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The Child Custody Checklist

By Robert M. Going, Jr.going-bob-Lancaster-County-Pennsylvania

Attorney

Many parents enter the child custody process with no prior experience. To make matters more complicated, the child custody stories we usually hear from friends and family are of situations that didn’t work, of couples who had problems reaching an agreement, or of a parent that was unfairly awarded full custody.

While bad situations do exist, for most couples, custody results can be less dramatic and more equitable. So, don’t take second-hand horror stories to heart. Remember Pennsylvania custody laws were developed to give parents a chance to tell their side of the story. Every situation is different, and each custody agreement is developed to suit the needs of the children involved.

If you’re getting ready to work through a custody agreement, we developed a checklist to help you understand the foundations needed to create a joint custody agreement that works best for your child. Use our checklist as a first step to getting a fair custody hearing, and please contact us with questions.

Lead the Custody Process

Proactively starting the process and being the parent who maps out the first agreement puts you in a strong position to lead the process. If you must go to court, your proactive role can be an example of how vital custody is to you.

Be a Dependable Parent

This is a critical time to put your child first, every time. While job security and financial matters may be pressing, this is not a good time to spend more time at work. Be there for your child. Be reliable. Keep promises. Provide stability.

Respect Interim Custody Agreements

Even if you feel cheated, respect any interim custody agreements to the letter. Don’t try to sneak in more time in with your child, and never bring your child back late. Conversely, don’t skip visits or reschedule a time with your children. Sticking to the details of the interim agreement shows your spouse and the courts how highly you value time with your child.

Don’t Leave Town

This is not a good time for a vacation, or for long weekends with friends. While it may be tempting to get away from it all, it’s more important for you to provide stability and consistency for your children. Travel time alone may also count against you in court.

Agree to Spend Extra Time With Your Kids

Okay, this one seems easy, but for many parents, agreeing to spend extra time with the kids feels like it’s actually a favor to their spouse. And during a divorce, it may be hard to do anything to help your spouse out. However, your ability and willingness to spend time with your kids, even if your spouse is unwilling to reciprocate, shows that you put your child’s needs first. Your eagerness to spend time with your kids could be a point in your favor during custody hearings. Contact the team at Going and Plank to discuss your case.

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Pay Child Support

If you were not awarded primary custody, you may be asked to pay child support during the interim custody agreement. While you may not feel the arrangement is fair, paying the court-ordered support promptly and consistently is considered a strong indication of your reliability as a parent, and will help you negotiate a more favorable, permanent custody agreement.

Keep up Appearances

Take time to look your best for your kids and in court. Being clean, well-dressed, and well-groomed shows your kids you value your time with them, and it also weighs in your favor during interim custody and on court dates.

Stay off Social Media

Don’t share your emotions, your frustrations, or your off-hours activities with people on social media during a divorce, or during child custody proceedings. Social media posts can be used as an
indication that you’re angry, aggressive, irresponsible, or otherwise unfit to be a parent. If doubt, don’t post.

Common Joint Custody Arrangements

If you’ve never dealt with child custody agreements before, you may wonder that is “normal.” While every situation is different, there are several types of joint custody agreements that seem to work for many families. While some parents worry about the stress of switching households frequently, mental health practitioners generally agree that switching younger children more frequently is actually more beneficial.

The 2-2-3 Plan

In this option, the child or children will spend Monday and Tuesday with one parent, Wednesday, and Thursday with the other parent, and spend Friday through Sunday with the first parent. And then the schedule flips in the following week. Monday and Tuesday are spent with the other parent, and so on.

The 2-2-5 Plan

In this plan, the child or children will spend every Monday and Tuesday with one parent, and then every Wednesday and Thursday the other parent. The child will then alternate long weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with each parent.) This schedule makes it easier for older children to plan out activities like sports or playdates.

The Alternate Week Plan

In this scenario, the child or children switch homes weekly; week one with one parent, and week two with another. Some families find this is a more practical solution for older children who have lots of activities and are more comfortable spending several days away from one parent.

Increase Your Chances for a Favorable Custody Hearing

Make sure you get the custody agreement that’s best for your children. Going and Plank has been serving Lancaster County with more than three decades of experience in custody and family law. Contact me today, and I’ll advise and coach you through the process to help you get a fair custody hearing.

Want to learn more about child custody? Check out our blog on 5 Common Custody Mistakes.

Grandparents’ Rights: 6 Reasons to Consider Gaining Custody of a Grandchild

If you’re a grandparent who is concerned about the health, happiness, or safety of your grandchild, you may have asked yourself if there are legal options that will help you protect your grandchildren.

The answer is yes. In recent years, laws have been changing in ways that grant grandparents an elevated status in custody matters. In the past, grandparents may have been unable to intervene in undesirable family situations. Today, changes in state laws give grandparents well-defined rights that allow them to step in when they see unhealthy or harmful conditions.

