Child Custody in Beaver County

Just because you're going through a separation or divorce, it doesn't mean you care less about your role as a parent. In fact, during such a stressful time, you're likely more concerned about your child than ever. That's one reason child custody decisions can be so emotional. Both parents want what's best for the child, and both parents believe they know what that is.

The LLF Law Firm is on your side. Our Family Law Team's primary job is to make sure your rights are protected and your point of view is heard. We know how difficult working out a custody agreement can be, though, and we're also here to help make the process as easy as possible. We don't just know the law: we know the custody system in Beaver County, and we can help you navigate it.

We work with clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Beaver County. If you need help with a custody matter, call 888.535.3686 today or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to tell us more about your case.

An Overview of the Child Custody Process in Beaver County

Beaver County's Child Custody Program works in conjunction with the Court of Common Pleas. The program operates out of the Beaver County Courthouse, which is located at 810 Third Street in Beaver. All legal business relating to custody matters is conducted in the courthouse. This is where you'll find Custody Conference Officers' offices and judges' offices. It is also where you'll go any time you need to file paperwork.

Beaver County's program follows all state laws and procedures. However, within the basic outline of how custody cases are decided, Pennsylvania counties have some latitude in developing their own procedures. In Beaver County, for example, cases are initially handled by Custody Conference Officers rather than judges or Hearing Officers. Unlike other counties, Beaver County doesn't have a dedicated Family Court to deal with these matters.

Two Different Types of Child Custody

If you're just beginning to work out a child custody agreement, the first thing you should know is that there are two kinds of child custody. Your agreement should address both.

  • Physical Custody: When most people think of child custody, they think of "physical custody." This refers to the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for a child. Physical custody has to do with things like providing a child's basic necessities—food, clothing, and shelter. Who's job is it to make sure a child gets to school each day? Who is responsible for taking them to doctors' appointments and soccer practice? There are a number of ways in which physical custody can be divided. The Court can award "shared" custody, giving different responsibilities to different parents. It can award one parent or the other "sole" custody, meaning that the parent has primary responsibility for the child's well-being. It also sometimes happens that a judge will restrict one parent's rights, allowing them to visit with the child only at certain times, for instance, or under supervision.
  • Legal Custody: This type of custody is related to more holistic decisions about a child's care and upbringing. Physical custody, for instance, might concern what type of religion a child practices, whether or not they attend public or private schools, and what type of medical care they receive. Legal custody often sets the framework for deciding physical custody issues. As with physical custody, legal custody can be granted to one parent, or it can be shared between two parents. You should also be aware that the Court does not have to invest in physical and legal custody of the same parent. Instead, it can split these two kinds of custody between the parents.

The Requirements to Seek Custody in Beaver County

Custody cases don't always involve parents. However, only certain persons in Beaver County may seek custody of a child. Of course, close relatives, such as parents and grandparents, have this right. You can also seek custody if you've taken on parental responsibilities for a child. Step-parents, for example, often ask the Court for custody of the children they're helping to raise. In some cases, the Court will also grant custody to persons with a clear, direct interest in a child's long-term care. Typically, however, this only occurs in cases where there are no close relatives who can care for the child.

You should also be aware that Beaver County does not allow a custody agreement to move forward until a child has been living in the county for at least six months. There are some exceptions to this policy, though. If a child is less than six months old, for instance, or they are in imminent danger, the Child Custody Program may step in.

The Child Custody Resolution Process in Beaver County

The first step in the custody resolution process is to file a Custody Complaint with the Beaver County Prothonotary, the Officer who handles all civil filings.

A judge from the Court of Common Pleas coordinates the process. For instance, they set the time and date for the custody conference. However, they do not participate directly at this stage.

As part of the custody conference, both sides meet with a Custody Conference Officer to work towards an equitable resolution. The goal of the Officer at this point is to mediate between the two sides and work towards an agreement both sides will accept. They are to remain objective rather than take one person's side over the other. You should bring your LLF Law Firm Family Law Team with you to this conference, as they can be instrumental in making sure your voice is heard and your rights are protected.

If both sides in the case can come to an agreement, the Custody Conference Officer then drafts an Order and submits it to the Court of Common Pleas. A judge reviews the Order to make sure it is in the child's best interests and signs it. At that point, it takes immediate effect.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the Custody Conference Officer has the authority at that point to draft an Order based on what they believe is in the child's best interests. Again, this document is forwarded to a judge for review.

At this point, you have 20 days to file an "exception" to the Order, requesting the judge make revisions. In most cases, the judge then sets a hearing to review these exceptions. At the hearing, you have the right to offer evidence and to call witnesses. You can also raise questions about the other side's evidence and cross-examine their witnesses.

