It's no secret that many Pennsylvania divorces involve less than amicable situations between spouses. In fact, you may be among those who have reason to believe that your ex's presence in your children's lives is detrimental to their well-being. Like all good parents, your kids' best interests are and always have been your highest priority.
It's one thing to feel that way, however, and quite another to have to prove parental unfitness in court, which is what you'll have to do if you request sole custody on those grounds. The judge overseeing your case is going to want to see strong evidence that supports your claim that you believe your children are better off in your sole care. Such situations are often highly stressful, so it helps to build a strong support network right from the start.
Presenting evidence in court
The court isn't so much interested in why you don't want to be married to your spouse anymore as it is in what specific issues make his or her presence a detriment to your children. A spouse who never brought you flowers or didn't appreciate all you did for him or her doesn't necessarily equate to a parent who is unfit for custody. The issues on the following list, however, might be the type of evidence that might convince a judge to order a parent unfit:
- The court would undoubtedly be quite concerned if a parent has an alcohol or drug addiction problem. There are many ways this could be detrimental to children, and evidence of substance abuse would definitely help substantiate an unfit parenting claim.
- If you have been taking your kids to licensed counseling sessions, the counselor's testimony could possibly add a lot of weight to your case.
- Abuse is a problem in many Pennsylvania households. If you have evidence that your co-parent is physically, sexually or emotionally abusive to your children, it is something the court needs to know.
- Evidence of unfit parenting may come in the form of photographs, videos or audio files that show neglectful or abusive behavior of the parent in question toward your kids.
- Text messages or other correspondence between you and your ex or between your ex and your kids may also help substantiate your claim.
For the most part, Pennsylvania family law judges believe children fare best in shared custody arrangements. However, children's best interests are always the court's highest priority in custody proceedings. If there is evidence to show that a parent is unfit, a judge has discretion to order supervised visits only or to prohibit a parent's contact with children altogether, as warranted.
It's a good idea to speak with someone who is well-versed in Pennsylvania child custody laws if you plan to petition the court for sole physical or legal custody of your kids.