Child Custody in Clearfield County

Determining who gets custody of the children is among the most challenging aspects of divorcing or separating from someone with whom you have kids. It's not uncommon for parents to disagree on this contentious topic.

Sometimes, parents or other such parties are able to reach an agreement on the matter of custody without much fighting or debate. Even in these circumstances, establishing a custody arrangement requires the approval of a judge who can ensure an agreement's terms are enforceable and serve the best interests of a child.

Are you involved in a child custody case in Clearfield County, PA? Regardless of whether you believe you and your ex can come to an agreement that satisfies all parties, it's imperative that you have a legal professional on your side to protect your rights.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can offer the protection and representation you need when fighting for custody of your children. We can also help modify or enforce an existing custody order. Find out more about how we can assist you by calling us today at 888.535.3686 or contacting our offices through our online form.

Where Are Child Custody Cases Heard in Clearfield County?

The Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas handles matters like child custody. As this overview explains further down, when someone submits the forms indicating they wish to seek custody of a child in Clearfield County, they will typically receive information from the judge or court administrator regarding the specific location of any trials, hearings, etc.

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania recognizes two forms of child custody:

  • Legal custody: A parent who has legal custody of a child has the right to make critical decisions about the child's overall upbringing. For example, they can choose what religion to raise their child in, whether their child should receive certain types of medical treatment, what type of school their child should attend, etc. Although a court may award sole legal custody to one parent, some child custody arrangements involve both parents having legal custody.
  • Physical custody: A parent with physical custody is responsible for caring for a child on a day-to-day basis. The child spends most of their time living with the parent who has physical custody, though they may also spend some time with a parent who has visitation rights. The parent with physical custody provides the child with food, shelter, and general supervision throughout their daily routine. As with legal custody, parents can share physical custody if such an arrangement won't be unreasonably disruptive to a child's lifestyle.

What Are the Requirements for to Be Able to Seek Custody of a Child in Clearfield County?

The following parties may seek custody of a child under Pennsylvania law:

  • A parent
  • Someone standing in loco parentisto a child, meaning they are essentially someone with at least some of the responsibilities of a parent
  • A grandparent who isn't in loco parentis of the child (although there are additional criteria grandparents must meet when seeking custody)

A lawyer can explain whether you have grounds to seek custody in Clearfield County. Even if you're one of the above parties, your child may need to have resided in Clearfield County for a certain length of time before the courts here will handle a custody matter.

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

Someone seeking custody of a child in Clearfield County, PA, can initiate the process by completing a Complaint for Custody form and the Scheduling Order attached to the form. They should read the directions carefully to ensure they understand what parts they need to complete. A judge or court administrator will typically complete some sections of the form.

The person seeking custody may take two copies of the completed forms to:

Office of the Prothonotary

Clearfield County Courthouse

230 Market Street, 1st Floor

Clearfield, PA 16830

The current filing fee for a Complaint of Custody is $164.00. Be prepared to pay this when submitting the forms if you're seeking custody of a child. If you can't pay the fee because you receive welfare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), bring proof showing your inability to pay.

Some custody matters are urgent. A person seeking custody may believe a child is in physical danger. In these circumstances, they may also complete and submit a Petition for Emergency Custody.

Unless it's an emergency situation, once someone submits the Complaint for Custody and Scheduling Order, the process involves these steps:

  • A judge will review the complaint and determine whether to grant the petition.
  • The court will send a Certified copy of the judge's order to the person who initially filed the complaint. The judge's order will provide information about a hearing or conference date.
  • Once they receive the judge's order, the person who filed the complaint must immediately and personally serve the other party with the certified copy of the Complaint of Custody and Scheduling Order. Upon serving the other party, they must file a Certificate of Service with the court Prothonotary.

Except in emergency situations, the purpose of a conference or hearing is to determine if the two parties seeking custody of a child can come to an agreement. They may enlist legal counsel to represent them during the conference or hearing.

It's often helpful to make a sincere attempt to come to an agreement at this stage. If the case eventually leads to a custody trial, the judge can determine who does (and doesn't) receive custody. Addressing the matter without a trial gives both parties more freedom to determine the nature of the final child custody order.

However, it's also important not to make unreasonable sacrifices or concessions in an effort to speed up the process. Although lawyers can't make decisions for their clients, they can explain why agreeing to certain terms of a custody arrangement may not be best for them or their child in the long run.

