Many people assume the court will side with a child’s mother during a custody battle under most circumstances. But is it true that fathers have fewer child custody rights than mothers in PA?
Simply put, no custody laws in the United States give mothers preferential treatment when ordering a custody agreement. This common misconception comes from outdated statistics that put parental roles into two clear-cut categories: during their marriage, mothers were the primary caretakers of the children and fathers were the breadwinners who provided for the family.
Although parental roles have changed and varied during the past few decades, divorcing couples in Pennsylvania still often believe a child’s mother will have the upper hand in terms of custody. Dads sometimes think there’s no chance to argue for joint custody, which would allow them to share decision-making responsibilities and/or physical control of their children.
The Truth About Fathers’ Rights in Pennsylvania
Unless one parent is deemed unfit for child custody, however, both Pennsylvania and New Jersey most often award parents joint physical and legal custody. Sole custody – when a child’s physical and legal rights are in the care of one “custodial” parent – is generally not recommended unless one parent is known to be a direct harm to the children. The Pennsylvania court will consider factors including both parents’ living situations, past alcohol or drug use, and any history of abuse or neglect. Gender has nothing to do with a judge’s decision regarding custody.
Children and divorced parents often benefit from a joint custody arrangement over sole custody. Both parents can have active roles in their kids’ lives, and neither parent suffers the stress of single parenting.
What You Can Do
When developing a child custody agreement, your kids’ best interest is the most important consideration. Speak up to make sure your opinions are heard. That way, your attorneys or mediator and the court can make the most informed decisions possible. In addition, the below tips may help any parent during a custody battle.
Respect your child’s mother.
The way you treat your child’s mother affects your child. It also affects your Pennsylvania custody case. No matter how you feel about your ex, be polite and respectful.
Pay your child support payments.
Paying child support on time shows that you care about your child’s well-being. Keep the cancelled check as proof of payment. If you are struggling to make payments, pay what you are able to and request a modification to the child support order.
Build a day-to-day relationship with your child.
Do you know what your child does each day? Make it a habit to call your child and check in. Offer to quiz your child on spelling words or to take her to the library to get books for her book report. Let her know that she can contact you if she needs anything. If possible, get involved in your child’s school or some of your child’s after-school activities.
Make visitation a priority.
Keep records of the time that you spend with your child. Sticking to a visitation schedule shows that your child is a priority.
Attend school functions and other important events.
To your child, school events are a big deal. In addition, the court sees attendance at events like school plays, basketball games, ballet recitals, first communion, and birthday parties as evidence of a meaningful relationship.
Make space for your child.
Does your child sleep on the couch in your one-bedroom apartment? You should show that your life has room for your child, even if it is just a small space. Plan to discuss housing plans with the judge.
Have a plan.
How will you change your life if your child lives with you? Have a written plan that includes living accommodations, education, time with friends, after-school activities and financial matters.
The best thing you can do to help your child custody case is to develop and maintain a strong relationship with your child. Fortunately, this also the best thing you can do for your child.
If you have kids and you are divorcing your spouse, you likely have many questions about custody and support in Pennsylvania. Feel free to call (215) 523-6900 to discuss your situation. The lawyers at Petrelli Previtera can answer all your questions and help you get on the right track to a great resolution.