by Robert M. Going, Jr, Attorney
When parents split up, it’s common for each parent to want more time with their child. The amount of time awarded to each parent is often decided by a judge in a custody proceeding. However, few parents fully understand how seemingly small actions can significantly impact a judge’s decision.
At Going and Plank, we work hard to help our clients understand how their behavior and attitudes can affect custody decisions. We share six of the most common custody mistakes in this article.
Mistake #1: Assuming the Other Parent will “Play Fair”
Parents often put on a brave face for their kids when a family breaks up. Often, both parents will avoid insulting each other in front of the children. But this kind of good behavior rarely carries over into custody hearings. In the courtroom, one parent may want to prove their ex is an unfit parent, even if it’s untrue.
That’s why parents should prepare by assuming the other parent won’t play fair during custody proceedings. Retaining a skilled child custody attorney helps parents prepare for attacks, defend their reputations, and obtain a fair custody agreement.
Mistake #2: Making a Dramatic Exit
While leaving a spouse or a partner may be tempting, remaining in the home with children may increase the odds of getting a more favorable custody ruling in Pennsylvania. When safety is not a concern, the parent who remains in the home with the children often gets preference in a custody case.
However, this may not be wise to remain in the home if the parent or children feel unsafe at any point. When abuse is a concern, seek a Protection From Abuse (PFA).
Some Lancaster County judges believe parents who leave without consideration for their children’s emotional well-being deserve less custody time. So, if staying in the family home is not an option, go respectfully and quietly to minimize any bias a custody judge may hold.
Mistake #3: Refusing to Co-Parent
Separations are often painful. That’s why so many parents find it challenging to co-parent calmly and responsibly. However, Lancaster County courts often favor the parent who places the welfare of their children above their own emotions.
Courts rarely favor the partner who is angry, insulting, or unresponsive in front of the kids. That’s why steady co-parenting can impress the courts. And the best part is that calm cooperation also makes the process easier for the children.
Mistake #4: Breaking the Terms of Interim Custody
Interim custody agreements may change once the court proceedings are completed. In the meantime, parents should adhere to every detail of the interim agreement. Even minor violations of interim custody agreements may result in reduced visitation time in the final custody agreement.
Parents who abide by the orders often get more favorable results at the hearing. That’s because many custody judges believe that adherence to interim custody orders shows respect to the children and the court.
Common interim offenses include being late for drop-offs, picking up children without permission, canceling time with kids, “getting back” by mimicking an ex-partner’s custody infractions or taking the children out of town or out of state without permission. While adjusting to new custody schedules can be tricky, adhering to every part of interim custody orders pays off in the long run.
Mistake #5: Being Careless on Social Media
Social media posts can be used as evidence to portray an unfit parent, so it’s wise to be very careful about what is posted and how the post is worded. In court, posts can be used intentionally out of context.
So, avoid complaining about an ex. Don’t post about a new life or a better life. Don’t share photos of parties, drinking, new partners, purchases, or vacations. Instead, consider how your ex-partner’s parents would view a post and use that as a barometer of a judge’s potential reaction.
Mistake #6: Not Hiring a Lawyer
Hiring an experienced custody attorney is the first step to the best custody outcome. The attorney should be an objective expert who helps parents understand what they can reasonably expect in a custody hearing. Contact Going and Plank to talk about your case.
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