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The ABCs of Child Custody in Pennsylvania

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M. Going, Attorney

Working through child custody can be intimidating. You may be emotionally distressed, and you might be dealing with courts and legal systems for the first time in your life. To make things even more complex, many of the terms and legal language used during the process and proceedings can be hard to understand or easily misunderstood.

That’s why we’re giving you the “ABCs” of child custody. Here are some important terms you should know. While we don’t have one for every letter of the alphabet, if you get familiar with these terms, you’ll greatly increase your knowledge of the relevant legal language.

A: Arrears

Arrears is the legal term for past due. If a parent owes past due child support, that person is said to be “in arrears.”

Use it in a sentence: “Since he has not paid child support for two months, he is now in arrears.”

B: Best Interest of the Child

The court will make its custodial determination based on factors that will positively impact the child’s welfare, happiness, mental health, and emotional development.

“Although it was not the personal choice of either parent, they both believed that shared custody was in the best interest of the child.”

B: Burden of Proof

This term is used when one has been assigned the duty to prove an issue or argument. The person with the burden of proof must produce enough evidence to definitely support their claim or statement.

Use it in a sentence: “Because the burden of proof rests on the person making the accusation, she had to prove he was an unfit father.”

C: Child Support

When parents give financial support to a child or children in someone else’s custody, they are paying child support. Child support can be a voluntary payment or may be mandated by a court or other legal authority.

Use it in a sentence: “Steve pays child support to his ex-wife to ensure she has the financial means to care for their children.”

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C: Contempt

When a party does not follow the court order, he or she can be found in contempt of court, or contempt, by the court after a judicial proceeding. A finding of Contempt may alter the custody order, result in fines, or, in rare cases, imprisonment.

Use it in a sentence: “When he ignored the details of the custody agreement, he was found to be in contempt.”

C: Custody Conference

In places where initial custody orders are often made, attorneys and their clients meet with a conference officer to discuss their case in an attempt to resolve custody issues and put forth their custodial plan.

Use it in a sentence: “During the custody conference, compromises were made.”

C: Custody Hearing

If the custody matter can’t be resolved at a conference, it is scheduled for a hearing, in front of a judge, using sworn testimony, witnesses, and exhibits.

Use it in a sentence: “Because they could not come to an agreement, they had to schedule a formal custody hearing.”

D: Dependent

This legal term describes a person who is under the care of a parent or caretaker, and who cannot legally live on his/her own. In Pennsylvania, a child usually ceases to be a dependent when they reach the age of 18.

Use it in a sentence: “The child custody settlement covered expenses for both of her dependent children, but not her 21-year-old daughter.”

D: Domestic Relations

This office processes petitions for child and spousal support and uses court-appointed conference officers to evaluate income and expense information to make an initial support determination

Use it in a sentence: “Before any decisions were made, Domestic Relations reviewed the case.”

E: Enforcement

When used in connection with child custody, enforcement refers to the remedies made to obtain payments as outlined in a child custody order. Examples of enforcement remedies include wage garnishment, liens, denied passports, seizing of assets, contempt of court proceedings, and more.

Use it in a sentence: “If she continues to miss her child support payments, enforcement may be needed.”

F: Financial Institution Data Match

Often referred to as FIDM, this process refers to matching the information on financial accounts, such as banks or brokerage houses, with people who owe past-due child support (also referred to as arrearages).

Use it in a sentence. “Because it allowed us to uncover all of his financial resources, the FIDM process was instrumental in re-starting on-time custody payments.”

G: Garnishing Wages

When part of a person’s wages or assets are automatically withheld, usually involuntarily, it is called garnishing wages, or garnishment

Use it in a sentence: “After she missed child support payments repeatedly, they started garnishing her wages.”

I: Income Withholding

Another term for automatically withholding payments from wages. Usually involuntarily. Also referred to as a wage withholding, or garnishing wages.

Use it in a sentence: “When parents don’t pay child support on time, income withholding becomes an option.”

J: Judgment

A judgment is an official decision or finding of a judge (or administrative agency hearing officer) after hearing the respective rights and claims of each party. Also called a decree or order.

Use it in a sentence: “A judgment is the court’s final decision on your child custody case.”

L: Levy

To levy assets is to seize personal property, accounts, and items of value, with the intention of selling them to satisfy a child support debt.

Use it in a sentence: “The court issued a levy on his home because his child support payments were in arrears.” 

M: Monthly Support Obligation

Also referred to as MSO, this is the money a noncustodial parent is must pay each month for child and/or spousal support.

