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

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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.

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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.

Maggie Vergenes

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