Child Custody FAQ’s
Child Custody FAQ’s
Child custody matters are extremely emotional and important legal situations for parents and their children. The Martin Law Firm is a Montgomery County, PA family law firm that represents parents involved in child custody disputes as well as divorce and other family law matters. Our firm will provide you with exceptional legal counsel and a support staff who realize that child custody decisions can have permanent effects on the well-being of both the parents and the children involved.
How do you start a Montgomery County, PA child custody action?
A Pennsylvania child custody action is commenced by filing a complaint. The complaint must conform to Pennsylvania law and Montgomery County, PA local rules. Often, a claim for custody is raised in a divorce complaint, but a Pennsylvania child custody action can be raised in a separate complaint. A parent or a grandparent can seek physical and/or legal custody of a child or grandchild under Pennsylvania law.
What happens after a child custody complaint is filed with a Pennsylvania court?
In Pennsylvania, each county adopts local rules for the disposition of child custody actions. In Montgomery County, PA, the court will assign a mediator and all parties will be required to attend a mediation orientation session. The parties are also required to attend an education seminar on the general responsibilities of separated/divorced parents or guardians.
Next, the parties and their child custody lawyers attend a custody conciliation conference. The purpose of the child custody conference is to reach a mutual resolution and for the parties to agree upon an order that is submitted to the court for a judge to sign. If that occurs, no further court appearance is necessary. Custody cases that are not resolved by the conciliator are forwarded to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas for scheduling before a judge. At that point, a short list hearing/conference is scheduled before the judge at the Montgomery County Courthouse. This gives the parties an opportunity to work out their differences and to reach a custody agreement with judicial assistance. If the matter is not resolved at this conference, a full child custody hearing will be scheduled.
Will my child be involved in the custody action?
Unless the Montgomery County court orders otherwise, the child who is the subject of the child custody action shall not be required to attend a hearing or conference. You may elect to bring your child to a conference or hearing, but you are not required to do so unless the court orders it.
The court may appoint an attorney to represent your child in the custody action either on its own motion or on the motion of a party. If an attorney is appointed for your child, the court may assess the cost upon both parties to the custody action.
The court may interview your child, depending on the child’s age. The court may conduct an interview of a child whether or not the child is the subject of the custody action. Such an interview can be held in open court or in the judge’s chambers. The judge’s questioning of your child will be conducted in the presence of your lawyer, and, if permitted by the court, you may be present as well. Both parties’ child custody lawyers also have the right to question your child under court supervision, but this questioning does not become part of the record. In most instances, the older your child, the greater the impact his or her testimony will have on the judge’s child custody decision.
What if a Court Order is entered and a party fails to comply with it?
If a Court Order is violated, the aggrieved party should retain an experienced Montgomery County, PA child custody attorney to file a Petition for Civil Contempt to force the non-complying party to comply with the Order.
What if my child is in a dangerous situation?
If you believe that your child is in danger when in the possession of the other parent, your attorney may apply to the Montgomery County, PA family law court for appropriate interim or special relief. Such relief may include an award of temporary custody, partial custody or visitation; the issuance of appropriate process directing that your child or the party having physical custody of your child be brought before the court; and a direction that a person must post security to appear with your child when directed by the court.