The Pennsylvania Primary Physical Custody Process
If you and your spouse are in the throes of divorce or if you would consider your child’s other parent to be a difficult-to-deal-with-annoying-savage, then chances are you’ve heard the term primary physical custody thrown around. Primary physical custody means that one parent is more responsible than the other parent for caring for any child/children from the relationship. Naturally, this means that one parent will spend more time with the child/children than the other parent. But, how do you obtain primary physical custody in Pennsylvania, you may ask? Keep reading to find out!
Pennsylvania has a lot of different counties, and each county handles custody proceedings a little differently. However, no matter in which county in Pennsylvania you reside, the first step in filing for primary custody is to file a Complaint for Custody. This complaint should include you and the other parent’s names and addresses, your child/children’s names, addresses, and birthdays, and some other more in-depth information.
After the filing of the complaint, most counties will require that both parents – and sometimes the child/children, too – attend an educational seminar. At this seminar, educators will discuss the impact custody proceedings have on children and explain how to co-parent in a healthy way. Some people find this portion of the process to seem like busy work; however, the educational seminar can be helpful… sometimes. Your case cannot move forward until both parents have taken the educational seminar. So, technically, for all the difficult-to-deal-with-annoyingly-savage parents out there, a great way to stall your custody case is to put off attending the education seminar. While this may seem like a power play, the court will not look favorably on this behavior, and there may be unpleasant repercussions – anywhere from a stern conversation to temporarily losing custody time. But, hey. We all know that one parent who ain’t scurred.
If you are adamantly against attending the educational seminar, and you have good reasons not to attend, a skilled attorney may be able to have the educational component waived by a judge. However, this isn’t the norm. So, unless you have plans to move to Canada and join a Nudist Colony before your scheduled education seminar – or some other similarly crazy reason – you can consider yourself a future graduate of the Pennsylvania family court educational seminar.
After all the joys of the educational seminar, the next step is usually Mediation or a Custody Conference in front of a trained mediator. The mediator is almost like a less intense version of a therapist. He or she will attempt to facilitate a healthy discussion between you and the other parent and will try to draw an agreement between the two of you. Most agreements will include: which days are spent with which parent, how your child/children will be transported between each parent’s home, etc. It’s important that you go into mediation with a list of things that you would like incorporated in the custody agreement. If you feel strongly about certain items on your list, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and not settle during mediation. While some counties permit attorneys to be present at the mediation, other counties do not. So, in some cases, it’ll be all you, bro. But, you got this. Just remember, if you’re failing to see eye to eye with the other parent, there’s no need to settle everything – or anything – in mediation.
If you don’t come to an agreement in mediation, the next step varies widely depending on in which county the case is brought. For example, in Allegheny County, following a fruitless mediation, you can request a conciliation before a Domestic Relations Officer (DRO). If no agreement is reached with the DRO, then the parties may request a conciliation before their assigned judge. The judge may enter a Custody Order at that time or may schedule a second Judicial Conciliation or a pre-trial conference.
In other counties, such as Beaver and Butler, the conciliation is held before a Custody Conference Officer (CCO). The CCO may enter a Recommended Custody Order of Court, which, if you or the other parent disagrees with it, needs to be appealed within 20 days or it becomes legally binding. If an appeal does occur, the case will proceed to a formal custody hearing before a judge.
We understand that filing for primary custody can be a whirlwind. Give us a call today and we can help you calm your storm. We’ll even send your difficult-to-deal-with-annoyingly-savage child’s other parent a forged letter inviting him or her to join the Canadian Nudist Colony.
… okay… we don’t really forge letters.
*Our office accepts Pennsylvania family law cases including divorce, equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, alimony, paternity and child support matters, child custody cases, juvenile law cases, and related matters in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County (Greensburg).
Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Pennsylvania counties including Armstrong County (Kittanning), Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Somerset County, and Venango County.*