How do I appeal a child custody order in Delaware County, PA?
Either party has the right to appeal a Custody Order within ten (10) days of same being entered by the Hearing Officer, also known as the "custody master," so long as the appealing party did not sign the Order indicating they agreed to its terms. For purposes of custody in Delaware County, a "party" is most often child's parent, but grandparents can also appeal a child custody order, and also third parties can also appeal a custody order in Delaware County under the legal doctrine of in loco parentis.
To file an appeal of a Custody Order, the appealing party must submit a "Notice of Demand for Hearing" with Delaware County Family Court within ten (10) days of the Custody Order's entry. Once an appeal is filed it will be assigned to a Family Court judge sitting in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. Each judge presiding over child custody cases in Delaware County will handle a custody appeal differently, but depending on the particular judge, he or she may: schedule a Pre-Trial Conference, request (Order) the preparation of Pre-Trial Statements with a proposed schedule for custody with supporting reasons; and/or schedule a "de novo" child custody trial.
What is a "de novo" child custody trial in Delaware County, PA?
A "de novo" trial in theory means that Delaware County Family Court will decide the child custody issues without reference to the legal conclusions or assumptions made by the previous authority that heard the case; regardless of whether the previous authority was a child custody master at an "Initial Conference" or "Extended Hearing" or a Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judge who previously presided over the custody case.
As stated, the trial is a de novo trial, but for practical purposes, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judge will inquire as to the current custody schedule and why it is unacceptable to one or both of the parties. The trial itself will be given a special listing time with the assigned child custody judge with the time and date possibly coordinated with the judge's chambers and the parties' attorneys. More than likely, however, the judge's chambers will schedule a hearing date and time and notify the parties' attorneys of the same. The child custody trial in Delaware County will take place at the Court of Common Pleas located at 201 W. Front Street, Media, PA 19063. The phone number to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas is 610-891-4000.
What kinds of evidence do I need to appeal a child custody order in Delaware County, PA?
A child custody trial before a judge in Media, Pennsylvania, is a full evidentiary trial. Any and all documents must be submitted in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence. This is especially important if a custody evaluator or similar professional has been retained in the case and authored a report. In order for the report to be entered into evidence at trial, the author of the child custody evaluation must be available for questioning.
The judge, after consultation with the parties' attorney, will determine if the child (or children) will be present at the trial. In certain situations it may be necessary, but parties' attorneys should always attempt to coordinate, to the extent possible, with opposing counsel and the judge when attempting to obtain the child's testimony at a custody trial. Some judges will arrange for the child's testimony on a date and time separate and apart from the other witnesses.
Attorney to Appeal Child Custody Order in Delaware County, PA
The stakes can be high when Delaware County Family Court decides the custody of a child or children. At times, a child custody order is issued that worked at a prior time, but due to a change in circumstances in the lives of the parties or the children, the order no longer works. At other times, a custody order, whether agreed to by the parties or issued by the Court, may have never been effective. Whether the petitioner or respondent in a child custody appeal in Media, a child custody attorney experienced with Delaware County Family Court practice and procedure can help you navigate the steps required, and can help you achieve your goals related to the appeal of a custody order affecting your child or children. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today to learn how he can help.