Child Custody in Centre County

A separation or divorce is already hard enough; adding child custody to the equation can make the whole thing even more complex. Even when the couple agrees on the next steps, the process is rarely simple because a judge has to review any agreement before it can be enforced. In Centre County, child custody cases are overseen by the Court of Common Pleas, specifically the Centre County Prothonotary's Office.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can advise you in any child custody case in Centre County, even if both parties seem to be in full agreement about custody. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or fill out the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact form to set up a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help make sure you are prepared for all the little nuances that come with getting your child's custody squared away.

Where Are Child Custody Cases Heard in Centre County?

If you have a child custody case in Centre County, you will need to file all documents and attend any hearings at 102 South Allegheny Street in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. That's where the Centre County Prothonotary's Office is located, specifically in Centre County Courthouse, Room 102.

The same Courts that handle child custody issues in Centre County also handle divorce, child and spousal support claims, and domestic violence allegations.

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody?

When it comes time to craft a child custody agreement, it's important to take into account the two types of child custody: Physical custody and legal custody and what they mean, particularly in the context of parents who might end up blurring the lines a bit with their kids.

  • Physical custody refers to who is in charge of the day-to-day needs of the kid, like providing food and shelter. However, this type of custody doesn't just stop at keeping the child alive; it also includes making sure the kid has access to school and other activities. This type of custody can be awarded to one parent, with the other parent restricted to only visits – supervised or not – or it can be shared, with both parents splitting time equally with the child and both of them trying to care for the child's basic needs to the best of their abilities.
  • Legal custody refers to the parent who is in charge of the important decisions about the child's life, not just the day-to-day stuff. Things like what religion the child will practice, what school they will attend, or even medical decisions might fall on the parent who has been awarded legal custody. Parents can, of course, make these determinations together, but a court can also determine which parent will have the final say in case they cannot agree – and a court can even determine one parent will have physical custody while another will have legal custody if it considers that is in the best interest of the child.

What Are the Requirements to Seek Custody of a Child in Centre County?

Seeking custody of a child in Centre County is pretty straightforward. As long as the child has lived in Centre County for at least six months, a case can be filed in front of the Centre County Prothonotary's Office. If a child has not lived in the County for that long, but the case involves child abuse or abandonment of the child, a parent, or a sibling, the case can still be filed. Likewise, if the child is a newborn, the case can also be filed.

If you have a custody order from another state, you can also petition the court to handle your case.

However, not everyone can bring forward a custody case. Custody cases require a connection to the child, which is why the most common ones come from parents or grandparents. Very rare instances can see someone who has assumed parental responsibilities and has a long-standing interest in the child's welfare petition for custody.

What Is the Procedure Used to Resolve Child Custody Cases in Centre County?

There are a few different ways a child custody case can start, and they will all depend on whether the situation between the parents is cordial or not. If it is, then the parties can just file a "Complaint for Custody" with the Centre County Prothonotary's Office that details the custody agreement the two parties have reached and wait for the next steps.

If, however, the child is in immediate danger, one of the parents can file a "Petition for Emergency Relief" instead of a regular "Complaint for Custody," and that petition will be reviewed and decided within a day. There's also the possibility of filing a "Petition for Expedited Relief" for non-emergency situations that, nonetheless, require a quicker response than a standard complaint.

However, it's important to keep in mind that both the "Petition for Emergency Relief" and the "Petition for Expedited Relief" require an actual reason for filing and cannot just be filed because you want your case to be decided more quickly.

If you don't have a reason for either of those, the process will begin with a hearing before a Custody Hearing Officer. Both parents will be notified of the date and time of such a hearing, as well as where exactly it will be held. The purpose of this meeting is to reach an agreement on custody terms. If, during the hearing, the parties can agree on terms, the court will then review the terms and decide if the terms the parties have put forth are indeed in the best interest of the child.

Since an agreement does not guarantee the judge will accept the terms, working with the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team will ensure that whatever agreement you reach is one that takes into account all a judge needs to approve it.

If there's no agreement, the case moves from a Custody Hearing Officer to a judge. In some cases, a judge might suggest the parties use the services of a mediator to try to reach an agreement, especially if they were close to reaching one in their hearing with the Custody Hearing Officer. However, if the parties still cannot agree, another hearing will be held – either before the Hearing Officer or before the judge.

