When people say “I do” the idea is that it will be forever — but sometimes things and people change. If you are considering divorce in Pennsylvania and have children, there are more people to think about than just you and your spouse. There are specific laws in place for dividing the time with your children, and knowing what they are can help you to make decisions about the care of your dependents.
Remember that divorce is not only difficult for the adults who decide they no longer want to be together, but it is also hard on the children, who can sometimes feel stuck in-between. When possible, finding an amicable solution is in everyone’s best interests. If you can find a solution outside of court, that is always preferable for everyone’s well-being.
However, if you and your spouse are disagreeing on issues, then trying to handle custody matters on your own might only exacerbate things. There are times when turning it over to the attorneys can stop the hostility and prevent some of the nastiness that can come with custody battles.
Determining custody can be the most difficult part of any divorce. Children aren’t possessions, and they are experiencing as much emotion about the experience as you are. When determining child custody cases, judges in Harrisburg will consider not just the wishes of the parents, but the wishes of the children too, if they are old enough to voice an opinion. Pennsylvania child custody law adheres to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement law. Judges in Harrisburg consider both joint custody petitions as well as grandparents’ visitation rights.
The first step to determine child custody
If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement for child custody, then it will go before a judge; both parties will present their case, and the judge will evaluate what is in the child’s best interests. Many factors are taken into consideration during the “custody hearing.” The judge will review the situation and listen to the arguments made by both parties in the custody battle. Factors judges consider are:
- Which parent is more open to granting the other parent frequent visitation without hurdles and will encourage interaction with the other parent
- Which parent is more apt to provide a safe, consistent, stable and nurturing home life for the child
- Which parent is more apt to care for the children’s emotional, educational, social, developmental and daily needs. Since each child is different, as is every parent, the judge will evaluate each custody hearing according to the case put in front of them.
Other factors that can sway the outcome are things like what the child wants, if there are other siblings involved and if there are special concerns in education, family life, or community. They also will consider cases where allegations of abuse have been made if there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse in the home, any criminal convictions or charges made against either parent and any other factors that will either enhance or negate a child’s optimal wellbeing.
Things to bring to a child custody hearing
If you want to show your involvement, or the lack thereof of your soon-to-be ex, you will want to bring the following documentation with you:
- A phone log – Keep track of when you have communication with your child using specific times and dates. If you have had primary care of your child while separated, you will likewise want to bring a copy of the times when your spouse has made contact.
- A visitation schedule – Like a phone log, a visitation schedule will also provide proof of the frequency with which you keep in touch.
- Proof of child support payments – If someone is not paying or to prove that you have paid, you will want to bring along proof of child support payments.
Child custody is one of the most emotionally intense factors to be considered when you are going through a divorce. To prove that you are a fit parent and to ensure that you get the time with your child that you desire, make sure to be prepared and to present your side of the case when you go before the family court judge. It is always a good idea to have the help of a custody lawyer to help you navigate through the custody process.