You may have a good idea of what they’re going through if you’ve been divorced. If not, your child is experiencing a stressful and possibly traumatic experience. They need love, support, and understanding. They don’t need to hear from someone who is judgmental and wants to blame someone. 

They may have been in a bad, possibly abusive, relationship, so this may be good news. If the marriage was a weight pulling them down, a divorce will lighten their load in the long term and put them on a new path. Your child may be on an emotional roller coaster, moving from relief to anger, fear, and guilt, so be prepared for the ride. 

Be Understanding 

As best as you can, be a role model. Support them emotionally and give them the best advice you can. If their needs are beyond what you can provide, find a support group or therapist who may be able to help. If there are times you don’t know what to say, you may feel like you’re not doing any good. Just giving your time and being with your child may be enough. 

Don’t Bash the Ex 

You may think you’re making your child feel better by saying how awful their spouse is and supporting their decision to end the marriage. But your child may feel embarrassed, stupid, or foolish because they invested so much time, effort, and emotion into a marriage with such a terrible person.  

Attacking the spouse is a particularly bad approach if the two have children. The spouse will probably still play a significant role in your grandchildren’s lives. Don’t complicate relationships by telling your grandkids they’re better off without the other parent or trying to prevent them from seeing each other. 

Be Loyal Up to a Point 

Let your child know you’ll be there for them through the divorce and beyond. If your child’s way of coping involves substance abuse, get them help. If the marriage broke up because of your child’s bad behavior (lying, being unfaithful, drinking too much or using drugs, refusing to get mental health care), be loyal by trying to help them work through their faults and getting them the help they need. If they continue their bad ways in their relationship with you, you must set hard limits on what’s acceptable and enforce boundaries. 

Don’t Be a Bulldozer Parent 

As much as you want to help, and as distraught as your child may be, they need to work through this themselves. You can’t do this for them. Steer them into thinking about issues they must resolve and ask questions to help their thought process. Don’t game plan their future life or give them a checklist of what to do and not do. Give advice, and don’t issue orders. 

Avoid ‘I Told You So’ 

You may have seen the divorce coming for a long time because they weren’t a good fit. You may have even told your child this before they married. Don’t build yourself up by tearing your child down. They have enough problems. They’re second-guessing and maybe blaming themselves for the situation. Don’t pour salt into the wounds. 

Tell Them They Should Talk to An Attorney 

If your child is thinking about divorcing or their marriage is breaking apart, they should contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., to learn how we can help. We can explain divorce law, help them understand their rights and responsibilities, and suggest the best way to start a new life. 

If you are divorced with minor children, you probably struggled over the last two years. Many parenting plans did not make accommodations for kids in virtual school, daycare facilities closing, and all activities being canceled. We’re too busy to plan for the unexpected, though we know it’s what we should do. If you have a child custody order, you should have a parenting time plan. It may be very detailed and explicit about where your child is supposed to be and when. Even under ideal circumstances, this may be difficult to pull off. What will happen if there’s another pandemic? 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

A study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the probability of a pandemic with COVID-19-like impact is about 2% in any year. This means a person born in 2000 had about a 38% chance of experiencing one.  

Researchers found significant pandemics are relatively likely, and the risks of intense disease outbreaks are rapidly growing. Due to the increasing rate at which novel pathogens have infected mass numbers of human populations in the last 50 years, the study estimates that the probability of new disease outbreaks will probably increase three-fold in the next few decades. 

Planning for the Next Pandemic 

Whether another pandemic occurs or a natural or manmade disaster strikes, it’s a good idea to have a Plan B. Your parenting time plan would be its basis, a launchpad to deal with potential long-term disruptions to your lives.  

The parents should create an agreement describing how to meet their child’s needs and the role and steps each parent will play during this hopefully short-lived, future public health emergency:  

  • What’s the best way to split the child’s time between each parent in light of health concerns, school cancellations, and work disruptions?  
  • What would be a good schedule for home/remote schooling, so a child’s time spent on learning is separate from agreed-upon parenting time?  
  • How should child exchange rules work given possible pandemic restrictions, including quarantines and travel advisories?  
  • How should you handle missed holidays or planned parenting time due to illness or travel restrictions? Would Zoom calls count as parenting time?  
  • What should be the rules for meeting or engaging with people outside your immediate households? Should you socially distance, wear masks, and obey government guidelines? Parents can have very different viewpoints on the need for precautions. If one parent ignores them and allows the child to do the same, and the child becomes infected, it could make a bad relationship with a parent strict about safety measures much worse. 
  • What will be your approach to amending this agreement as circumstances change? The next pandemic may be very unlike what we saw with COVID-19. The virus may spread differently, and government mandates may be looser or stricter than in the past. Although planning is important, so is the ability to adapt as the circumstances change.