The process may move to mediation if the two parties can't reach an agreement during the hearing or conference stage. Mediation involves a neutral third-party listening to the goals of both parties and working to develop an agreement that's mutually satisfactory. If the parties skip mediation, or it's still impossible to come to an agreement despite trying mediation, a judge will usually make a custody determination.

In some cases, the judge may first review pertinent case documents during a pre-trial conference. At this stage, the judge might make settlement recommendations.

The judge's recommendations may result in new agreement terms that satisfy both parties. The case will move to a custody trial if the parties involved still can't reach an agreement at this stage.

It's wise to meet with attorneys before even starting to complete the forms (unless it's a true emergency situation in which time is of the essence). In fact, the court strongly recommends that parties seeking custody of children in Clearfield County work with lawyers throughout the process.

We at the LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team are available to provide all the assistance you may need every step of the way. Seeking custody of a child will be less intimidating when you have a legal professional guiding you through the procedure.

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

You don't necessarily have to accept the judge's decision if they formally approve of a custody order whose terms you take issue with. You may file an appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania at 530 Walnut Street in Philadelphia if a judge issues a child custody order you disagree with.

Don't delay when filing an appeal. You have 30 days from the time the judge issued the order to do so.

Our attorneys with the LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can ensure you don't miss the deadline. More importantly, we can ensure your appeal properly explains why you believe the court made a mistake when issuing a custody order.

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

You may take legal action against an ex who violates the terms of an enforceable child custody order. Start by completing and submitting the Contempt of a Custody Order form. As with the previous forms, the court advises you to complete the form with the help of attorneys.

An ex who violates a custody order may face various potential consequences depending on the nature of the violation. If a violation is minor, the court may order them to pay a fine. A more significant violation (or repeated violations) could result in jail time.

In some instances, multiple violations of a custody order indicate a need to modify said order. It's sometimes possible to modify a custody order to reduce the likelihood that future violations will occur.

The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can help you better understand your rights if you think an ex isn't abiding by the terms of a custody order. Whether you're submitting a Contempt of a Custody Order form or you're looking to modify the terms of an existing order, we can assist you in navigating the process.

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

A child custody order is legally binding. That means you and your ex can't simply informally agree to not abide by its terms.

For example, perhaps you and your ex decide that the party with visitation rights should get to spend more time with your kids. It's not acceptable to merely ignore the terms of the custody order that's in place if those terms conflict with your new agreement. The judge must approve of a modified custody order. Getting a judge's official approval guards against future legal disputes.

Modifying a custody order involves completing and submitting a Petition for a Modification of a Custody Order form. Lawyers can help you complete and submit the form properly. Members of the LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can also explain your rights, helping you avoid a modification that might not be ideal for you or your child in the long run.

A hearing will usually follow once you submit the form. You may hire an attorney to represent you during the hearing.

A judge will determine whether to grant a request to modify an order. Although a judge may be inclined to grant such a request when both parents state they agree to the new terms, the judge's goal is always to make a decision that's in the best interests of the child.

Showing the judge that a custody order should be modified may be more challenging when your ex doesn't agree with the new terms. This is one of many reasons it's wise to enlist legal help throughout this process. Lawyers can also assist you if your ex is seeking a modification that you disagree with.

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

Our attorneys with the LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team can help make a stressful aspect of your divorce or separation much less painful for all involved. The specific ways we assist you will depend on the details of your case as we tailor our approach to each individual client. Potential ways we may help you include:

  • Protecting your rights when you and the other party can't reach an agreement regarding child custody
  • Helping craft an agreement the other party may be more likely to accept
  • Helping craft an agreement that a judge will be likely to accept
  • Taking legal action on your behalf when an ex violates the terms of a custody agreement
  • Defending you if your ex accuses you of a violation
  • Assisting you with such administrative tasks as completing and submitting paperwork

We have years of experience serving clients like yourself throughout the Clearfield County, PA area. Our familiarity with the local courts and procedures can give you a significant advantage during what could be a contentious child custody battle.

You can't fight for custody of your children alone in Clearfield County. You'll enjoy much greater peace of mind when you know you've enlisted the help of attorneys qualified to handle your case. That's exactly what you'll find at the LLF Law Firm. For more information about what our Family Law Team can do for you, submit our online contact form or call us today at 888.535.3686.

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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