Child Custody in Cambria County

In any separation or divorce, rarely does any issue cause more stress or challenges than determining custody of a child. Emotions tend to run high, sometimes to the point of losing track of what is best for the child. Even when both parties agree on how child custody should be structured, a judge must still review the agreement and issue a formal order to make it legally binding. If parents cannot agree on custody, the courts must decide in the best interest of the child, which can lead to less-than-favorable outcomes.

In Cambria County, child custody cases are handled by the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Section, commonly referred to as Family Court. The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is prepared to safeguard your rights and the rights of your child in Cambria County child custody cases, whether or not there is a dispute over custody arrangements. Contact us today at 888.535.3686 or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to arrange a confidential consultation to discover how we can assist you.

Where Are Child Custody Cases Handled in Cambria County?

The Domestic Relations Section offices in Cambria County are located at the Cambria County Services Building, 236 Jamesway Road, Ebensburg, PA. This is where you need to file child custody complaints and related documents. If your case proceeds to court, the hearings will take place at the County Courthouse, situated at 200 South Center Street, Ebensburg.

Child custody disputes are adjudicated by hearing officers and judges specializing in domestic relations. Besides custody, Family Court judges also deal with divorce, child and spousal support, and domestic violence issues.

Types of Child Custody

Child custody is categorized into two main types: physical custody and legal custody. Understanding the difference between these two is crucial since both need to be addressed in a judge's custody order.

  • Physical Custody: This type of custody determines who takes care of the child on a daily basis, provides food, clothing, and shelter, and ensures the child attends school, activities, and medical appointments. Physical custody can be granted primarily to one parent or shared between both parents, allowing significant time for each parent to spend with the child. Sometimes, one parent may receive sole custody, while the other may have limited visitation rights, which could be supervised by a court-appointed monitor.
  • Legal Custody: This pertains to who makes essential decisions regarding the child's upbringing, such as their religious practices, educational choices, and medical care. Legal custody can be a joint responsibility or assigned to one parent alone, who may or may not be the same parent with physical custody.

Requirements for Seeking Child Custody in Cambria County

As a general rule, the Cambria County Family Court will only hear custody cases in which the child in question has resided in the county for at least six months. The court may make exceptions to this rule if the child is younger than six months old or if there are allegations of abandonment, abuse of the child, or abuse involving the child's sibling or parent.

Only specific individuals are permitted to file for custody. Depending on the situation, those who have standing to bring a custody case may include a parent, a grandparent, someone who has been caring for the child and has taken on parental responsibilities, or an individual who is willing to assume responsibility for the child and has a long-standing interest in the child's welfare, especially if neither parent is able to care for the child.

Procedure for Resolving Child Custody Cases in Cambria County

Typically, the first step in a child custody case in Cambria County is to file a "Complaint for Custody" with the Domestic Relations Section. In urgent situations where the child's health, safety, or welfare is immediately at risk, it might also be necessary to file a "Petition for Emergency Relief," which is usually reviewed and ruled upon within a day of filing. For issues that need prompt resolution but do not pose an immediate threat to the child, a "Petition for Expedited Relief" can be filed, ensuring the court addresses the matter more quickly than the typical timeline for resolving a Complaint for Custody.

If no emergency or expedited relief is requested, the case will be assigned to a Custody Hearing Officer for a conference. Both parties will receive notification of the date, time, and location of the conference. During the conference, the Hearing Officer will meet with both parties to facilitate an agreement on child custody terms. If an agreement is reached, the court will review the terms to determine if they align with the child's best interests. Working with an experienced attorney from the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can ensure that all aspects of the custody agreement are considered, increasing the likelihood that the judge will deem it to be in the child's best interests without amendments or alterations.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement before the Hearing Officer, the case will be decided by the judge. In certain situations, the judge may advise both parties to engage a mediator—a trained, neutral third party who is not the Hearing Officer—to attempt to resolve the custody dispute.

