Few things matter as much to parents during a divorce as protecting their relationship with the children whom they love. Concerns about getting cut off or alienated from children can often lead to extensive and expensive custody battles.
Before you dig in your heels and decide to fight aggressively for your preferred custody outcome, it’s important to temper your expectations with information about realistic custody outcomes. The better you understand how the Pennsylvania family courts approach custody decisions, the easier it will be for you to press for a reasonable outcome. What are the major concerns in Pennsylvania custody cases?
The judge should always center the best interests of the children
Most people have heard exaggerated stories about how the courts unfairly cut a loving parent out of the lives of their children. Such tales could make you worry that you might also eventually receive an unfavorable ruling that prevents you from playing a major role in the lives of your kids. Dads, in particular, may be vulnerable to rumors about custody biases against men.
In reality, the Pennsylvania family code does not specifically reference the gender of parents in any of its custody guidelines. State law also makes it clear that the judges should focus not necessarily on the wishes of the individual parents but rather on what will best serve the children.
The best interests of the children dictate what terms will be optimal in your custody case. With limited exceptions such as cases of abuse, addiction or abandonment, most judges will agree that the best interests of the children involve them maintaining healthy relationships with both parents.
Asking for your share of custody is reasonable, but cutting out your ex is not
When trying to decide what will be in the best interests of the children, adults will have to look at their needs, their relationships with the parents and the behavior of the parents throughout the divorce process. Supporting the children is crucial during this difficult process.
The more aggressive and negative you are toward your ex, the more reason the judge might have to worry about you potentially alienating your ex from the kids or otherwise undermining their best interests because of your anger or spite.
Supporting the children, working together with your ex and focusing on a custody outcome that upholds your children rather than punishing your former spouse will help ensure that the courts see you as a parent who wants what is best for the kids. That, in turn, will help you as you advocate for reasonable custody terms.