Think about how many routines you have in any given day. Most of us move through our ritualized mornings not even thinking about the tasks we are completing. We move like zombies through the steps that comprise our habits, hitting snooze (twice), turning off the alarm, turning on the coffee pot, taking the dog outside… you get the idea. We depend on routines so our days run smoothly.
Now think about days when one of your routines is thrown off. Maybe you reach for the coffee only to find an empty canister. Maybe the power went out during the night. An accident forces you to take an alternative route to work. A coworker called off so you have to stay late to pick up the extra shift. These are all relatively minor occurrences, but they have the ability to completely derail your day.
When a permanent change occurs, most of us require a period of adjustment to get used to our new normal. Maybe you got a new job and have to plan out a new commute. Perhaps a new diet declares war on the bowl of ice cream you have every night after dinner. Maybe your local gym is no longer in business. Or maybe you’ve recently separated with two children depending on you for stability. Regardless of the situation, expecting and even embracing a period of adjustment will help you to get things back on track.
Most parents worry about how their children will cope following a divorce or separation, and in many cases, the children are the reason why many couples try to stay together, long after the relationship itself has ended. Just like you require a period of adjustment following an interruption to one of your routines, children require a period of time to acclimate to their new lives. This process takes many different shapes, and can certainly be messy at times. How can you help to create more stability for your child after it seem like all routines have been torn away?
- Talk with your child and explain to them what is going on. Don’t divulge every single detail, and certainly leave matters of the Court off the plate, but explain the situation in a way that they can understand. Communication is your best weapon in a custody battle, but be careful not to shoot down your own troops. Try to stick to the facts, such as, “Mommy lives in a new house by herself now,” or “You have to go spend time with Daddy on Wednesday evenings”, and steer clear of talking about your emotions. Your child is not your attorney, therapist, or mediator. Help them to understand what’s happening to them, not what has happened to you.
- Keep up with old routines if you can. Bedtime stories, Saturday afternoons in the park, Dinner with Grandma on Sundays- these are all routines that are important to maintain, as it helps children to see that not everything needs to change.
- Start new routines! If there’s a frozen yogurt shop around the corner from your new place, maybe you can make after-dinner walks to the yogurt shop your new routine. Perhaps your new place only has a shower, not a bathtub. Bath time will now become shower time.
Truth be told, there are endless ways to provide stability for your children while adjusting to your new lives.
What happens if the changes are just too much?
Well, that’s when you’ll need to be an advocate for your children and understand their individual needs. The Court prefers to make decisions that will provide stability and continuity, as to avoid unnecessary disruption. Knowing that the Court views custody in this way can be a huge asset to your case, and can prevent you from decisions that may hurt your odds of shared custody in the future.
Courts want to keep children in the same school district if and when possible. This factor is constantly overlooked by clients, and we hear individuals all the time declare that they are going to move away and take the children with them, usually retaliating against the other parent. Those who threaten relocation fail to realize that under Pennsylvania Rule 1915.17, they must provide notification to the other parent, and they must allow the other parent the opportunity to object to the move.
Not only do Courts want children to remain in the same school district, but also to remain engaged in the same activities. Further, a Judge will want to encourage continued relationships with extended family, which may be a deciding factor of who retains primary custody, especially when the parents live in separate school districts. The parent who lives in the same school district where the children attend school, within close proximity to many extended relatives, or within close proximity to after school activities will certainly have an advantage over the parent who moved away and has no relatives near them.
Change is inevitable when a new custody schedule is involved, but the Court will do everything possible to minimize the effects of these changes. If you have any questions, or wish for more guidance pertaining to your individual case, please do not hesitate to contact us at 412-295-8066.
This post was written by our writer and content strategist, K. Gleason.
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