If mediation does not result in an agreement, a formal hearing will determine custody of the child. This hearing can take place either before the Hearing Officer or directly before the judge. During the hearing, each side will have the opportunity to present evidence, including witness testimony and relevant documents, to support their stance on child custody. The judge or Hearing Officer will focus on determining what arrangement serves the child's best interests, which might lead to a custody order that neither parent finds ideal.

When a Hearing Officer conducts the hearing, they will draft a recommended custody order. In most instances, the judge will review and sign off on this recommendation, converting it into a binding order. Regardless of whether the resolution stems from an agreement, a Hearing Officer's recommendation, or a judicial hearing, the final outcome will be an official child custody order issued by the Family Court judge.

At the LLF Law Firm, our Family Law Team has successfully represented many clients in child custody cases in Cambria County and across Pennsylvania. We recognize the critical nature of these proceedings and are prepared to help you safeguard your rights and achieve a custody arrangement that prioritizes your child's well-being.

If You Disagree with the Child Custody Order Terms

If a Hearing Officer, rather than a judge, issued the proposed custody order, you have 20 days from the issuance of that order to file "exceptions." These exceptions must detail the specific objections you have to the Hearing Officer's proposed order. After exceptions are filed, the judge will hold a hearing to address them, allowing both parties to argue for or against the proposed custody order.

If the child custody matter was decided by a judge and you are dissatisfied with the order, there are two courses of action: You can file a motion for reconsideration with the judge, or you can appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judge issuing the custody order, regardless of whether a motion for reconsideration has been submitted. You may file this appeal at the Prothonotary Office of the Cambria County Courthouse.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is ready to advise you if you disagree with a child custody order or if the other party contests an order you support. We have extensive knowledge of the laws and procedures concerning disputed custody orders and can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

Violations of a Custody Order in Cambria County

Violating a child custody order, which is an official court order issued by a Family Court judge, is a serious offense. The violating party can be held in contempt of court, potentially resulting in fines or imprisonment. Before this can occur, the other party must file a Petition for Contempt with the same court that originally decided the custody matter.

In cases where one party repeatedly violates the custody order, the other party may request the court to modify the order to prevent future violations. This can arise in scenarios where one parent fails to return the child according to the court-ordered schedule or repeatedly places the child in jeopardizing situations.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has a deep understanding of the requirements for filing contempt petitions in family court matters. Our experienced attorneys can assist you in filing a contempt petition or defending against one in Cambria County Family Court.

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

Child custody orders are court directives that specify each parent's responsibilities regarding their child's welfare. Therefore, any modifications to these terms must also be approved by the judge. Even if both parents agree to alter the existing arrangement, judicial approval is necessary to avoid being found in contempt of the court's order. The rationale behind this requirement is that child custody orders prioritize the child's best interests, not the convenience of the parents.

To amend a custody order properly, you must file a Petition for Modification of Custody Order with the Family Court in Cambria County. This allows the judge to review the reasons for the requested change and determine if the modification serves the child's best interests.

In instances where only one parent seeks to modify the custody order, the procedure remains the same: filing a motion with the Cambria County Family Court detailing the requested changes and justifications. The judge will then hold a hearing to consider arguments from both parties before deciding whether to approve, deny, or modify the request.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is well-versed in the standards used by judges in Cambria County when assessing custody order modification motions. We can assist you whether you are seeking to change the existing order or opposing a requested modification.

The LLF Law Firm Can Help You With Custody Issues in Cambria County

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has extensive experience assisting parents with the most complex child custody issues, both in Cambria County and throughout Pennsylvania. We will collaborate with you to gather the necessary information to support your position regarding the custody order terms and advocate for your parental rights while always considering what is in your child's best interests.

If there is a violation of custody terms, we will help you enforce them; if you're accused of violating custody terms, we will defend you against contempt charges.

Beyond handling disputes over child custody terms, we can also facilitate agreements between parties. One of the most valuable services our attorneys provide is leveraging their experience with the Family Court to help craft a custody agreement that is acceptable to both parties and likely to be approved by the judge. Reaching an agreement only to have it rejected by the court benefits no one.

Your child's future is important to you; let us help you secure it. If you are dealing with a child custody issue in Cambria County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888.535.3686 or use 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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