Delaware County is home to over 500,000 residents across its many townships. Delaware County's branch of Family Law is headquartered in the county's own Court of Common Pleas. Located in Media, PA, the Family Court is just a part of the larger Delaware County Courthouse Complex. The court itself is led by a total of 24 judges, 4 of whom are senior judges. Matters of Family Law are handled in the Domestic Relations division of the Court of Common Pleas. This division is staffed by 135 employees, all there to help smooth along the already difficult and emotional process of a Family Law case. Depending on the particular office, the courts are open Monday through Friday from the hours of 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, except on holidays. The address is: 201 W Front St, Media, PA 19063.
Family Law In Delaware County
The division of domestic relations in Delaware County offers a wide variety of services to families making use of its services. The court offers individual case management for each case. Families are able to maintain contact with their own caseworker, who will remain their caseworker for the duration of the case, up until resolution. There is also a customer service department to help address any clerical needs for the case, and to help extend further communication between the court and the family. Services offered through the domestic relations division include:
- Locating non-custodial parents: Investigative services will work on locating absent parents.
- Establishing Paternity: Paternity tests are done by a state-sponsored program that offers genetic testing at a meager cost to the individual.
- Establishing child and spousal support orders: The division will assist with the issuance of a court order to have one party provide support to the other, or the custodial party's child.
- Reviewing and adjusting support orders: If a support order needs adjustment or review of its terms, it will be handled at this division.
- Interstate enforcement of support orders: Delaware County works with other counties and other states to ensure that support orders are being followed by the absent party.
What To Expect In Court
When you apply for services rendered by the Domestic Relations division, you will be assigned a caseworker to handle your specific case. The caseworker will then work together with the court, your attorney, and the court's support services to move your case along. The court makes use of both judges and designated support masters to decide upon cases. Support masters are court-appointed decision-makers that can initiate court orders in lieu of a judge, so long as it pertains to a support agreement. If your case is for the enforcement of a support order, a case manager will work to attempt to settle it, however, if it cannot be settled, a judge will make a determination on the order.
Protection from Abuse Orders
A Protection from Abuse Order (or PFA) is a civil court order that is meant to protect individuals from harm in domestic settings and relationships. For example, it is often used to protect people who experience stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, or assault. The key to a PFA is that the named individuals must have at some point had a domestic relationship. What are some examples of who that might include?
- A child of one of the named individuals
- A sibling of the named individual
- Someone who lives with the person the order is against
- A spouse, intimate sexual partner, former spouse, former intimate sexual partner
A PFA is there to protect the individual from any harassment, threats, or violence (whether physical or sexual) that could reasonably cause bodily injury to the person. When a person requests a PFA, the parameters must be followed by both parties until it expires or is rescinded by the courts. If the parties “make up” prior to the court, they will need to make certain that the PFA is no longer active, or their contact might violate the parameters of the order.
PFAs can dictate forms of communication, amount of communication, physical proximity, and more.
An initial PFA is temporary and generally expires in seven to ten days, depending on when the final hearing is set. At the hearing, a judge will determine whether or not the PFA will convert into a final PFA. These can last for up to three years. Any individual who's named in a PFA is entered into a statewide database.
Child Custody Concerns in Delaware County
If two partners cannot agree on how to determine child custody, visitation, and support, they may need to engage the courts to make those decisions. Although this is not ideal, it happens frequently. In these instances, the judge will examine what is in the “best interests of the child.” To make this determination, the judge will most likely consider many different factors.
Some of them are:
- the parents' ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate when it comes to the child;
- the interaction and relationship the child has with their parents and siblings;
- the history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, if any;
- the child's preference, if they're of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
- any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
- the child's needs;
- the fitness of the parents—mental, financial, physical, and so forth;
- the geographical closeness of the parents' homes;
- the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
- the parents' employment responsibilities;
- the stability each home environment offers;
- the parents' willingness to accept custody
After careful consideration of these factors, the judge will decide on physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child will actually reside. This can be split between the parents or given to only one parent. Legal custody is what allows an individual to have a say in legal matters for the child. This concerns decisions such as where the child will go to school, health and medical care needs, and religious upbringing.
Best Family Law Attorney in Delaware County
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law in Delaware County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.