Grandparents’ Rights in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act gives grandparents many legal options to help them keep their grandchildren safe. In the Act, a grandparent’s custody rights are grouped into three areas: primary, partial, and supervised custody.

It’s important to note that each state has different laws and processes, so the details discussed here are specific to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and may differ significantly in other states.

The Act addresses conditions in which primary custody may be granted to a grandparent. Primary custody refers to caring for the child full-time, in your home, with full responsibility for their health, wellness, education, and otherwise assuming all parental duties. Because this is the most dramatic custody assignment and requires a significant disruption in a child’s life, courts use caution when granting of primary custody. Usually, abuse, neglect, addiction, incarceration, or other life-changing circumstances are required to change primary custody arrangements. If a grandparent is or has been primarily caring for a grandchild in the past, they may petition the court for primary or partial custody.

Partial physical custody, sometimes referred to as shared custody, assigns a custody schedule during which grandparents may care for their grandchildren for specified periods of time. Partial physical custody agreements are legally binding schedules. Deviations from the schedule can be remedied with legal action if needed. The primary caregiver retains the primary home for the child, which reduces disruption or change in the child’s life.

Supervised custody allows grandparents to schedule visitation rights without changing physical custody assignments. Supervised custody visits are scheduled and planned. They must be supervised by a court-appointed adult, which may be a parent, an agency or another individual.

Should You Pursue Custody of a Grandchild?

While many grandparents want to spend more time with their grandchildren, not all cases warrant legal action. If you’re wondering whether you should pursue legal action, the team at Going and Plank is here to help you evaluate your circumstances. Take a look at our list of six reasons many grandparents consider pursuing a legal custody agreement.

Reason 1: Your Grandchild is in Danger

Nothing is harder than knowing that your grandchild is in danger of abuse, neglect, physical harm, mental anguish, or other unacceptable circumstances. But your suspicions or claims are not enough to gain custody. You must create a strong case with evidence, and you’ll need legal help. Our team is skilled at researching parent behavior, getting testimonials, and helping you track down the information you need to protect your grandchild. With this information in hand, we can help you pursue primary custody.

Reason 2: Your Grandchild’s Parent or Guardian Suffers From Addiction

It’s a heart-breaking fact that even loving, caring parents fall victim to drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Even if your grandchild’s parent or guardian is working to end addiction, the process is painful, often requires stays at addiction clinics, and may take years to complete. To save your grandchildren from suffering from the neglect, abuse, and emotional damage inflicted by living with an addict, you can seek primary custody in order to provide a safe and stable home for the ones you love. Going and Plank will help you build a solid legal case

Reason 3: Your Grandchild is Being Neglected

Raising a child requires a parent who is able to tend to the child’s welfare and is responsible and consistent when caring for and supervising a child. If you suspect your grandchild’s parent or guardian is unable or unwilling to provide regular meals, appropriate supervision, emotional support, tend to their educational needs, or consistently provide care, schedule a free phone consultation with our family law team. We’ll ask you questions about your situation and help you understand how to identify and document neglect. And if you decide to pursue your case, we’ll help you prepare for court dates with the kind of information that will ensure your grandchild is protected.

Reason 4: Your Grandchild Needs the Extra Support and Love Your Attention Will Provide

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Sometimes a challenging relationship with a parent results in reducing or eliminating your time with your grandchild. If you want to stay connected with your grandchildren to provide emotional care, or to monitor their health and welfare, you may have legal options. Under the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act, if a parent dies or if the child has resided with a grandparent for 12 consecutive months or more, you may be entitled to court-mandated visitation rights. In these cases, courts will evaluate a child’s emotional and physical well-being, the existing relationship between the child and the grandparents, and, for older children, the child’s preference. Finally, the court will also weigh the impact temporary custody will have, negative or positive, on social and intellectual growth, particularly their education and extracurricular activities. Call the Law Offices of Going and Plank to see if your situation qualifies you for visitation rights.

Reason 5: Your Grandchild is Being Placed Into Foster Care

Sometimes estranged grandparents discover that their grandchild has been placed in foster care. In foster care, the state takes legal custody and caseworkers then make major decisions on behalf of that child. In Pennsylvania, you can petition for “kinship care” so that you become the assigned guardian for your grandchild. This is a bit different than primary custody since the state retains legal custody and pays for the child’s care. If your grandchildren have already been handed over to the legal custody of the state, you still have options. Our family law team can help you seek foster care status and transition your role into legal guardianship if that makes sense for your family.

Reason 6: You Have Raised Your Grandchild as a Parent

If you are assuming or have assumed the primary responsibility of raising a child, the court may grant you primary or temporary custody. The court wants to assure that the child stays connected to the party who has acted as a parent to the child and try to act in the best interest of the child.

