vacation was taken without your children. A photo of your new car may raise eyebrows if you’re claiming the need for additional child support. And photos of you with your friends can be used to paint you as a partner rather than a responsible parent. Even if you’re not posting on social media, it’s best to avoid partying, vacationing without your children and dating during the custody process.
Respect Interim Custody Rules to the Letter
Divorce can be a lengthy process that takes anywhere from several months to several years. If parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, a judge may issue a temporary, or interim, custody order establishing who can make decisions for the children, where the children will live and when visitation will take place until a permanent order is issued. Contact an experienced child custody attorney at Going and Plank to help you get a fair custody schedule and ensure that it is enforced. Even if you don’t agree with the rules of the interim custody agreement, it is important that you respect them to the letter. Don’t try to sneak in more time with your child, and never bring your child back late. Violating the custody rules, even just a little, may be viewed as a sign of disrespect, both to your spouse and to the court, and may result in less visitation time or even arrest. Conversely, don’t skip visits or reschedule time with your children. Sticking to the details of the interim custody agreement shows your spouse and the courts how highly you value time with your children.
Hire a Child Custody Lawyer
The child custody attorney at Going and Plank offers compassionate, comprehensive legal services to help you deal with all matters related to child custody. Our team can fast-track custody hearings, help you personalize a child custody schedule, and ensure you are treated fairly in matters of child support and temporary custody. Contact a child custody lawyer at Going and Plank today to review your case and improve your chances for a fair custody hearing.