Use it in a sentence: “The MSO had not been paid for two months, so the court garnished her wages.” 

N: Noncustodial Parent

Sometimes abbreviated as the NCP, this is the parent who does not have custody or primary care of the child and may be obligated to pay child support. Sometimes referred to as the obligor.

Use it in a sentence: “The noncustodial parent always paid the MSO on time each month.” 

O: Office of Child Support Enforcement

Also called the OCSE, this is the federal agency that administers the Child Support Enforcement program. The OCSE operates the Federal Parent Locator Service, including the National Directory of New Hires and the Federal Case Registry. OCSE operates within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Use it in a sentence: “When they couldn’t find the missing parent, they used the OCSE to track down his current place of employment.”

P: Proactive Matching Process

This process automatically compares child support case data from the Federal Case Registry with previous submissions and the employment data in the National Directory of New Hires. The resulting information is then returned to the appropriate state(s) for processing.

Use it in a sentence: “The Proactive Matching Process can be used to help enforce child custody and visitation orders, to track down missing parents, and to assist in cases of parental kidnapping.”

P: Primary Custody

The party/person with whom a child primarily resides and attends schools.

Use it in a sentence: “Because her mother was awarded primary custody, she is staying in the CV school district.”

Q: Qualified Medical Child Support Order

Also referred to as a QMCSO, this is an order, judgment, or decree, including approval of a settlement agreement, that is issued by a court or administrative agency that allows a plan administrator to enroll a child in the parent’s health plan.

Use it in a sentence: “The QMCSO enabled the child to be included on his father’s group health plan.”

R: Review and Adjustment

In this periodic process, support orders in child support cases are evaluated and adjusted. It may be decided by a court, or by an administrator in the Department of Human Services.

Use it in a sentence: “When the father received a large raise, a child support review and adjustment soon followed.”

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S: Service of Process

The Service of Process is the actual delivery of legal paperwork that notifies a person of legal action, and that requires that person to respond to the action. Also known as “being served” or “serving papers.”

Use it in a sentence: “Service of Process is required to initiate a custody hearing.”

T: Temporary Custody

Periods of time allotted to the person or party who doesn’t primarily reside with the child. This time allotment is usually specific and spelled out in an agreement or court order.

Use it in a sentence: “She was granted temporary custody.”

T: Two-State Action

When parties seek to establish paternity or initiate a child support order that crosses state lines, the home state must file a Two-State Action to allow them to claim legal jurisdiction over a noncustodial parent who lives in another state.

Use it in a sentence: “To petition for child support from a spouse who had moved to Maryland, the Pennsylvania attorney had to file a Two-State Action.”

U: Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

The UIFSA is a law, enacted by all states, that outlines the structure and enforcement of child support. It empowers state child support agencies to garnish wages across state lines.

Use it in a sentence: “The parent moved to another state, but because of the UIFSA, they were not able to  escape income withholding.”

V: Visitation

In child custody situations, visitations are noncustodial parents’ visits or time spent with children.

Use it in a sentence: “She was awarded sole custody, but he retained visitation rights.”

W: Wage Withholding

Wage withholding is automatic deductions income or paycheck, usually involuntarily. Also known as income withholding and garnished wages.

Use it in a sentence: “When a parent refuses to honor child support orders, wage withholding a common remedy.”

These are just a few of the terms you may want to learn to become more comfortable in the world of child custody and support. When you’re ready to determine or review your child support and custody agreements, The Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster, PA can help. Contact us today.

Want to learn more about child custody and child support? Read these blogs by Robert Going.

Changes in PA’s Grandparents’ Rights Laws

6 Tips to Get a Better Custody Agreement

The Child Custody Checklist

6 Reasons to Consider Getting Custody of a Grandchild

Common Mistakes Parents Make in Custody Proceedings

Trapped in Custody Battle? Get 5 Tips for a Better Agreement.

going-bob-Lancaster-County-Pennsylvania

By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney

Unless you are one of the rare couples that are able to have a relaxed, conflict-free divorce, you’ve probably had to deal with some type of custody disagreement. And for some couples, that disagreement can escalate into a full-scale battle. After all, determining or revising a custody agreement can be incredibly stressful.

Giving your spouse more time with the children may feel like you’re also giving them an undeserved reward. You may find your ex-spouse spiteful and unpleasant and assume they are the same towards your children.

So, how can you proceed with the process in ways that reduce stress for yourself and your family? Are there better ways to approach custody agreements? Will you ever be able to find an arrangement that is good for you and healthy for your kids?

