As a parent who has decided to file for divorce in a Pennsylvania court, you no doubt understand that your decision will have an immediate and long-term impact on your children’s lives. You can count yourself among hundreds, if not thousands of other families throughout the state who have gone through similar experiences. Child custody will be a primary issue in your settlement.
A key to achieving a fair settlement and to helping your children cope with the changes divorce will bring to their lives is to be as prepared as possible for proceedings. If you’re anticipating child custody litigation, especially if you plan to request sole legal and physical custody of your kids, there are several important issues to keep in mind.
A family court judge keeps your children’s best interests in mind
If you believe that your children would be better off living with you full-time than they would if you and your ex were to share custody, you’re going to have to convince the judge overseeing your case that it is so.
However, child custody litigation is not about proving one parent is better than the other. It’s about finding a way to do what’s best for your children. If you’re requesting sole custody, you do need to provide evidence in court to show why it is in your children’s best interests to have you as their sole custodial parent.
Courtroom etiquette is important, and behavior can make or break your case
When your goal is to obtain sole custody of your kids in a divorce, you must present yourself in court as a capable parent who has his or her children’s best interests in mind. If you show up in ripped jeans or appear unkempt, it’s not likely to help you gain the court’s favor.
In addition to what you wear, your demeanor and what you say during proceedings will undoubtedly influence the judge’s decisions, as well. It’s always best to remain calm and to avoid getting drawn into arguments with your ex. If you lash out or answer the judge in a disrespectful manner, it probably won’t help you accomplish your custody goals.
Choose character witnesses carefully
Your children’s teachers or coaches or other adults in their lives can attest to your good character in court. You may also ask a work colleague, a trusted friend or family member, or an employer to testify on your behalf. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that what a character witness says may affect the ultimate outcome of your child custody case.
Understand state guidelines ahead of time
The more you learn about Pennsylvania child custody guidelines ahead of time, the less stressful litigation might be. Especially if you’ve never stepped foot inside of a courtroom, it’s helpful to learn more about what to expect during custody proceedings. In fact, it’s a good idea to meet with someone who is well-versed on state laws, who can answer your questions and make recommendations on how you can improve your chances for gaining custody of your kids in a divorce.