Your divorce is between you and your spouse. You are not divorcing your children. Nevertheless, the kids seem to be at the heart of many of the decision you, your spouse and the family court make these days. Chief among these decisions is the matter of custody.
In the past, the courts began a custody battle with the presumption that the mother of the children would have custody. Thereafter, the parties scheduled in some visitation time for Dad as if he was an afterthought. This is no longer the case in Pennsylvania. If you are a dad facing divorce and fear losing meaningful contact with your children, you have a fighting chance of winning custody.
Proving your abilities as a parent
Shared parenting is best for children in most situations. It offers the children the chance to form genuine relationships with both parents, and studies show that this is crucial in helping them grow into well-adjusted adults. The ideal is for you and your spouse to work out a fair parenting agreement, settling matters of custody schedules, homework responsibilities, vacations and holidays, and other matters for the upcoming year. Many courts appreciate this effort and are quick to sanction a cooperative plan.
However, if your spouse has stated that she will be seeking sole custody, you should not let this discourage you. Today's courts are less likely to take custody from a father unless he is unfit or abusive. If you can demonstrate to the judge that you have been an active part of your children's lives, you have a good chance of retaining equal parenting. In particular, the court will want to see that you are committed to the well-being of the children in these ways, for example:
- An established routine
- Regular bedtime
- Healthy eating habits
- Involvement in after-school activities
- Support for their individual interests
- Cooperation with their other parent
Your focus on the physical and psychological good of your children is of primary concern to family court. Showing yourself to be a good parent does not mean tearing down your spouse in court or in front of the children. If your attorney approves, it may even be good to acknowledge the positive parental qualities of the other parent. In this way, you show that you are looking out for the good of your children and that may include sharing custody with your former spouse.