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Pennsylvania child custody proceedings: Keep stress to a minimum

When you decided to divorce, you knew it would have a major impact on your children's lives. It doesn't necessarily mean your kids will cease to be able to function in life. In fact, there are several things you can do and several things you can avoid to help your family come to terms with its new normal in the least stressful way possible.

If you happen to be a father, you might have your work cut out for you to keep stress levels low and accomplish your divorce-related co-parenting goals. While progress has definitely been made in the family justice system, meaning it is no longer automatically assumed that mothers should have full legal and physical custody of their kids, dads still have to be prepared to show that they are capable, willing parents who do not wish to abdicate their parental obligations just because they are getting divorced.

Without a court order

The following list shows things you'll want to avoid, especially if you have not yet finalized your divorce and there is no existing court order that specifies child custody, visitation or child support terms:

  • You do not have to move out of your home, especially if you have reason to believe your spouse is going to make it difficult for you to keep in touch with your kids. If a judge has not ordered you to leave, you can stay put.
  • Like all good parents, you understand the importance of providing for your kids' financial needs. However, you don't have to agree to fork out money on a regular basis to your soon-to-be ex unless and until a court order is in place.
  • If there are no restrictions, such as a protective order or a supervised visitation order, you do not necessarily need permission to be with your children or to take them places. If there is a court order, however, it is critical that you and your co-parent fully adhere to its terms at all times.

It's true that you can write the terms of your own co-parenting plan, but it is also a fact that it's always best to seek court approval and get a court order in place before you move on in life. It leaves less room for confusion and disagreements.

Helpful ideas to keep stress low in divorce

You may not wish to be married to your spouse any longer, but that doesn't mean you do not want to play an active role in your children's lives. The following tips can help your co-parenting plan run more smoothly:

  • Don't talk bad about each other. You might have problems in your personal relationship, but your kids don't need to know the details, and they definitely don't need to hear their parents bad-mouthing each other.
  • If you have a court appointment, be on time. It shows that you understand the seriousness of the situation.
  • Be willing to cooperate and compromise. It shows that you have your children's best interests in mind.
  • Know your rights and how to protect them.

Even if you were married when your kids were born, that doesn't count as proof that you are their biological father. You should be prepared to take a paternity test, especially if you plan to seek physical custody of your kids in Pennsylvania.

There's no reason to doubt that your children will be able to cope with your divorce and adapt to a new lifestyle, especially if you build a strong support network from the start.

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Media, PA 19063

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