Chester County is one of Pennsylvania's three original counties. The county has over 500,000 residents and has a rich history regarding the state's contribution to the Revolutionary War. The county's courthouse is located in West Chester. The court, known as the County Court of Common Pleas, is split into four administrative divisions: the civil court administration, the criminal court administration, the family court administration and the orphans court administration. There are 17 judges in total, with 13 operating full time and 4 senior judges. The family court administration handles cases of child and spousal support, custody filing, divorce filing, protection from abuse, and equitable distribution.
What To Expect In Court
The custody process in Chester County's court follows a few a steps. First and foremost, a custody complaint must be filed with the court. Complaints can be filed for either modification of a prior custody agreement, or to obtain a new custody agreement. Your attorney will be able to help you with the filing. In any matters of family law, it is best to have an attorney in your corner as early as possible, as an attorney can be helpful both in and out of the courtroom. The next step in the custody process is a court mandated mediation session, with a court appointed and approved individual acting as mediator. Attorneys may not attend this meeting, though you may want an attorney's coaching prior to the meeting. If the mediation fails, a custody conciliation will occur. The conciliation is decided upon by a Master, a court appointed individual who acts somewhat like a judge. Your attorney and the opposing party's attorney can attend this hearing. Finally, if all else fails, you will have a hearing in front of a judge.
Much like custody proceedings, support proceedings also follow a multi-step process. A support complaint must be filed for the process to begin. After this, you will have a support conference with yourself, the other party, and an assigned conference officer. After this conference, a temporary support order will be enacted. Following this, either party is welcome to request a hearing before a Master. A hearing with a Master is similar to a hearing in front of judge. Hearings will be evidentiary in nature, and recorded as well. At this stage in the process you will definitely want the support from an attorney. An attorney will be familiar with both rules of evidence, and how to navigate through the court of Family Law. After the hearing, the Master will render a decision. Either party will then be able to file an exception, similar to an appeal, to a judge of the court, who will then make the final decision.
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law in Chester County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.