The Bucks County court performs legal services for a county of over 600,000 residents. The courthouse is located in Doylestown. The court is headed by a total of 16 judges, with 4 of them being senior judges. The court operates from the hours of 8:00 am through 5:00 pm on business days. Similar to other counties, the Court of Common Pleas in Bucks County is split into several divisions: criminal, civil, family, and orphan's law. Family law is handled in the domestic relations division of the court. Two of the most prominent family law concerns are child custody and protection from abuse orders.
Key Things You Need to Know About Child Custody in Bucks County
When two parties are unable to come to an agreement about child custody, visitation, and support, they must go to court so that a judge can determine what is in the best interest of the child. In order to ascertain what this actually means, a judge will do their best to understand everything that they can about the family. The courts will try to uncover any information they can about the divorcing family. They'll consider family dynamics, familial relationships, as well as the health and wellbeing of the parents.
In order to discern what is best for the child, the courts will try to understand as much as possible about the divorcing family: family dynamics, relationships among siblings, and child to parent relationships, as well as the health and wellbeing of the parents. There are a variety of factors that they use to help them make this decision. Here are a few of them, although the list is not comprehensive.
- How close will the two parents' residences be? What is the distance from the child's school to the residences?
- Are the two parents able to work together for the benefit of their child? Can they do so without fighting and arguing?
- Does either parent have a history of alcohol or drug abuse?
- What will the parents' work schedules be?
- Has one parent tried to alienate the other from the child, for a reason other than reasonable safety measures in instances of domestic or sexual abuse?
- How available are each of the parents when it comes to caring for the child?
- Are there extended family members nearby who will be able to assist?
- Have there been any instances of domestic abuse or sexual abuse involving the parents?
- Are there any other relevant factors that need to be taken into consideration?
Given what is uncovered, the judge will then attempt to determine both legal and physical custody in a way that meets the best interests of any children that are involved.
Legal custody is what affords parents the right to participate in decision-making around issues such as religion, education, and health. Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like; it is a decision around where the child will live.
Protection From Abuse Orders
In Bucks County, the Protection for Abuse Orders, or PFAs, are filed at the court in Doylestown. A protection from abuse order is non-criminal (i.e. civil), and according to the Bucks County PFA site, is meant to safeguard:
- “Spouses, or persons living as spouses, whether they live together now or did in the past.
- Parents, children and other persons related by blood or marriage including persons who share biological parenthood
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners”
The initial PFA that an individual receives is temporary and expires in seven to ten business days, depending on when the final hearing is scheduled for.
This temporary PFA is meant for individuals who have been physically or sexually assaulted or abused, or who have a real fear for their safety. Although it is possible to file the petition for the order on your own, it's best to do so with an expert's help, as judges sometimes do decline a request.
Once the temporary PFA expires, the hearing occurs. At the hearing, counsel will present arguments against (and for) extending the PFA into a final PFA. A final PFA may last for up to three years, and an individual can petition to extend it.
Services Offered At Bucks County Family Court
The division of domestic relations offers a number of services for individuals seeking a resolution to matters of Family Law. Services offered at the court include:
- Filing cases against out-of-state, non-custodial parents: If a support agreement or other case must be filed against a parent or other party outside of the limits of the county or state
- Location services: If a non-custodial parent cannot be located, the court offers investigative services for tracking them down.
- Establishing paternity: The domestic relations division will make use of genetic testing to seek out paternity in all cases where the children are born out of wedlock, but no paternity acknowledgement was signed.
- Interpreter services: For court attendees who do not speak English, the court will provide interpreter services.
What To Expect In Court
When your Family Law case reaches the court in Bucks County, you may not have a full hearing with a judge right away. This is common in cases dealing with spousal or child support. Bucks County's domestic relation division offers brief mediative meetings known as support conferences. These conferences are intended to create a support order that is fairly based on both parties' respective incomes. Legal representation is allowed at these hearings, though if you do not have legal representation, certain arrangements will be taken to attempt to make this less unfair. Even though a support conference occurs outside of the courtroom, an attorney should be present at this stage to help protect your interests. If an agreement cannot be reached, your case may go on to a hearing.
On the day of your court hearing, you will be asked to be there promptly at 8:30 am. The address is 100 North Main Street, Doylestown, PA 18901.
Be sure to arrive with enough time to park and meet with your attorney.
A domestic relations officer will continue to make attempts at resolution prior to your hearing with the judge. Failure to attend may incite contempt from the court and can lead to incarceration or bench warrants being issued against you. Judges may issue orders even if one of the parties is not present for some matters, such as modification. It is important to note that Bucks County’s Court does NOT permit children into the courtroom and does NOT provide any childcare services for the duration, so you should seek childcare services prior to your court date.
Skilled Family Court Attorney for Bucks County
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law in Bucks County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today. With his many years of experience and his passionate dedication, he will not give up and he will fight for what is right. He will stand by your side and help you navigate the complexities of family law. You can reach out online, or you can call 888.535.3686.