Some Pennsylvania couples with young children may face challenges after a divorce that make co-parenting impossible. For example, a parent may have abandoned the child or be incarcerated. In other cases, it may have been necessary to take a restraining order out against the parent, or the parent could have a substance abuse problem.

People who are abusive may be unfit to parent at all, but there could be other circumstances in which parents share custody or visitation but cannot communicate effectively. For example, one parent may simply be too resentful about the divorce. One parent may deliberately try to turn the child against the other parent. A parent might be controlling or emotionally abusive toward the other parent, or the issues that caused the divorce might make co-parenting impossible.

A functional relationship requires parents to communicate openly, including about any major changes in their lives or plans with the children. Parents should be able to set boundaries and be consistent about scheduling, but they should also be flexible when necessary. Co-parenting works best when parents are in basic agreement about household rules and how to raise the child in terms of religion and education. They should respect the other parent’s relationship with the child and should be able to behave amicably toward one another if they have to attend the same function for the child.

Court generally approach child custody with the assumption that it is in the best interests of the child to spend time with both parents. If the child is not safe with the parent because of an issue such as substance abuse, a court might order supervised visitation. This may be changed if the parent attends a rehab program or fulfills a similar condition. Parents who are concerned about a child’s safety may want to discuss the issue with an attorney.