These valuable tips for custody battles can make the difference between winning or losing.
When custody is part of a divorce or just the amicable split of an unmarried couple, most parties hope the child custody arrangements can be agreed upon quickly and amicably. Unfortunately, child custody can become contentious. If custody has to be decided by a judge or arbitrator, you can help your position by following these tips for custody battles. When in doubt, talk with a good child custody lawyer near you. Our custody lawyers serve clients in Montgomery County and Bucks County, PA.
Understand the factors involving the best interests of your children.
Judges consider a child's best interests in deciding whether to award sole or shared custody. Familiarize yourself with those factors and comply with them. You can find the 16 custody factors in PA here. You might even want to review them with your custody lawyer to see where you might confront issues in court.
Don't badmouth your ex out of anger.
Airing your grievances with the other parent may be emotionally satisfying at the moment. Still, ultimately, it can be very damaging if it's not for the safety of the children. Unpleasant sentiments about your ex are particularly harmful when said within earshot of your children – that's still their father or mother you're talking about. They may remember the worst of your outbursts for a very long time.
In addition, these feelings have an uncanny knack for finding their way back to their subject. Particularly extreme ideas, even if said in the heat of anger or pain and not intended to be taken seriously, can be taken out of context, with potentially dire consequences for child custody.
An essential tip for custody battles - cool it with social media posts!
Or, at the very least, start thinking carefully about what information you share on social media and who can see it. Even if you're no longer "friends" with the other parent on Facebook, Snapchat, or other platforms, others who know them might be willing to share your social media activity with them.
Even if the information that reaches them seems harmless, it's easier than many realize to take social media posts out of context and use them to put their author in a bad light – in front of friends, family, and often family court judges.
If you have any doubts about whether your posts can be inflammatory, talk with a custody lawyer.
With custody battles, document EVERYTHING.
Keep a diary or calendar of any communications, events, incidents, or even confrontations with the other parent, mainly if they involve the children or their schedule. In a contentious custody dispute, knowing what information might be relevant to a domestic relations office or a family court judge ahead of time is difficult. And by all means, it pays to give that documentation to your child custody lawyer.
Encourage your child(ren) to have a relationship with the other parent.
One of the most unfortunate choices in custody battles that one or both parents can make is to attempt to place the children in the impossible role of choosing sides. This happens when one or both parents asks the children effectively to pick sides in the split by pressuring them to express a preference for one parent or a dislike for the other.
There are reams of psychological information on how damaging this is to a child's sense of familial belonging. Still, it also has the effect of making the custody dispute an order of magnitude more adversarial.
Please encourage your children, through words and actions, to have a relationship with both parents. There are exceptions to this guidance, particularly in cases where the other parent may have committed abuse. In these situations, consult your custody lawyer about the options, including supervised visitation.
Work with your custody lawyer on a visitation schedule. Be specific.
The custody schedule should spell out the days, times, and locations of when and where the children will transfer from the custody of one parent to the other. In addition to the routine custody transfers, language should cover major holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and coordinating vacation travel with the child custody schedule.
Specific doesn't have to mean rigid.
Well done – you've worked out a custody schedule with your ex. Now that you have, though, be flexible. The schedule should be a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Life is often chaotic and unpredictable. Work schedules change on short notice. Cars break down. Illness strikes. When your ex asks you to adjust the schedule, look for reasons to accommodate rather than obstruct.
When something unexpected happens, you might need them to be flexible. Laying the foundations for practical cooperation in the early stages of your custody arrangements will help the entire family's relationships over the long run.
Support family traditions in a custody battle (even if not your own).
As mentioned, trying to enlist your children's support on your side of a custody dispute is a no-no (see #4). That said, ensuring they're comfortable and happy in your home will help your case in the view of any third parties examining the child custody question.
One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring the continuity of any family-specific routines to which the children have become accustomed. If the other parent read them a story or sang them a song at bedtime, it's time for you to pick up the routine. The same goes for any practices or traditions associated with birthdays, holidays, religious observances, etc.
Welcome new family traditions.
Even as you're working to preserve the routines and traditions to which your children have become accustomed, it's essential to create a new and different family unit from what came before. It is possible – and encouraged – to celebrate that unity without disparaging the past. Create new traditions and routines that help your children develop a sense of identity around the home they share with you.
Give your child an outlet outside of the home.
The division of your marital home can affect your children profoundly, even if they appear to be "doing fine." Seek information and support to assist your children in coping during the custody battle.
Many children, however, will not be entirely comfortable discussing all their feelings with either of their newly separated parents. Try to ensure they have another trusted adult they can talk to. This may be a grandparent, a family friend, a teacher, a coach, or a paid counselor.
Families can survive the end of their parent's relationship.
Even when there are disputes over the specifics of child custody, it's the fortunate truth that most parents have a genuine, heartfelt interest in the well-being of their children. Used as a basis for common ground, rather than rivalry, a sound, and sustainable child custody agreement can help a divided family maintain a modified form of unity that will provide the children with a sense of security and stability until adulthood and beyond.
Parents who have a custody battle and split don't need to drag their children through the mud. Remember to put your children first by setting the best parental example possible if you are part of a custody dispute. And know this; family courts are very intolerant of selfish antics. A good custody lawyer can help keep you focused on your children and avoid side antics that compromise your case.
Make sure you choose the right child custody lawyer.
Each custody battle is different, and the facts in every case are unique to the family involved. Work closely with your custody lawyer to help you identify and articulate your objectives, develop a sound understanding of your rights and obligations under the law, and execute the right legal strategy for your goals and circumstances.
Child custody battles are some of the most difficult to deal with, no matter the parents' marital status. Our lawyers know that every case is different, and the people involved in these cases may feel vulnerable and overwhelmed.
Each of us has focused our practice on Family Law and Domestic Relations because we, each for our reasons, felt the need to pay attention to the more personal and human side of the law. We don't work on cases. We work with people.
If you have any questions about child custody in PA, please get in touch with us at 1-833-LAW-1914 or via our contact form. We have experienced custody lawyers in our Bucks County and Montgomery County law offices.
The information above is general: we recommend consulting a child custody attorney regarding your circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.