When married couples divorce or unmarried couples decide to start living separately, they will need to reach arrangements regarding the custody of their shared children. For the most part, parents in Pennsylvania have a right to a relationship with their children and can expect the courts to grant them parenting time and some decision-making authority.
The uncertainty that comes with going to family court may make some people frightened of the process, but there is truly nothing to fear. What are the basic rules regarding shared custody in Pennsylvania?
The children are the top priority
Whenever there is a custody dispute in Pennsylvania that requires a judge to make decisions, that judge should make the children’s needs their primary focus.
Unless there is actual evidence of abuse, neglect or parental issues that keep someone from taking care of their children, judges will typically divide parenting time between both adults regardless of how angry they may be at one another.
Although you can have a judge create your parenting plan, many couples prefer to negotiate their own terms outside of court so that they have control over the major decisions.
How do you talk to your children about the upcoming changes?
Whether you are about to file for divorce or have one parent move out of your shared home, the changes during the transition to shared custody will be difficult for your children.
If possible, the best approach often involves having the parents talk together ahead of time and then discussing the issue with the whole family present. The two of you can agree about what you will disclose to the children, such as how you will answer questions about why you want to make this change.
In most cases, even when one parent is clearly at fault, it is best to keep things simple and to keep blame out of the situation. What you want is to help the children understand that they are not to blame for the end of your relationship and that both of you will be actively involved in their lives. Giving them a space to express their emotions and figure out what the logistical implications of this change will be can help your children adjust to the idea of the two of you going your separate ways.
Understanding how the courts handle shared custody matters will put you in a better position to answer your children’s questions when you tell them about your changing family circumstances.