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The Child Custody Checklist

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


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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