Know Your Legal Rights

Pennsylvania law recognizes the role grandparents can play in keeping their grandchildren safe, healthy, and secure. If you’re concerned about the welfare of your grandchild and want to expand your role in their lives, contact us to speak with a grandparents’ rights attorney from Going and Plank.

Lancaster Child Custody Lawyer Shares 5 Common Mistakes

Child custody proceedings can be an emotional process. The thought of losing time with your children can make you frustrated and scared. However, your actions will be closely evaluated, so it’s more important than ever to keep your cool and stay calm. Show your children and the courts that you are a dependable, level-headed parent.

Robert M. Going, Jr. is a child custody attorney with over 30 years of experience in custody cases in Lancaster County and throughout Central Pennsylvania. We asked Bob to share some of the most common mistakes parents make during child custody proceedings.

5 Common Child Custody Mistakes

by Robert M. Going, Jr.

Robert-Going-Plank-Attorney-CustodyI really enjoy practicing family law in Lancaster County. It’s important to me to help families through tough times, and I try to be the kind of attorney who is compassionate and caring. After all, when you’re dealing with the custody of your children, you don’t w­­ant to talk to a lawyer who is rushed, or who isn’t completely focused on you and your situation.

If you’re getting divorced or getting ready to determine child custody, you may have to fight through some tough emotions. While you may be tempted to give into a temper or make life tough for your spouse, that approach might actually backfire in the long-run. Sometimes good people let a bad situation get the better of them. But if you know the consequences of your actions, you may be able to make better decisions. That’s why I was happy to put together this list of the five most common mistakes people make in when dealing with child custody proceedings.

Child Custody Mistake: Being the One Who Walks Out of Your Martial Home

Every situation is different, but if you can be the one to stay in your home with your children, you may increase your odds of getting a more favorable custody ruling in Pennsylvania. Of course, if you or your children are unsafe, seek a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order right away. But if abuse is not a factor, staying in your home with your children often helps your custody case. If you must leave, try to do it quietly, respectfully, and without drama. Keep the emotional well-being of your children in mind. While cases vary, some judges prefer to keep the children in their current home with the parent who is residing in that home. Other judges will question the commitment of a parent who leaves abruptly, dramatically, or without consideration to the emotional well-being of their children.

Child Custody Mistake: Not Respecting the Rules

Temporary interim custody orders are often issued in Pennsylvania at the onset of a divorce or paternity action. That means you’ll have to abide by these orders until your official custody hearing is held. While the restrictions of shared custody can be difficult, even heart-breaking, you must follow these interim custody orders to the letter. Some parents are tempted to break the rules and take their children on outings without telling the other parent. Even if you’re just taking the children on a short trip to the park, or if you keep them an hour longer than permitted, you’re disobeying court orders. Custody judges are evaluating your ability to respect the other parent and the court itself. Violating the terms of custody, even just a little, may result in being assigned less visitation time, or even arrest. While following the court-assigned custody orders may be difficult in the short-term, it could help you gain more time with your children in the long-term.

Child Custody Mistake: Posting on Social Media

Social media has become such an accepted part of our lives that it’s sometimes easy to forget that what you say and show on social media can be shared with anyone. That’s why, during a divorce and throughout the child custody process, it’s important to be as respectful and responsible on social media as you would be in the courtroom. It’s almost always a bad idea to share rants about your spouse. It’s can also be harmful to share posts about how well you’re doing, showing yourself intoxicated, or showing yourself in a new relationship. Posting anything that could be seen as hurtful to your children or that portrays you as a less-than-ideal parent, even when you’re away from your children, can be used against you in court. Remember that, in Pennsylvania, social media posts can be used as evidence that you are an unfit parent. Sometimes your posts will be used intentionally out-of-context. Play it safe, and keep your social media posts very conservative.

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Child Custody Mistake: Refusing to Co-Parent

Divorces are rarely easy, and some parents will find it challenging to communicate calmly and rationally after a divorce. However, the Pennsylvania courts usually favor parents who place the welfare of their children above their own feelings. If parents can’t agree on joint legal custody, then a judge may favor the parent who has consistently made good-faith efforts to co-parent. The courts rarely favor the parent who refuses to communicate or the parent who is repeatedly angry, insulting, or unavailable. Custody judges tend to side with parents who make sincere efforts to be reasonable and cooperative. To improve your odds in a custody case, once you’ve decided to divorce, try to shift your focus away from the spouse towards the well-being of your children. Working with your spouse to provide the best life for your kids will not only impress the courts, it may make the process easier for your children.

