Child Custody Lawyers
The well-being of a child during and after the divorce process is important to every parent. With competent legal counsel, you can ensure that you are represented with vigorous advocacy throughout all steps of the divorce process — including determining custody arrangements. At Scaringi Law, we recognize the importance of being creative in developing legal resolutions and strong advocacy.
Call Scaringi Law, at (717) 775-7195 to schedule a free consultation at any of our offices: Harrisburg, Newport, Carlisle, York.
Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania
Judges will consider a number of factors when awarding custody. The outcome of your custody case can depend greatly on the attorney who is representing your interests. At Scaringi Law, we are well-versed in family law in Pennsylvania and have handled both straightforward and complex custody cases involving:
- Primary physical custody: When the child lives primarily with one parent and the other parent has some lesser amount of time with the child (e.g., every other weekend or certain weekdays)
- Shared physical custody (joint custody): Sometimes called joint custody, this is when the child lives with both parents for about an equal amount of time and most duties are shared 50/50.
- Supervised custody: When a parent has the chance to visit the child in the presence of a third party
5 Keys to Crafting a Child Custody Agreement That Works for Everyone
A custody agreement is not an indictment of parenting ability. It is not a sign that you cannot trust the other parent. Rather, it is a sign of good intentions, as writing down any agreement tends to help parties ensure that they each have the same understanding of the terms, which reduces the chances of a disagreement in the first place.
A custody agreement is, at its best, a flexible outline of intended actions, and a fallback to settle future disagreements where one parent does not want to or is not able to, be flexible. It offers a default position to help both parents predict and schedule family gatherings, extracurricular events, transportation, and similar needs. It is ultimately a guideline to help two parents understand their shared duties and reduce miscommunication and conflict.
If the agreement is to work, it should benefit the child, which sometimes means putting aside the parent's emotions in favor of the child's best interests.
Here are five tips for crafting the best custody agreement:
Find the Best Solution for Your Family
Parents should put emotions aside and focus on their joint responsibilities.
Parents must treat it as an arms' length business relationship: Parents
are partners in raising a child, for life, and the goal is to make the
overall situation better for the child - not to prove the other parent inferior.
A custody agreement is about finding creative solutions to two adults living apart but juggling various shared responsibilities in a manner that appears smooth and seamless to the child. Not only is this method of parenting most likely to aid in the physical and emotional development of your child, but a parent's cooperation in doing so will be looked upon favorably by the court, should a modification occur down the road.
On paper, a child custody agreement can seem precise. Handoff times are
often set down to the half or quarter-hour. Every day, appointments must
be kept, drop-offs and pick-ups must be made, and deadlines must be met.
In reality, life happens. Cars don't start. Traffic jams occur. And human
beings make mistakes, mix-up schedules, and run late.
This is why custody agreements need breathing room. Be realistic. Realize that school and daycare schedules change. Transportation to various schools will evolve. And there will be new commitments involving sports, extra-curricular activities, and friends over time, by the child's choice.
That said, if a parent has consistent problems with tardiness or keeping to part of the schedule, modifications may be in order.
Location is Everything
Seldom does a factor complicate a custody agreement more than a great physical
distance between parents. Under Pennsylvania statute, a party with physical
custody cannot unilaterally move too far away from the other without following
certain rules and procedures, including possibly having the proposed relocation
approved by a family law judge.
The court looks at 16 factors regarding the best interests of the child. Location is one of the biggest factors because it determines a child's school, friends, family, and other important people in his or her life.
The closer both parents remain in proximity, the better custody agreements generally work for the child. Physical distance adds the stress of travel and the possibility of failed plans - along with the possible feeling of being caught between two worlds and alternate realities. Further, stability is one of the key factors judges prize in custody agreements. Moving often, especially over great distances, undermines that stability.
What Does Your Child Want?
Judges will often as a child about his wishes, in private, to determine
what the Custody Act refers to as the reasonable preference of the child.
When the judge interacts with the child, attorneys are present, but parents
are not. Rarely does a child testify at an open hearing in a custody case.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the child's age or how much weight must be given to the child's preference as opposed to other custody factors. It is not beyond a five-year-old to voice a reasonable opinion on a custody schedule, or a child to complain that his father doesn't feed him enough. But a child simply saying that she "hates" her mom without any reasoning won't generally carry much weight. And a child's preference to be with one parent may be overshadowed in the court's opinion by other factors, leading the court to make a decision contrary to the child's preference.
One thing to keep in mind while preparing a custody agreement is that parent-child relationships have been injured by a parent insisting on the letter of the custody agreement over the wishes of their child. Older children, especially, are going to want to create their own schedules. If you demand "your time" just because the custody agreement says so, removing your child from friends, social engagements, and sports, it won't be long before resentment builds.
Never Put Your Child in the Middle
Going back and forth between mom's and dad's is hard enough. Don't make the mistake of putting your child in the middle, emotionally, by having them "spy" on your estranged spouse. While you may be curious about your ex-partner, pumping your child for information is unacceptable. Should the judge find out in a future hearing, it won't reflect well on you.
Contact the Custody Lawyers at Scaringi Law
Our child custody attorneys will provide objective legal advice, and explain how parental duties and circumstances affect the outcome for determining custody. Not only will we walk through the procedural steps involved in determining custody, but also the likelihood of obtaining certain outcomes.
Please contact the lawyers at Scaringi Law, to schedule a free consultation. Consultations can be scheduled to meet your convenience. We represent clients throughout central Pennsylvania from our offices in Harrisburg, Newport, Carlisle, York and Lancaster.