Many potential unpleasant battles may arise in a divorce; what to do with the marital home and dividing possessions may be hotly contested issues, for example. However, when two parents love their children and actively participate in their lives, establishing child custody can escalate to a level far beyond deciding who gets the most of a 401(k).
There are ways to minimize stress and conflict in a child custody battle. While in certain circumstances conflict is unavoidable, a few actions can help improve the chances of the child ending up in the best possible circumstances with the least amount of stress.
Promoting the best interests of the child
Pennsylvania recently clarified the “best interests of the child” standard by which judges decide parenting time. Courts in Pennsylvania must give “weighted consideration” to 16 factors, among them is which party to the divorce is more likely to allow the other parent “frequent and continuing contact.” Other factors include which parent is “more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child” and whether there is a history of abuse.
The judge will look at where each parent lives, where the child goes to school, who is the current primary caregiver, and other factors to determine a child’s best interests.
Be civil but aim high
A few actions can help show the court that a parent satisfies the “best interests” standard:
- Continue to be as much a part of the life of the children as possible
- Maintain civility and extend an olive branch, so long as it is safe to do so
- Create an air of cooperation – it will be viewed favorably by the court
- Avoid arguments, especially in front of any children
- Don’t talk badly about the other parent to children, friends or post anything negative about the divorce on social media
While civility is important, that does not mean it should stop a parent from seeking the child custody arrangement he or she wants. A parent can be both aggressive and civil when seeking child custody.
Another item to avoid is mentioning child support at a hearing. This may influence a judge to think that one parent is seeking primary custody just to avoid paying child support.
Because child custody matters are so emotionally draining, it is important that parents seeking to remain in the life of their children obtain an experienced family law attorney to guide them through the process and help them understand their best options.