Child Custody Mistake: Assuming Your Parenting Skills Will be Accurately Evaluated

In many divorce cases, one party may believe they are clearly the better parent. They think they will have no issues getting a fair custody ruling. However, child custody proceedings in Pennsylvania are not always straightforward. Even amicable divorces can become contentious when child custody is involved, and if your spouse retains a lawyer, they may gain an unfair advantage. Many parents are heartbroken when they realize their spouse has hired a custody attorney that portrays them as an unfit parent. Don’t be surprised by unfair evaluations. Hire a child custody attorney to protect your reputation and help you fight for your custody rights.

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Parents in Lancaster County and throughout Central Pennsylvania have relied on Going and Plank to help them successfully navigate the child custody process since 1956. Robert M. Going, Jr. has been practicing family law in Lancaster County for over 30 years. If you want to talk to a child custody expert, contact us at The Law Offices of Going and Plank today and schedule your consultation.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Last year there were 73,304 marriages and 32,777 divorces in Pennsylvania. While the population of Pennsylvania continues to grow, the number of marriages and divorces is in decline. But one statistic seems to stay the same – about half of all marriages end in divorce. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require citizens to hire a lawyer to get a divorce. You can get paperwork at your county courthouse or online, and government websites outline the process.

DIY Divorces Are Risky

There is no margin for error in the divorce process in Pennsylvania, and PA government websites clearly warn that if you choose to complete your own divorce paperwork, your information must be correct. For anyone who decides to file for divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, it’s critical to spend extra time with each form and make sure you fully understand every part of the process.

Pennsylvania law does not allow courthouse staff to answer questions that could be construed as requests for legal advice, and the law does not provide exceptions for people who did not understand the process or the legal terms involved. If you make a mistake in your divorce paperwork or if you fail to raise a claim for alimony, the division of property, or a claim for your spouse to cover legal fees or filing expenses in your divorce complaint, you will lose your rights to make those claims once the divorce decree is entered.

Using a Lawyer as a Consultant

If you’re thinking of filing on your own, and don’t need a lawyer to do everything for you, it may still make sense to consult with an attorney to discuss the process. The divorce attorney at Going and Plank often consults with divorce candidates at the beginning of the process to help them think through their options and map out a plan that makes sense for their situation. Some people complete and file the paperwork, asking Going and Plank to review it for errors or omissions before submitting it to the court.

Some divorce clients find that, after talking with a divorce lawyer, there are financial or support considerations that they had overlooked. Even in amicable divorces, many couples fail to consider retirement funds, life insurance policies, credit cards and any debt associated with those cards, college savings plans, inheritances, and other long-term, financial planning considerations.

Other clients discover that they know very little about their spouse’s finances. If your spouse makes more money than you or handles the money and bank accounts, you may not be fully aware of how or where assets are organized. While many spouses appear accommodating, it’s not uncommon to discover that your spouse has been selling or transferring assets without your knowledge. It’s also possible that your spouse has established checking, insurance, or brokerage accounts without your knowledge. If you suspect this behavior, Going and Plank can help you locate and value these assets.

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When to Rely on a Good Divorce Lawyer

Many couples start the divorce proceedings with good intentions. They seem to agree on most matters, and the process seems straightforward and manageable. However, as the divorce process continues, and the details of their initial divorce agreements become clear, some couples find lawyers are necessary. What value does a good divorce lawyer add to uncontested divorces?

Sound Advice on Divorce Issues

Going and Plank can help you identify and remedy issues that many spouses overlook. We can help you assess and inventory assets, including investments, brokerage accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, and even social security payments. Our divorce lawyer will advise you on the equitable distribution of property.

Confidence

The divorce process in Pennsylvania can feel overwhelming, and the courts warn self-filers that they are responsible for their own errors. When you hire a good divorce lawyer, you’ll know that your attorney is making sure all paperwork is filed properly. Hiring a lawyer from Going and Plank can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Legal Clarity for Your Divorce Filing

The language you use in your divorce filings is important. If the court doesn’t understand the intent of your request, you may not get the results you desire. Our experienced divorce lawyer creates clear, concise documents, written in the language of the court, that ensures your wishes will be accurately reflected.

Expediency

DIY divorce filers often experience delays because of issues with the paperwork. When you use a good divorce attorney from Going and Plank, we make sure your paperwork is in order and help avoid delays and rescheduling.

Divorce Advocacy

Many divorces start out amicable and then devolve into divorce battles. Well-meaning spouses are often surprised and hurt when partners demand new terms, altered custody agreements, or changes in the division of property. A good divorce attorney will help you map out all considerations, and help you identify potential issues upfront. While our divorce attorney can’t promise a painless divorce, we can handle all legal and filing considerations, ensure all assets are identified, and help negotiate custody and support agreements that protect your interests.

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Going and Plank has been providing family law attorneys to the residents of Lancaster County and Central Pennsylvania since 1956. Robert M. Going, Jr. is a partner with over 30 years of experience as a divorce attorney. If you would like to talk about hiring Going and Plank to help with your divorce filing, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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