In this blog, we’re going to share five tips to help you decompress, breathe, and re-evaluate your approach to child custody. While no advice is right for everyone, some of these tips may help you find a way to rethink the process in ways that help you achieve a better custody arrangement.

TIP #1: Respect the Importance of a Parent-Child Bond

If you’re negotiating (or you already have) a shared custody plan, you’ve probably heard that it’s important for your child to spend time with both parents. Watching your child leave to visit an ex-spouse is hard for many parents and fights against many of our most basic instincts. But remember that, in most cases, sharing time with the other parent is good for your child.

One-on-one time with each parent is an important element in healthy parent-child bonding. Even if your child tells you (honestly or not) that they want to live with you all the time, living in two homes and spending time with each parent separately is often the best long-term solution for children.

It’s also helpful to remind yourself that shared custody, or co-parenting can also be a way to give yourself short breaks so you can be refreshed and focused when it’s your turn to co-parent.

If you feel that the other parent is endangering the child, you must act on those concerns and protect your child. However, if your custody objections are based on smaller concerns, such as snacking choices or inconsistent bedtimes, it may be wise to let some of the smaller stuff pass by.

TIP #2: Don’t Let Your Stress Affect Your Child

Even very young children can pick up on hostility or stress. When they sense this anxiety, it makes shared custody more emotionally challenging. Being a responsible co-parent requires you to compartmentalize hostile feelings you feel towards your ex and put your child’s best interests first.

child-custody-Lancaster-County-Pennsylvania

Effective co-parents must find a way to talk politely about life events and children’s schedules so they can create stable, productive lives for their children. Complaining about your ex in front of your children, being angry when you see your ex, or intentionally making the other parent wait for pick-ups and drop-offs will transfer anxiety onto your children.

If you need a mediator in the early stages of custody agreements, you may want to depend on friends or family members to take care of transitions in the early stages. Scheduling custody drop-offs and pick-ups in busy, public places, is another way to minimize conflict or drama. Your long-term goal is to master your emotions and eventually provide calm and uneventful transfers.

Tip #3: Rethink Sole Custody

In Lancaster County, there are a variety of custody agreements and arrangements. While many angry parents are initially determined to deprive their spouses of any contact with the children, sole custody rarely is the best choice for the child unless the other parent is unfit or absent. And if sole custody is deemed unreasonable by your spouse, you have the added challenge of fighting a potentially ugly battle before you land on any kind of agreement.

At The Law Offices of Going and Plank, whether you’re looking for sole custody or a shared arrangement, we’ll help you review all your custody options and help you think through the challenges and opportunities built into each option. We’ll help you decide if sole custody is truly the best course or if some version of joint custody is actually the best option for your children.

Tip #4: Keep Parenting Records

Regardless of whether your parenting skills are in question, it’s a good idea to keep a detailed record of your time with your children. A parenting journal is a good tool in an initial custody hearing, and it can also protect you if your custody or parenting is legally challenged in the future.

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It’s smart to document the time you spend with your kids. A daily parenting time journal is a good way to record your daily routines. Keep track of wake-up times and bedtimes. Record meal times and what the kids ate. Track your errands, visits, and outings, and include names of people you saw or who were also at these events. Receipts, doctor appointment invoices, phone photos, parent-teacher conferences, and even social media posts are all an easy way to keep a record of your time with your kids and show the world (if it’s ever needed) that you’re a good parent.

Sharing some of the more important info your child’s day with the other parent via text or emails is also a good way to keep a long-term record, smooth communications in the short-term, and will help you avoid long, possibly uncomfortable exchanges during drop-offs and pick-ups.

Tip #5: Keep Your Child out of Danger

Even if a person turns out to be a bad spouse, they can still be a very good parent. But if you’ve found that your spouse is a person who may harm your child, you need to take a different course of action.

If you believe that your child is endangered, Going and Plank can fast-track custody evaluations or re-evaluations. While a majority of custody review dates are set several months in advance, a motion for expedited custody can reduce waiting time to a few weeks or less, depending on the situation.

If you believe that appropriate safeguards have not to be taken to protect your child, The Law Offices of Going and Plank are experienced in child endangerment laws and court procedures. We can also help you file for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order for yourself or your child.

Create the Custody Agreement That Works Best for Your Family

Each family is different. Each custody situation is different. While the information here may work for some families, it may not work for others. If you need an experienced family law attorney to help you find the best solutions for your children, please contact us today to set up a consultation.

When Should Grandparents Pursue Custody or Visitation Rights?

