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Child Custody in Pennsylvania

February 15, 2012

2. Law

Child Custody in Pennsylvania

There’s nothing more emotional in a divorce than where the kids go, particularly when they’re pre-teen.  Add the expense of child support, and we’ve got insult on top of injury.  The issues are real:  Rough parenting, new adults involved, two homes – the list is endless and heartbreaking.

Skip whatever the current state of the law is – it changes.  The bottom line is this:  What is in the best interests and permanent welfare of the child?  Don’t stick the kid in the middle of your dysfunctional marriage.  You guys agreed to divorce – then do it.  Read here.  Child custody has nothing to do with that.

A typical custody arrangement has one parent as the primary custodian, one parent as the secondary custodian.  Secondaries get shafted – they usually pay more child support, they see their kids on alternating weekends, and have to work harder to be a part of the developmental years.  All I can say, is to remember that kids grow up.  At age 18, they’re adults and will go where they want to go.  Soon thereafter, they won’t live in either parents home and will visit each parent as they desire.  The custody years will fade to a bad memory.  Take the long view.

Holidays are an emotional part of negotiating a custody agreement.  And negotiating is what you want to do – if you force the court to decide, no one will be happy.  What I’ve seen work best is not to alternate holidays – He gets Thanksgiving this year, she gets it next year.  Instead, consider setting new patterns.  Kids are flexible.  She gets Thanksgiving every year until 10AM the next morning; he gets the kids from then until 6PM Sunday.  Christmas can be viewed in three parts – Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, Christmas Week.  Decide who get which periods and stick to it every year.  So you open presents at some time other than Christmas Morning … so what?  Traditions are born and cherished.

If you’re a secondary parent, grab an extended period during the summer – one to three weeks solid – whatever your work life can accommodate.  It may be something that you and your kids enjoy well beyond the custody agreement period.

Split custody is hard from every angle.  The entire situation sucks.  Here’s a good Q&A on some common issues.

Let me add one thing.  Should you get an attorney?  My advice is to sit with an attorney to understand the rules governing custody.  If you guys want to go off and do it yourself – or negotiate it yourself – or just figure it out as you go – fine.  But understand the rules first.  Understand how it can go wrong even with all the best intentions.  Make an informed decision.

I remember a couple that did it themselves.  No attorney was ever involved.  Custody was basically a 50/50 split.  Everything was unicorns and rainbows.  Then he got a job offer two states away.  Would double his salary.  He wanted to take the job … and the kid.  She, understandably, disagreed with the latter.  It. Got. Ugly.  Yes, it could have been anticipated and discussed at the time of the divorce if an attorney had been involved, but it wasn’t.

The best way to handle a new custody situation is to sit behind closed doors with one attorney acting as a mediator or two attorneys that have the best interests of the kids foremost.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

If it’s got to get ugly because of the dysfunction of one or both parents, then lawyer up.

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

View all posts by Clyde

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