Pennsylvania parents who must go through a custody hearing may feel better prepared if they know what to expect ahead of time. These hearings are generally not necessary if parents can agree on a plan for child custody, but sometimes, this is not possible, even when both parents have the best interests of the child in mind.
Understanding the law
The first step for a parent should be to become familiar with Pennsylvania child custody law. To make sure that the information is accurate, it is best to review the actual legal statutes instead of asking a friend or family member about their experience. If one or both parents are seeking sole custody, it is important to understand that judges will generally only grant this if they believe one parent is better than the other. This can be a difficult standard to meet.
What to bring
Parents might need to submit certain information ahead of time or bring documents to the court. What these documents should be can vary based on the situation, but it is generally paperwork that tracks when the parent was with or communicated with the child. Parents might also want to bring evidence that the child has thrived in their care, such as report cards.
It is important for parents to dress and behave appropriately in the courtroom. While they may feel emotional during a child custody hearing, outbursts can reflect badly on them and may affect the judge’s assessment. Parents should make an effort to appear cooperative. Juries are not involved in child custody hearings, and a judge usually reaches a decision at the end of the hearing. Parents do have a right to appeal.
A custody hearing can be stressful. Parents should keep in mind that even if they strongly disagree with the other person’s approach to raising children, as long as the children are not in danger, courts usually take the position that children are better off having a relationship with both parents. After the hearing, they should work on building a good co-parenting relationship.