Is your child custody dispute keeping you up at night? It’s understandable if it is. The outcome of your custody battle can define your relationship with your child for a long time to come. You may even be worried about your child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being while in the care of the other parent. That means there’s a lot on the line.
Looking at the best interest factors under Pennsylvania law
You can alleviate some of the stress by working with your attorney to address the best interest factors that the court will take into consideration should your case end up going in front of a judge. What are those factors? They include the following:
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage contact between the child and the other parent.
- The child’s need for stability and continuity when it comes to things like education and familial contact.
- The child’s wishes, with greater weight given to the opinion of an older child.
- Each parent’s ability to provide a loving, stable, and consistent relationship with the child so as to protect the child’s emotional well-being.
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child, which may include an assessment of physical and financial health.
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s basic needs, including physical, developmental, and educational needs.
- The parental duties performed by each parent during marriage.
- The parents’ willingness to cooperate with each other.
- Any history of parental drug or alcohol abuse.
- Any history of domestic violence.
- Any history of child abuse or neglect.
Although that may seem like a lot, the law also allows judges to consider any other factor that they deem relevant to the determination. This gives a lot of room for you to develop your argument, but you might also have to be prepared to counter a lot of arguments made by your child’s other parent.
What can you do to build your case?
First of all, know that you don’t have to litigate your child custody dispute. If you and your child’s other parent can work out an agreement, either yourselves or through the conciliation process, that is great. But even in those instances you might need to be able to present your position in a persuasive way so that you can convince the other side or the custody conciliator to understand your position. How do you do that?
You can keep a journal of your contact with the other parent and maintain records of text messages, emails and other communications. Where relevant, you can also present evidence of substance abuse, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse; have your child’s therapist speak to the need for stability and consistency; and prepare to testify as to how you provide the caretaking duties for your child. Importantly, you should not discuss the custody situation with the child or try to get the child “on your side.”
Do you need an ally on your side?
There’s certainly a lot on the line in your child custody case, and we know that can be enormously stressful. But you don’t have to negotiate for resolution on your own. An attorney who is experienced in handling these kinds of cases can help you develop the legal strategy and engage in the kind of negotiations that you need to position you for a positive outcome. If you want to know more about what that process looks like, then we encourage you to communicate with a law firm that you think is right for you and your family.