The next pandemic could start next week or five years from now. Don’t let that uncertainty make you less motivated to get this done. You have a busy life, but you don’t want to put this off until employers are shutting down, schools are closing, and the governor announces everyone should stay home. 

If you have any questions about putting this plan together or you’re facing pushback from the other parent, contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help. 

In any parenting, the stakes are high. But after divorce, they’re even higher. Creating a healthy co-parenting arrangement is crucial for helping your children to grow into emotionally healthy, confident adults. Co-parenting well is difficult, but for the sake of the children, it needs to be done.

If you and your ex don’t have a comfortable personal relationship, you should both try to think of it as a business relationship instead. Treat your co-parent like a colleague, communicate respectfully and create agreements that you keep. And ask yourself: Would I trash talk my colleague to other people? Would I blow off a meeting or be purposely late? If you wouldn’t do it to a team member at work, don’t do it to your team member in parenting. The danger of bad behavior at work is poor job performance or job loss. The danger of bad behavior in parenting is emotionally damaged children or loss of parenting rights.

Here are some important steps to healthy co-parenting.

  • The right attitude will make all the other steps of co-parenting easier, and that is to have an attitude of empathy. Try to put yourself in your children’s shoes and in your ex’s shoes. How do they feel? How would you want to be treated if you were in their position? Try to act accordingly.
  • Maintain an open dialogue, sharing the children’s schedules and important information. There are websites designed for this. Be sure to keep your co-parent informed of important news, both positive and not-so-positive (like an A on a big test as well as being sent to the principal’s office). That way you can both congratulate your child or help guide him or her into healthier choices.
  • Be flexible. If a big event comes up and your ex wants to take your kids to it, let them go. It will build positive memories for them while also building positive relationships between their parents, which can only be good for them.
  • Have some agreed-upon rules that apply at both houses: bedtime, chores, homework, internet use, manners. Knowing they have the same expectations at both Mom’s and Dad’s place gives your children a sense of consistency, stability, and security. Kids will always try to test boundaries. But it’s important to stay firm on these agreed-upon rules. Allow each parent to have other rules about less crucial things. Recognize people have different parenting styles and respect them. If no serious harm is done, let it go.
  • One rule should be no trash-talking the other parent – that goes for both you and the kids. Focus on the positive traits your ex has, speak to your children about them and think about them yourself to improve your feelings when you have to communicate about parenting.
  • Resist fighting or speaking rudely to each other in front of the children. Conflict between parents creates a sense of helplessness and insecurity in children, increasing the incidence of drug abuse and other unhealthy comfort-seeking behaviors. This example of conflict can also cause future problems in their own personal relationships, and anxiety can suppress the immune system, increasing illness.
  • Avoid being the “Fun Dad” or the “Cool Mom.” Kids need calm, quiet downtime with their non-custodial parents, too. And having a marked imbalance between parents increases a child’s dissatisfaction and insecurity and creates problems for the not-so-fun parent.
  • Agree to roles played by extended family members. They love the children, too, and are also affected by the divorce.
  • Get together regularly for family meetings about parenting decisions. You can include the children, but also have regular meetings yourselves. Update your agreements every year or two to make sure they are current and appropriate as the children grow.
  • When exchanging children for time with the non-custodial parent, have a short, pleasant goodbye so the children get a positive feeling about their visit. Don’t call unnecessarily and take time away from their other parent.

Following these steps may be difficult at first, but remembering that the goal is to help your children thrive should help it become easier in time. And that will be a win for everyone.

Divorcing when you have children brings on many questions. Here in our Langhorne, PA office, we help couples determine many post-divorce logistics related to their children. This can include how much child support you are going to pay or receive, as well as where your children are going to spend their time. Determining your parenting time schedule can be a bit difficult for parents.

First and foremost, for most parents, the most difficult part of setting up a custody schedule is realizing they are not going to be spending every day with their child. Children have the right to spend time with both parents, during the week, on weekends, and then on special occasions.  

There are many factors that can complicate a parenting schedule including where parents live, their work schedules, where the child attends school, and his/her activities. If parents can sit down together, alone or with their attorneys, it is best to collaborate on a plan. If they can not do this, then the matter will go in front of a judge who will determine the parenting schedule.  Judges often hear cases in which one parent would like sole custody for the sake of moving far away, making it prohibitive for the other parent to enjoy a 50/50 custody arrangement.  

How does a judge determine a parenting time schedule in PA?

