As a Pennsylvania family law attorney, I regularly counsel both mothers and fathers with regard to PA divorce and child custody actions. While each case is certainly unique with its own set of facts and circumstances, below I’ve outlined five general tips to increase your likely of success in your child custody case.
It is extremely important to understand that the PA Child Custody Law, Act 112 of 2010, states that the court is to base child custody determinations on what is in the best interest of the child, period. The PA Child Custody Law is gender-neutral, meaning that there is no presumption that a mother (or father) will automatically be awarded custody.1. Be active in your child’s life
Aside from caring for your child’s basic needs, which is certainly a consideration for the court, being involved in your child’s life outside of your home can give you an edge in a PA child custody action. Learning the names of your child’s teachers, attending school conferences and being present for extracurricular activities can go a long way in any child custody case.
2. Monitor your online presence
New technology, including texting, the internet and digital cameras, record nearly everything we do and say. If you’re not careful, it can be very easy for your ex-spouse to portray you in a negative light. Evidence submitted to the court from Facebook or other social media sites can be extremely damaging. The same goes for voicemails, emails and texts.
One of the biggest mistakes those seeking custody make is appearing calm and collected in person, but acting out through Facebook, email or other online communication. This will come back to haunt you. It is extremely important that you maintain a stable presence in your dealing with others at all times – watch how you act and what you say in front of your children, their teachers, other parents, neighbors, and especially on the internet. PA divorce and child custody lawyers are very comfortable with online research, and they will not hesitate to use any statements you make as evidence against you.
3. Support your child’s relationship with the other parent
Pennsylvania family court judges tend to look favorably upon parents who demonstrate that they support an ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent. Conversely, if you consistently disparage your ex or attempt to negatively influence your child’s relationship with the other parent, it can be very damaging to your claim for custody. One of your main goals throughout a PA child custody case should be to demonstrate to the court that you will promote the best interests of your child. As such, you must show that you recognize the value of your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse and that you will take action to encourage that relationship.
4. Address issues of parental fitness
Any parent who even casually uses alcohol and/or drugs will likely run into trouble when seeking child custody. Pennsylvania family court judges take claims of substance abuse very seriously, and these allegations will be investigated by the court. In an action for child custody, the court has the right to investigate you via random drug testing, psychological evaluations and other means. If you have an issue with drug and/or alcohol abuse, seek treatment for your problem immediately.
5. Listen to your family law attorney
Pennsylvania child custody cases can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining on all of the parties involved. These matters can often involve many complex legal, situational and personal factors, and the consequences can be long lasting, if not permanent. Always consult an experienced PA family law attorney before proceeding with a divorce or child custody action. Heed your attorney’s advice. Family law matters are extremely emotionally charged legal issues, and an experienced lawyer can provide you with objective advice that is in your best interest and that protects your legal rights. You’ll want to find a family lawyer who is very familiar with PA’s child custody law, and you’ll benefit from an attorney who has real-life, practical experience handing child custody cases in your county.