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M. Going Jr., Attorney

Grandparenting can be one of the most joyous roles of your life. From the moment your grandchildren were born, you may have anticipated fun family gatherings, special activities together and, yes, probably a little spoiling, too. Unfortunately, sometimes the role of a grandparent can be challenging and heartbreaking if difficult family situations leave you fearful for the health, safety, and happiness of your grandchildren.

Maybe you’ve been cut off from your grandchildren due to a strained relationship with their parents. Or perhaps you’ve suddenly found yourself playing a major caregiving role in their lives. You may feel powerless but when it comes to the well-being of your grandchildren, you have legal options. While each state has different laws regarding custody rights, recent changes in Pennsylvania custody laws have improved grandparents’ rights, offering numerous legal options to keep your grandchildren safe.

If you are living in Lancaster County, and you feel you need to play a more significant role in the lives of your grandchildren, contact Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster to review your case. A grandparents’ rights lawyer at Going and Plank can discuss the different custody options that are available and help you decide if pursuing grandchild custody is the right choice for you and your grandchildren.

If you are wondering whether your situation requires legal action, here are six reasons why pursuing legal grandchild custody or visitation rights in Pennsylvania might make sense for you or for someone you know.

You May Want to Seek Grandchild Custody Because You Have Raised Your Grandchild as a Parent

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Courts generally want to ensure that a child remains connected with those who have acted as parents or who have tried to act in the best interests of the child. If your grandchildren have lived with you for a year or more and you have assumed sole responsibility for their care, you may have a strong case for grandchild custody, even if the parents are unwilling to give up their custody rights. Contact an experienced attorney at Going and Plank to help you understand your grandparent rights.

Custody is an Option if Your Grandchild’s Parent Suffers From Addiction

An estimated 82,000 grandparents in Pennsylvania are the sole caregivers for 89,000 grandchildren, and that number is increasing due to the opioid crisis. It can be heartbreaking to watch your children suffer from drug and alcohol abuse and addiction despite your best efforts as a loving and supportive parent, especially if it means they can no longer care for their own children – your grandchildren. Even if your grandchild’s parent or guardian is working to end addiction, the process is often long and painful and may require stays at addiction clinics. If you’re concerned that your grandchild will suffer from the abuse, neglect and emotional trauma of living with an addicted parent, you can seek primary custody to provide a safe, stable and loving home. Contact Going and Plank to discuss your custody rights.

You May Seek Custody to Protect Your Grandchild From Harm

Nothing is more painful than knowing your grandchild is in danger of abuse, physical harm, or mental anguish. You may want to protect your grandchild by removing them from a dangerous and unhappy situation. There are many factors that constitute child abuse in Pennsylvania, among them sexual, emotional and physical abuse, neglect and abandonment. However, if you believe your grandchild is in danger, you will need more than your suspicions to gain custody. A custody lawyer at Going and Plank can help research parent behavior, get testimonials, and gather the evidence you need to create a strong case for pursuing primary custody of your grandchildren. Contact us for a free consultation.

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You Find Your Grandchild is Neglected and Needs Consistent Care in Your Custody

As you know from your own experience, raising a child can be a challenge, and some parents meet that challenge better than others. But all children need someone who tends to their welfare and provides responsible and consistent care and supervision. If you suspect your grandchild’s parent or guardian is unable or unwilling to provide proper care, regular meals, appropriate supervision, emotional support and attention to educational needs, contact Going and Plank for a free consultation. We can help you understand how to identify and document neglect. And if you decide to pursue grandchild custody, Going and Plank will help you prepare for court dates with information that will ensure your grandchild is protected.

Your Grandchild Has Been Placed in Foster Care

In foster care, the state takes legal custody of the children and caseworkers to make major decisions on their behalf. In Pennsylvania, an alternative to foster care is kinship care, which allows a relative such as a grandparent to take over the caregiver role for the child, while the state retains legal custody and pays for the child’s care. If your grandchild is already in the custody of the state, you still have options. Contact Going and Plank if you wish to seek foster care status and transition your role into legal guardianship.

There are many reasons grandparents may seek custody of grandchildren, and Grandparents’ Rights vary from state to state.  If you’re concerned about your grandchildren and want to keep them well by expanding your role in their lives, contact us today.

6 Tips to Help You Get a Better Custody Agreement

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy 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.

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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

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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.

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.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan. 

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.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan. 

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.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are located in downtown Lancaster, PA. We are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan.

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.

Divorce-Attorney-Lancaster-County-PA

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.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are located in downtown Lancaster, PA. We are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan.

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