Your children will benefit from a healthy relationship with both their father and their mother after divorce, so to co-parent effectively, remember the three C's: Cooperation, Communication, and Consistency
While an appeal to a divorce decree must be completed within 30 days, a modification to a divorce agreement can be requested at any time after the divorce. It is not uncommon that, after significant time has passed, circumstances have changed enough to warrant an alteration of the divorce agreement.
If you have children and are getting divorced, you will negotiate a parenting time schedule, typically called a custody agreement. This dictates the amount of time that each child will spend with each parent. It can include overnights, holidays, and special arrangements like pick-ups and birthdays. If you are divorcing with younger children, your schedule will more than likely need to be adjusted in the future to accommodate different schedules. If you have already been divorced for a few years, you may be concerned that your custody agreement is no longer working. After all, your schedule, as well as the activity schedules of your children, have probably changed over time.
Sometimes in child custody cases one of the parents struggles with an addiction either to drugs or to alcohol. When the parties are no longer together, the court must decide contact for each of the parents with their children. If there is a drug or alcohol addiction, it can impact the type of custody and amount of time a parent will be able to spend with their child. Oftentimes, the other parent will want those visits to be supervised. In order to establish that a parent has an addiction and in order to determine the severity of the addiction, it may be necessary to have the court order mandatory drug and alcohol testing. There are various types of testing that can be done to determine what type of drugs a parent may have been doing and each of the different types of tests have a window of accuracy. In a child custody case, it is always best to request a hair follicle test as this provides the longest history of drug usage for a parent. In addition to drug testing, if a parent has an alcohol addiction, there are tests that can measure the consistency in which a parent consumes excess alcohol. These tests are critical when a parent has an addiction as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while caring for children can greatly put them at risk of physical harm due to neglect and/or abuse.
In any childs custody case, it is best if the parties design their own custody schedule so that they have more control over the personal considerations in each of their families as well as to include some days that may not be considered an official holiday for court custody purposes. When, however, communication has broken down and it is not possible to come to an agreement even on holidays, the court will often in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a routine method of determining holidays. In some counties, it is a pre-printed holiday list that the parties will receive. In others, it is a generally conceived concept. In most cases, the court will alternate holidays on an odd year/even year basis rotating the holiday every year so both parents will have time alternating years. For some holidays, such as Christmas, the court will usually break the holiday into two parts. One parent will have Christmas Eve until Christmas Day and the other parent will have Christmas Day until the Day after and this will alternate each year to allow both parents the opportunity to have Christmas morning every other year.
One of the sad realities of divorcing when you have children is that there will be times when they will not be with you, sometimes, large periods of time if you are the parent with partial custody or even when you share joint physical custody. Sometimes, grandparents are also faced with separation from grandchildren due to divorce, death of their adult child, or incarceration of their adult child. Although you cannot always be with your child or grandchild, there are things that you can do to ensure that you are still connected to their life on a regular basis.
As detrimental as it is to the children of a separation or a divorce, sometimes one parent chooses to withhold the children from the other parent. They may feel they are the better parent and are protecting the children. They may just be angry and want to use the children as pawns to get back at the other parent. They may feel they have the right to determine the custody schedule for various reasons. Regardless of why a parent is withholding the children and keeping them from the other parent it is not something that either parent should take into their own hands. If you are the parent who is not seeing your children, you need to immediately file for emergency custody in the county where the children reside if they have been there for at least six months. If the children have not bee in that state or county for six months, then you need to file emergency relief in the state or county where they last resided for six months. If your ex moved out of state with the children less than six months prior, you will want to also seek relief that includes returning the children to the state, and possibly alerting the authorities if the other parent did not disclose their whereabouts. Waiting to file with the court can impact your case as the court will question why something was not done sooner. In addition, you should record all attempts that you make to contact the children both before and after you file. This could be text messages, letters sent to the house, phone calls made, and attempts to visit. You should be careful, however, in remaining calm as sometimes the other parent will then allege harassment or file a Protection from Abuse in an attempt to further gain control in custody. As difficult as it will be waiting to get into court, the sooner you file the sooner the court can remedy the situation.
Under the Protection from Abuse Act, a Court can, as part of the order granting a protection from abuse, also issue terms on custody of the minor children as part of that order.A Protection from Abuse order can be granted in Pennsylvania for up to three years. If an order includes a provision for custody, this does not mean that the other parent will not get to see the children for three years. If an order is entered that contains custody provisions, it is very important if the order is entered against you that you file for custody through the Family Court in the county where the Child resides. The Court in Family Court will determine custody and the terms of that custody order will override the terms in the Protection from Abuse Order. Likewise, if you receive a Child Support order as part of a Protection from Abuse Order, you must file for child support within two weeks in order to continue to receive child support. You file for child support at Domestic Relations. As long as you file for child support within the two week period, you will continue to receive support under the PFA order until Domestic Relations has its hearing and enters a new child support order. If you fail to file in the two week period then the child support in the PFA will terminate and you will not get support until you file and have a hearing through Domestic Relations.
Sometimes when you are going through a custody battle your children may have to testify. Oftentimes, depending on their age, it will be done in chambers with the Judge and attorneys present but not the parents. There is always the possibility, however, it may be done in open court which is much more intimidating for the child. Usually, it is the very last testimony in a case as throughout the trial, the attorneys and the Judge may still be trying to settle the case. No judge wants to have to make a child testify but if one of the parents wants the child to testify, the judge has no choice. Rather than have your child miss an entire day of school or sit at the courthouse all day, you may want to see if you can have the child can be brought to court by a third party if needed.
1. Allowing your new spouse to act as the go-between with other the other parent. In a custody situation is it important that the parents communicate with each other. Your new spouse or significant other should not be the one to handle all the affairs of your child. It is important as a parent to show that you are involved with your child.