There are 16 factors that the court can use to determine the custody of a child. They include:

  • the likelihood of the parties to encourage the child to remain in close contact with the other parent
  • any past abuse
  • what each parent currently does for the child and could that be continued
  • how stable the child’s life is
  • the availability of extended family to help
  • the existence of siblings
  • the child’s preference
  • whether the parents put the child in the middle of their disagreements
  • whether one parent is more likely to take better care of the child than the other
  • the distance between the parents
  • who will care for the child if the custodial parent is at work
  • whether there is significant conflict between the parents
  • any drug use, mental or physical abuse, or other relevant personal characteristics that may be present in the home

Most parents realize that when a judge makes a decision it is legally binding and must be followed. This is why it is best to work it out between the parties before the matter winds up in court. If your spouse is unreasonable we can negotiate child custody and a parenting schedule for you. Sometimes it is just easier to have legal representation in the room with you or to review your plans to get both parties to be a bit agreeable.  

Though a court order ends your marriage and makes your divorce official, it won’t end your relationship with your ex-spouse if you have kids. As part of your Montgomery County divorce, we will negotiate a parenting plan for you and your spouse that will set the standards for communications and schedules. The parenting plan sets a schedule for when your kids will be with whom and who is responsible for doing what to make it happen. Problems are common, whether that’s because, as a practical matter, the plan doesn’t work or one parent is intentionally trying to sabotage it.

A parenting plan usually is negotiated between the parties as part of the divorce settlement. A judge could decide the plan and make it part of the divorce order if a case goes to trial. It spells out the schedule for when children will be with each parent, transportation issues, vacation and holiday schedules, and what to do if problems arise. If difficulties come up and parents can’t find a solution, the judge decides the resolution.

Happy Holidays or Holidays from Hell?

Holidays can be incredibly stressful when parenting plans go sideways for a divorced family. Holidays are times when not only does a parent spend time with their kids, but extended families often get together. If the other parent is not living up to their end of the bargain by not allowing the children to be there or being late when delivering them, feelings can get frayed.

The Only Constant is Change

Another ongoing problem can be constant or unexpected changes. Both sides should comply with the plan in good faith. It’s a problem if one parent isn’t organized enough to follow the plan or just doesn’t care if the other parent is inconvenienced. Emergencies and unexpected problems can happen, but disruptions should be the exception, not the rule.

Parenting Plan Issues are Just the Beginning

Problems following the parenting plan can be a symptom of a bigger issue – a lack of respect. Your ex-spouse may be consistently late in picking up your kids or bringing them back and couldn’t care less about the impact on you. Making issues out of a parenting plan, along with alienating your children from you and disputing child support, could all be part of an overall strategy to make you miserable.

We Need to Resolve the Issue or Take It to Court

If a solution isn’t negotiated, we may need to go to court. We’ll tell your side of the story with evidence. You must document everything as best you can. That means taking notes, keeping copies of emails or texts, taking photos, and making videos.

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust

Call Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, if you need help with your parenting plan, whether that’s questions that need answers or legal representation. Call our office at (215) 608-1867 to schedule an online consultation. We can speak via teleconference, over the phone, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.

COVID-19 vaccinations have turned a medical and public health issue into one that’s splitting the country. Anti-vaccination feelings and publicity are at an unprecedented level. Along with our divided communities, some parents don’t agree either.  Fighting with your ex over issues involving your kids is never fun – and now we have another “hot button” issue, the COVID-19 vaccine, to add to the mix. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, 59.1% of the country is fully vaccinated against the viral infection. That drops to 50.8% of Americans aged 12 to 17. Emergency FDA approval of vaccine use for kids ages 5-11 has recently been approved and the parents of young children are currently making decisions as to whether or not their children should be vaccinated.

Should a Judge Decide?

What happens if your ex doesn’t want your child vaccinated but you do? When divorced parents disagree, they should read the divorce agreement, which may or may not mention vaccines. If legal custody is shared, both can make healthcare decisions. If one parent has sole legal custody, they make those choices, including those regarding vaccinations.

Can you have a conversation? If it would help, consult your pediatrician for guidance. If you cannot reach an agreement, an attorney from our staff can help. If we can’t negotiate a resolution, we can go to court to protect your child’s best interests. This is a complex, time-consuming, expensive way to end a dispute, but it’s an option if everything else fails.

How Would a Court Rule?

A judge would decide based on what’s in the best interest of the child. There’s a good chance they may state that includes vaccination.

  • A judge in Canada ruled a 13-year-old girl with diabetes be vaccinated against COVID-19 contrary to her mother’s wishes because it was in the child’s best interest
  • In a New Jersey appeals court decision in favor of vaccination (but not involving COVID-19), the decision states, “The experts agreed that overall vaccines are safe and effective…” and gave the pro-vaccine parent the ability to decide what to do

A judge will consider the facts of the case, including:

  • Why the parents have their positions
  • Specific health risks to the child
  • School or activity requirements and how being unvaccinated would affect the child
  • Medical expert opinion

The child’s pediatrician’s opinion may carry a lot of weight, especially if the child has conditions that may increase the chances of bad side effects from the vaccine or the child risks serious complications if they are unvaccinated and become infected.