This hearing is the moment for both parties to present evidence, be it documents or witnesses, to support their proposed custody arrangements. The judge or Hearing Officer will take into account what both parties say and focus on what is best for the child while making a decision.

If the case is heard by a Hearing Officer, they will issue a recommended custody order that the judge can then sign as a formal child custody order. If it's heard by a judge, they will make the final decision themselves. Either way, the end result will always be a child custody order issued by a Family Court judge.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has helped many clients with child custody matters in Centre County and across Pennsylvania. Our team can help you secure a custody agreement that doesn't just protect you but also prioritizes your child's best interests.

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

Your options if you disagree with the terms of a child custody order in Centre County depend on who made the decision. If it's a Hearing Officer, you have 20 days to file an objection to the proposed order. That objection must contain an explanation of why you disagree with the Hearing Officer's terms. A judge will then review your objection and hold a hearing to rule on the exception.

However, if the decision was made by the judge, then the options are different: you can either file a reconsideration before the same judge or an appeal before a superior court.

A reconsideration, as the name implies, allows the judge to review the case again and reconsider their decision. An appeal, meanwhile, will be seen by a superior court, which will look at all the evidence and determine if the judge made the correct decision. In this particular instance, the designated court would be the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which is located at 530 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. In the case of an appeal, the deadline for filing is 30 days from the date the judge issues the order.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team knows how stressful and complicated child custody cases are, whether both parties are in agreement or not. Our team can help you navigate Pennsylvania custody laws and Centre County procedures and make sure you are prepared for any eventuality. We'll work with you to develop a strategy that is tailored to your situation, and that takes into account what's best for you and your child.

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

Child Custody Orders are legally binding documents, so violating their terms can have serious consequences. If one parent violates the order, the other parent can file a "Petition for Contempt" with the Family Court, which will result in the other party being held in contempt. In some cases, the other party could also be forced to pay a fine or even be imprisoned.

If one party incurs repeated violations, the other party can petition the court to revise the order in a way that makes these violations less likely. Examples of this are cases when one parent is always late to return the child according to the schedule set by the court or refuses to return the child at all, or situations where a parent is putting their interest above a child's.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has experience with contempt petitions and will always fight for the best outcome for you and your child. Our team can advise you regarding filing and preparing against a contempt petition brought in Centre County Family Court.

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

Child custody orders are legal agreements that establish how parents care for their children, and changes to them cannot just be made by the parents but need to be approved by a judge. That means there is a process for changing the terms of a custody order in Centre County.

The reasoning behind this is the protection of not just the parents but the child. The court's main concern is the well-being of the child, as it considers that the parents can look out for their own best interests, but the child cannot.

So, if either party wants to make changes to a child custody order, they must file a motion in the Centre County Prothonotary's Office to modify the order. Then, it's up to the judge to review the reasons for the request and decide if the changes are in the child's best interest.

The request can be made by both parties or by just one of the parties, and the judge can decide without a hearing or, if he deems it necessary, hold a hearing to hear from both parties before ruling on the request. The judge can also, if he thinks it's in the best interest of the child, make a different change than the one requested by the parties as a compromise.

Our experienced team at the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team understands the standards that judges in Centre County adhere to when modifying custody orders. We can help you if you're looking to make some changes to an existing order or if you disagree with a modification requested by the other party.

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

The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team understands the nuances of child custody cases in Centre County. We have ample experience helping parents understand the process and feel comfortable with the decisions they have to make for themselves and their children.

We'll help you prepare the best possible case to ensure not just that your best interests are protected but also that your child's well-being is taken into account.

Our team will be here to guide you and represent you throughout the entire process, whether you need to file a complaint for custody, have questions about what the best options for you or your child are, want to request a change to the agreement, need to enforce existing custody terms or have to defend yourself against accusations of violating the agreement.

Child custody disputes can be a complicated time for all parties. The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can be your perfect ally to handle disagreements, but it can also be there to help you reach a custody agreement that benefits everyone and aligns with court standards.

If you're facing a child custody issue in Centre County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today. Let our team help you through the process and advocate for your interests and your child's well-being. Schedule a confidential consultation at 888.535.3686, or reach out through our contact form. You and your child deserve the peace of mind that the best representation can provide.

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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