If you have questions regarding child custody, or are having a difficult time working out a custody schedule with the other parent of your child(ren), you can contact a private attorney. Laurel Legal Services, Inc. can provide advice or formal representation in limited cases.
Custody cases are determined by examining what is in the child(ren)'s best interests. A custody case is initiated by the filing of a Complaint, a formal document which identifies the parties and asks the court for relief. The custody complaint will be filed through the Court of Common Pleas. After the complaint is filed, the court will schedule a Custody Conciliation Conference and Order the parties to attend a class for divorcing and separating parents. The Conciliation Conference is a meeting wherein the parties and their attorneys must put forth a good faith effort to settle the case. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, then the court will schedule the matter for Mediation.
The parties and the minor child(ren) must appear at the Mediation, and all are interviewed by the court appointed mediator. The mediator is usually a psychologist. After listening to the parties, the mediator will make a recommendation for resolving the case. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at mediation, the mediator will issue a report to the judge which describes the disagreement.
The next stage beyond Mediation is a Pre-trial Conference. Prior to the scheduling of a Pre-trial Conference, the parties' attorneys are required to file a Pre-trial Statement indicating the facts of the case, their custody proposal, trial witnesses, and the amount of time needed to present the case at trial. During the Pre-trial Conference, the judge will ask for the status of the matter and if an agreement is close to being reached. A custody trial will be scheduled if an agreement has not been reached.