In Whose Best Interests?
Divorcing parents of young children may not instinctively put their children’s interests first. They are focused on maintaining their involvement in their kids’ lives, trying to make things as “normal” as possible, all the while not yielding any ground in the battle for influence in their children’s lives. This may quickly descend into a toxic situation.
While a verbal custody agreement may seem like a good option for parents, if the children are not put at the top of the list of priorities, they can suffer. Young children need stability, routine, consistency in activities and social relationships, and a safe environment that they are familiar with.
If a parent or court-ordered guardian is willing, he or she can designate another person to be a temporary guardian of the child by written contract. In this form, the temporary guardian can assume certain parental responsibilities, such as enrolling the child in school, applying for child support, and receiving medical attention for the child. However, this temporary guardianship can be dissolved by either party and is not enforceable in court. It is not the same thing as custody, in which a parent, grandparent, or other person petitions the court for the legal right to have the child.
If a harmful situation endangers the child, one parent, a relative, or another guardian can file for temporary emergency custody of the child. This could be the case if one parent is arrested, has relapsed, has suffered a serious health issue, or has abused the child. Time is of the essence, and a concerned party can file an ex parte application for emergency custody.
It’s important to remember this order will be temporary while the final custody order is pending. Most temporary custody orders last a maximum of six months.
Pennsylvania family courts make the best interests of children their number-one priority in any custody battle. This is a standard known as the best interests of the child. In the event that a child’s health and welfare are compromised at one parent’s home, you can file a petition for the court to step in and authorize a temporary custody order. If the parent has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, abandonment, physical abuse, or a lifestyle that is unhealthy or threatening to the child, that parent may be denied final physical or legal custody, and also denied visitation rights.
Another factor the courts will consider is the child’s preference. If a child is old enough and mature enough to make that decision for him- or herself, the court will weigh that heavily in its custody decision. It’s possible that the child may choose the more unfit parent, the one whose home is not accommodating or who has a problem with drugs and alcohol. Here, the court will deem the child’s preference as unreasonable and not in the child’s best interests.
The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., has handled many emergency custody orders so that our clients’ children would be protected. If you need help filing for temporary custody, please give our Montgomery County custody lawyers a call at (610) 645-0100 to set up a free consultation.