If the hearing cannot resolve the matter, the judge may decide to hold a full trial to determine custody. Again, this gives you the opportunity to argue your side of the case through evidence and witnesses.

Should you disagree with the final custody order, you have two remaining options. You can file a Motion for Reconsideration asking the judge to revisit their decision. You can also file an appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Your LLF Law Firm Attorney Is Here to Help You Through Every Stage of the Process.

  • Draft your initial Custody Complaint and make sure it is properly filed
  • Work with you before the custody conference to outline what you want from an agreement and what kind of strategies you'll employ during the conference
  • Accompany you to the conference and represent your interests
  • Ensure any custody agreement meets your expectations
  • File any exceptions to the custody agreement
  • Represent you at any hearings, including submitting evidence on your behalf and conducting witness examination
  • Represent you at trial if necessary
  • File a Motion for Reconsideration if necessary
  • Draft and file an appeal with the Superior Court if necessary

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has worked with hundreds of families in Pennsylvania, and we have experience in Beaver County. We are skilled negotiators and can help mediate a fair settlement. When necessary, though, we can be fierce litigators, and you can count on us to fight for your interests. Keep in mind that even if you and your ex-spouse agree on the important elements of a custody agreement, you can never tell when a Custody Conference Officer or a judge may decide to reject your agreement and replace it with their own Order. It's always to your advantage to have an LLF Law Firm attorney in your corner to protect your rights.

What Happens if My Ex Violates the Child Custody Order in Beaver County?

A child custody agreement isn't just an agreement between two parties. It is an official court order signed by a court judge. Any violation of that Order is a serious matter. Should your ex-spouse decide not to follow that Order, you have the right to let the Court know.

It is important to note that you cannot simply call the police to resolve a custody dispute unless your child is in imminent danger. Violating a court order is not the same as breaking the law. You must file a Petition for Contempt with the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas. Only the Court can officially rule whether or not your ex-spouse did indeed commit a violation. However, the Court does have the power to punish individuals who refuse to follow its orders. Punishments for contempt can range from a fine to jail time.

Further, should your ex-spouse repeatedly violate the Custody Order, you can ask that the Court reconsider the agreement. If your ex-spouse repeatedly returns your child to you late or puts your child's welfare at risk in some way, for instance, you might request "sole" custody.

The LLF Law Firm isn't just available to help you negotiate custody agreements. We can also help ensure your ex-spouse is held responsible for honoring the terms of your custody agreement, and we can work with the courts to hold them accountable when they commit violations.

What if I Want to Change the Terms of a Custody Order in Beaver County?

The proper way to change a custody order in Beaver County is to file a Petition for Modification. Again, all civil actions should be filed with the Prothonotary. As with the initial custody agreement, the Court usually assigns the case to a Custody Conference Officer. If you and your ex-spouse agree as to the changes, they may simply draft a modified Order and submit it to the judge. If, on the other hand, your ex-spouse objects to the changes or requests a modification that you wish to reject, the Court may order an additional hearing to decide the matter.

You never want to violate the existing court order without Court approval, though, even if you and your spouse agree to the changes. Again, custody orders are issued by judges, and they carry the weight of the law. Whether or not you have your ex-spouse's permission to violate the Order in some way, a violation is contempt of the Court, and you can be held liable.

The reason for this is that the Court wants to make sure that any changes truly are in the child's best interests and not simply being made for one or the other parents' convenience.

If you're looking to file a Petition for Modification or you need to respond to a Petition for Modification, the LLF Law Firm can help. We're familiar with Beaver County processes and procedures. We also know what kind of evidence judges expect in these filings. And, of course, if it's necessary, we can represent you at the Custody Conference and at any hearings or other proceedings.

How the LLF Law Firm Can Help You With Custody Issues in Beaver County

The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team is knowledgeable when it comes to Pennsylvania Law. We've worked for a number of years in the field of domestic disputes and custody issues, and we understand the system. In addition, we've worked with clients across Pennsylvania, including in Beaver County.

You can count on the LLF Law Firm to fight for your rights and to get you the very best possible resolution to your case. We'll make sure your voice is heard and that you are treated fairly. If there's a trial or a hearing, we're here to represent you. We can help you to enforce the terms of your custody agreement if need be. We can work with you to modify those terms. And if you should ever be accused of violating an agreement, we'll defend you.

More important than anything else, though, you should know that the LLF Law Firm has your and your child's best interests at heart. We know just how difficult these situations can be. Emotions can run high, and it's not always easy to maintain composure, balance, and perspective. We're always on your side, though, and ready to do what we can to make the situation as smooth as possible.

If you are facing a child custody issue in Beaver County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888.535.3686 or by using our contact form to set up a confidential consultation.

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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