Get the Legal Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

Do you have questions about child custody or need legal representation? Call our office at (215) 608-1867 or schedule a consultation online today. We can speak via teleconference, over the phone, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office to discuss your case.

There may be times where a Grandparent is worried about the situation that they see their grandchild in. They might be concerned for their safety or well-being. Other times it could be that the grandchild has lived with them for some time now and they just want to have an official document saying that the child is in their custody. They might need a custody order in order to be able to sign off on certain things for the child. The fact is that in Pennsylvania it is possible for a Grandparent to get custody, however there is certain criteria that needs to be met.

In Pennsylvania in order for a grandparent to get custody rights they need to have standing. To have standing means that your scenario complies with what the law says is required in order to get custody. To have standing a grandparent of the child cannot be in loco parentis. To be in loco parentis means acting as the parent in place of the parent. Usually you have to be in that situation for a long period of time. The next requirement by law is that the grandparent must have a relationship with the child that started with the consent of the parents. The next requirement is that the grandparent assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.

The next requirement requires that one of the following scenarios is true.

(A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);

(B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or

(C) the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

 

Either A, B, C also needs to apply in order to have standing for custody as a Grandparent. However, even if you do not have standing for custody, you might have standing as a Grandparent for visitation, which is different. If you do not have standing by are curious about whether you have standing for visitation be sure to see my blog post on Grandparent visitation rights. If you are a Grandparent in Pennsylvania and want custody of your Grandchild pleas schedule an appointment with us today.

If you have children and have previously been through the custody process with the Court it is likely that it resulted with a Court Order. A Court Order for custody is issued in a Custody proceeding. This Order will direct which parent has legal and physical custody. Legal Custody is the right to make decisions for your child. Decisions such as where they go to school, what doctors they see, if they are involved in any religious activities would all fall under legal custody. The Custody Order will specify if one parent has sole legal custody or if legal custody is shared. If parents have shared legal custody they must consult each other about decisions in their children’s lives. A Custody Order will also direct who has physical custody. Physical custody is who the children are physical with. An Order could direct that one parent has sole physical custody or that the physical custody is shared. If the physical custody is shared the Order will probably also set out a schedule as to when the children are with each parent.

If you have a Custody Order and circumstances have changed or new developments have occurred you might think that the Order needs to be changed because the situation has. That is ok. Custody is always modifiable. If you have a Custody Order and you are seeking it to be changed we can help you with that. We would file a Modification of Custody requesting that the Custody be modified. If you are in Pennsylvania and have a Custody Order that you need to have changed, please call our office for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your options.

If you have children, and are going through a divorce or separation a major thought on your mind is probably what is going to happen with the kids? Who is going to get custody? How is custody decided? What are the different types of custody schedules? These are all very valid and important questions and I know these thoughts can cause anxiety, fear and worry as well. This will give you a little overview on the types of custody in Pennsylvania to try inform you of more information and try and answer some of your questions.

First of all, there are two types of custody. There is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for child. Decisions such as where your child attends school, what doctors your child sees, if they are involved in any religious activities are all examples of what would fall under the category of legal custody. Usually legal custody is shared between parents, however in some circumstances legal custody may be solely awarded to one parent.

Next, there is physical custody. Physical custody refers to who the child is physically with. Typically, in any court order there would be an included physical custody schedule. The first kind of physical custody is sole physical custody. This is where one parent has physical custody of the child 100% of the time. Another form of physical custody is shared legal custody where parents share physical custody time. The two common schedules with shared physical custody are 50/50 or a primary/partial schedule. In a 50/50 physical custody schedule the parents share custody and each have the child 50% of the time. A common schedule for this is called a 2, 2, 3 schedule where one parent has the child Monday and Tuesday night, the other parent Wednesday and Thursday night and then the parents alternate week to week who has the child Friday through Sunday. There are other schedules that can be worked out as well. With a primary/partial schedule this is where one parent has physical custody time more than the other. An example of this type of schedule would be where one parent has custody every other weekend. A third custody arrangement could also be supervised visitation. This would mean that one parent would have custody of the child however the other parent has the right to visit with the child so long as they are properly supervised.

Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be met: (1) a parent of the child is deceased; (2) the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months AND don’t agree on whether the grandparent or great-grandparent should have custody/visitation; or (3) the child has lived with the grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home.

Non-biological grandparents also have the right to seek grandparent visitation rights where they stand in loco parentis to one of the parents of the child and it’s in the child’s best interest. In loco parentis embodies an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between parent and child. It is also possible for grandparents to request primary custody under Section 5324 of the Domestic Relations laws if they stand in loco parentis to the child. Again, in loco parentis means more than just taking on a frequent caretaker position. Under Section 5324, a grandparent can also file where they are unable to establish in loco parentis but can establish an existing relationship with the child and that the child is at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, or drug/alcohol abuse.