What to Do Before You File for Custody
There are a few things that you should do before you decide to file for custody in Pennsylvania. First and foremost, you should attempt to work out custody arrangements with your partner on your own. This can be done through mediation or a collaborative parenting program. When negotiating, you can use many of the same tactics that you would use in a custody hearing. You can also use these procedures to try and reach a mutual agreement on ways that your child should be raised. Another important thing to do before you file is to make sure to have all of your ducks in a row. That means that you should have all of the evidence and documentation to support your position. If parents can agree on an arrangement, a consent order can be issued that mirrors the agreement of the parents.
You should take some time to think about the situation that you, your child, and partner are currently in, as well as what you want the future to look like. This in turn can help you to form an action plan that will address any potential issues that may arise. This is a crucial part of the process. You will want to be sure to get an experienced child custody attorney who can help you in negotiations and filing your custody case correctly and efficiently. An attorney who is not organized or who does not adhere to the appropriate filing procedures can delay the proceedings significantly.
The “Best Interests of the Child”
It is important to note that Pennsylvania custody courts will use a total of seventeen (17) factors to aid in their determination of awarding child custody, so you should retain an experienced attorney who can argue your position under each of them.
However, all seventeen (17) factors fall under the “Best Interests of the Child” doctrine with the following three (3) factors being common ones we see in our practice:
The Child’s Relationship with Their Parent: When a child is removed from one parent and placed with another, the child will experience the transition as a loss. This is one of the most important factors in custody disputes. It will determine how the child feels about their situation and how they feel about their new parent.
Level of Parenting: The level of parenting also plays a huge role in custody disputes. This is because a child may have developed strong bonds with one parent while they may have less of a connection with the other. If one parent was the primary nurturer, this factor may be in his or her favor.
The Child’s Permanency: Pennsylvania courts want to avoid uprooting children from their neighborhoods, social communities, or schools. This is because it is very disruptive to the child and can cause a negative effect on his or her emotional development. The courts recognize the negative impact of litigation and want to “lessen the blow” as much as possible.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to custody disputes, the factors that are most important are the ones that are difficult to see. These include the children’s relationship with their parents, their community, and the level of parenting. If you are involved in a custody dispute or are considering filing for custody, it may be helpful to spend some time thinking about each of these factors. It will also be helpful to contact our office so we can go over the entire list of factors that a court will consider particular to your situation.