Navigating the Custody Process
It is important to secure legal representation as soon as possible. You can go to the Centre County Bar Association website to search for attorneys that practice family law.
Additionally, be cautious with agencies. Even if well intentioned, there may be underlying bias or presumptions on the part of social workers that could influence decision making. Be aware that any changes in parental responsibilities may set a precedent that will impact impact future decision making, sometimes to your detriment.
Make sure you know what you want and carefully consider the future before making any commitments or agreements.
Keep in mind that the judge will be influenced by his or her perception of what is in the best interests of the child. While both parents are theoretically seen as equal under the law, in some situations the father has a steeper hill to climb to achieve parity in the eyes of the court.
A parent files a petition for custody. Be sure that you confer with an attorney.
Both parents will then attend a regularly scheduled group custody conference where the Judge assigned to the case will explain the process.
Individual conferences will be held after the Judge’s introductory remarks.
If an agreement is reached, it will be put on the record and may be difficult to change.
If an agreement is not reached, the case most often will be referred to mandatory mediation through the Center for Alternatives in Community Justice (CACJ).
MEDIATION – If the case involved domestic violence issues, it will not be referred to mediation without the consent of both parties.
MEDIATION – If the moving party fails to appear for mediation orientation the complaint or petition is dismissed. If the responding party fails to appear for mediation orientation custodial time is suspended.
MEDIATION – If mediation is successful, an order is entered and may be difficult to change.
MEDIATION – The Center for Alternatives in Community Justice will submit a report to the Judge and a Custody Scheduling Order will be prepared for the Court for all cases which failed medication. Deadlines, schedules for pre-trial work, the date for a pre-hearing conference and the hearing will be scheduled.
If the case was not referred for mediation a Custody Scheduling Order will be prepared. Deadlines, schedules for pre-trial work, the date for a pre-hearing conference and the hearing will be scheduled.
A pre-hearing conference will be held with the Judge in chambers.
A custody hearing will be held.
All Custody related petitions will incur a $75 filing fee.