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.