Child Custody in Butler County

Separation and divorce are some of the most stressful situations any person can face. They are infinitely more stressful, though, if issues of child custody are involved. Why? Because everyone involved—including both you and your spouse—wants to make sure that they do what's best for your child, and that's not always immediately clear. In fact, even if both of you agree on how your child should be raised, Butler County wants to be absolutely certain that every possible protection for your child is in place. As a result, a judge always needs to sign off on any agreement, and agreements must be formally ordered to ensure they have the force of law behind them.

Whether or not custody is under dispute in your case, you always need an LLF Law Firm attorney on your side to protect your interests. You can never be certain when your ex-spouse, their attorney, or even the judge may decide to contest your rights. The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can make sure nothing goes wrong and that you get terms that are both fair to you and in the best interests of your child.

If you need help with a custody matter in Butler County, call 888.535.3686 to find out how we can help, or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to set up a confidential consultation.

An Overview of the Child Custody Process in Butler County

In Butler County, child custody cases are handled by the Family Court system. Family Court offices are located in the Butler County Courthouse, at 124 West Diamond Street in Butler. The Court consists of two judges who work together with several Custody Conciliators to mediate and adjudicate issues. In addition to custody hearings, the Family Court deals with a wide range of domestic issues, including divorce, spousal support, and domestic violence matters.

The courtroom itself is located at 123 West Diamond Street, but this is also where you go any time you need to file paperwork or meet with your case conciliator.

Two Different Types of Child Custody

The very first thing you need to know about child custody is that there are two types. When a judge rules in a custody case, they must deal with both.

  • Physical Custody: Concerns who has day-to-day responsibility for taking care of the child. Who will ensure the child has basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter? Who will make sure the child gets to school each day? Who will take them to health care appointments and soccer practice? There are, of course, numerous ways to decide physical custody. Parents sometimes "share" custody. It could also be that one parent or the other is awarded "sole" custody, meaning they have primary responsibility for the child. There are also situations in which one parent's physical custody rights are limited in one way or another: maybe they are only allowed to visit with the child at certain times, or their visits must be supervised.
  • Legal custody: This has to do with who gets to make the important decisions about a child's care and upbringing. Legal custody relates to issues such as what school a child attends, what type of religion they practice, and what kind of medical care they receive. As with physical custody, legal custody can be granted to one parent, or it can be shared between two parents. In addition, the Court does not have to invest physical and legal custody in the same parent.

The Requirements to Seek Custody in Butler County

Only certain people may seek custody of a child in Butler County. Close relatives, including parents and grandparents, have this right. So, too, do persons who are not parents but who have taken on parental responsibilities for a child, such as a step-parent. Finally, custody is also sometimes granted to persons with a direct interest in a child's long-term welfare, but usually only in cases where neither parent is able to care properly for the child.

It's also important to note that, for the most part, no child can be the subject of a custody case in Butler County unless they have been living in that county for at least six months. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, such as when the child is less than six months old or when the safety of the child is in question.

The Child Custody Resolution Process in Butler County

If you do not already have a custody agreement, the first step is to file a Custody complaint. Despite its title, this document doesn't necessarily assign blame to one party or another but is simply used to initiate the process.

Both parents then meet with a Custody Conciliator. These officials don't accept pleadings (such as a Custody Complaint), advocate for one side or the other, or make decisions about custody matters. Rather, their job is to mediate between the two parties and help them come to an equitable agreement about what is best for the child. Children are not generally present at these meetings. You must attend, however, or you risk giving up some of your custodial rights. In addition, you should know that nothing said during a Conciliator meeting is admissible during an actual custody hearing. The Court wants both parties to have an open and frank discussion and to consider all the information in coming to an agreement.

The goal of the Conciliator is to help the two sides work out a custody agreement. If this happens, the Conciliator then forwards this agreement to the Court. The judge carefully considers the agreement and ensures it is in the child's best interest before signing it.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the Conciliator can recommend custody evaluations such as home studies, mental evaluations, counseling, and educational seminars. Additionally, they can submit the case to the Court for a trial before a Family Court judge.

Should your case proceed to a hearing, you'll have an opportunity to present your side before the judge. As part of your case, you may offer up evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You may also cross-examine the other side's witnesses. Ultimately, the judge considers the facts in the case and renders a decision.

