Custody and Visitation Information
There is a three-step process for obtaining Custody, Partial Custody or Visitation in the Courts in Cambria County. You must:
- file a Complaint for Custody and Visitation;
- appear at a pre-conference hearing;
- and appear at a final hearing.
- Step #1: Preparing a Complaint for Custody and Visitation.
The first step in obtaining custody is to prepare a Complaint for Custody and Visitation and have it filed with the Court. You should have an attorney represent you. You may hire a private attorney or contact Laurel Legal Services, Inc. to see if you are eligible for their services.
- Step #2: Attending a Conference or a Pre-conference Hearing.
The purpose of a conference or a pre-conference hearing is so that the parties can identify any problems that exist and to see whether temporary (or permanent) custody arrangements can be reached between the parties. Temporary agreements help to establish who has Primary Physical and Legal Custody and when Visitation will occur between the time of the Conference and the time of the final hearing. Sometimes both parties can agree on a full and complete Custody arrangement so that no additional hearing is necessary. Failure to attend a Conference or Pre-conference hearing could result in your Complaint being dismissed by the Court.
- Step #3: Attending the Hearing.
The purpose of the hearing is to listen to testimony from both parties and from all of the witnesses that the parties bring to the Court. After the hearing officer listens to the witnesses, he/she will make a "Proposed Order of Court". If you have OBJECTIONS to the proposed order of court, you must identify what items you are objecting to and you must notify the court of your objections. In Cambria County, you have 20 days from the date listed on the Proposed Order in which you can file objections. If no objections are filed, the Court will sign the Proposed Order and this will become a Final Order of Court that the parties must follow.
- HUGS CLASSES:
In every custody action filed in Cambria County, the parties are directed to attend "HUGS" classes. The purpose of the Classes is to help the parties understand what the children are going through at this time. The HUGS classes are scheduled for a date BEFORE the final hearing. Both parties must attend the HUGS classes. If you fail to attend the HUGS classes, the Courts in Cambria County will not grant you custody or visitation. The same rules apply to the other party. If they fail to attend the HUGS classes, they will not receive any custody or visitation.
In regard to Custody and Visitation matters, an IFP Petition is filed at the same time as the filing of the Complaint for Custody and Visitation. This is important since the costs for filing a Complaint is $100.00 and the costs for the HUGS class is $80.00. If the IFP petition is not filed at the same time as the Complaint, then the person filing the complaint MUST pay the $100.00 and $80.00 costs at the time the complaint is filed.