There are exceptions to this process. If, for example, you feel your child is in danger, you can file a Petition for Special Relief. This petition expedites the process so that the Court considers the basic facts in the case immediately, often within twenty-four hours of filing the petition. It may be, for example, that a judge can grant you sole custody while the custody case plays out.

Your LLF Law Firm attorney can help you throughout this process, from contacting the Conciliator's Office to representing you during any custody hearings. They can accompany you to your meetings with the Conciliator, for example, and help ensure your rights and your point of view are respected. They'll submit evidence on your behalf at the trial and examine and cross-examine witnesses.

The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team has worked with hundreds of families throughout Pennsylvania, including in Butler County. We know how the system works and can help you navigate it successfully. Keep in mind that even if you and your ex-spouse agree on what should happen, you always need someone on your side to represent your interests and to ensure that the judge accepts the settlement you've agreed to.

What if I Disagree with the Terms of a Child Custody Order in Butler County?

How you challenge the terms of your child custody order in Butler County depends on how that order originated.

If your order arose out of a meeting with the Conciliator, you should contact the Conciliator before they submit the agreement to a judge and the judge officially signs it. Conciliators are empowered to change a custody agreement and resubmit it if both parties agree to the change. Otherwise, however, the case must then be moved to Family Court for a trial.

If your current custody agreement is the result of a trial and the order was determined by a Family Court judge, you can file a motion for reconsideration with the judge. If that's not effective, you can appeal the decision directly to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Your LLF Law Firm Team can help you determine which process is more appropriate, and they have experience helping clients challenge custody agreements. Keep in mind, however, that often, the window for filing such challenges is narrow. You have just thirty days, for instance, to file an appeal with the Superior Court once the Family Court judge issues the order. This means it's important you contact the LLF Law Firm sooner rather than later to discuss your case.

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

A child custody agreement is an official court order issued by a Family Court judge, so any violation of the agreement is a serious matter. A person violating the terms of the agreement can be held in contempt of Court. That means they may wind up paying a fine or, in some serious instances, spending time in jail. However, violating a court order isn't the same as breaking the law. That is, you cannot simply call the police and ask them to intervene. Instead, you must file a Petition for Contempt with the Butler Family Court. Only the Court can decide whether to hold your ex-spouse in contempt and what the appropriate punishment should be.

Should your ex-spouse continue to violate the terms of the agreement, you can also ask the judge to revise the order. If, for example, your ex-spouse continually returns your child later than the agreement requires, or they repeatedly put your child's welfare at risk, you can ask that the agreement be modified in ways that can correct the situation.

Of course, the LLF Law Firm understands that misunderstandings happen. Should your ex-spouse file a Petition of Contempt against you, we're also prepared to help you defend yourself.

What if I Want To Change the Terms of a Custody Order in Butler County?

Again, a child custody order is issued by a judge, and it carries the weight of law. That means your ex-spouse must abide by its terms. You must abide by them as well. Even if the two of you mutually agree to change those terms, you cannot do so without having those changes approved by the Court. Besides the fact that the order is a legally binding document, it's important that you give the judge the opportunity to make sure that the changes are truly in your child's best interests.

The proper way to make changes is to file a Petition for Modification. If both of you agree, a Conciliator may be able to take care of the changes without the need for a hearing. The judge still gets to review the changes.

If only one of you wants the changes, the procedure is the same. The person seeking the changes should file a Motion for Modification. If the Conciliator cannot help the two sides reach an agreement, then they will recommend the case move to a hearing before a family court judge. Both sides have the chance to offer evidence and call witnesses before the judge decides whether or not to grant the modification request.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is familiar with all court processes and procedures in Butler County. We know what Family Court judges look for in terms of evidence. We can help you put together a strong Petition for Modification and, if necessary, back it up in Court. Alternatively, we can work with you to counter a Petition for Modification if your ex-spouse should decide to file one.

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

You can trust the LLF Law Firm to be well-versed in Pennsylvania law regarding domestic disputes and custody issues. We've worked with clients across Pennsylvania and in every county, including Butler County. In addition, we know the Family Court system in Butler County and how to use it effectively.

You can count on the LLF Law Firm to fight for your rights. We'll make sure your voice is heard, that you're treated fairly and that you get the very best resolution to your case. 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're here to defend you.

More important than anything else, though, you should know that the LLF Law Firm Team 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 Butler 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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