Child Custody in Crawford County

Few issues create greater concern and anxiety for parents than child custody. The conflicts that arise when custody plans are formulated are stressful and frightening. Even if the parents have worked through some issues and are not in open conflict, entering an order to which the parties will be bound for some time is difficult and complex. In Crawford County, child custody cases are resolved in the Court of Common Pleas. The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can provide the necessary advice and protection for your rights in Crawford County child custody cases. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or use the contact link to set up a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Where Are Child Custody Cases Heard in Crawford County?

The Court of Common Pleas for Crawford County is at the County Judicial Center at 359 E. Center Street, Suite 4050, in Meadville, PA. This is where child custody complaints and related documents are filed, and the courtrooms and judges' chambers are located. If you go to Court on a child custody issue in Crawford County, this is where the hearings or trial will be.

The Domestic Relations Section in Crawford County hears only family support issues, not custody or divorce. This section deals almost exclusively with child support.

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody?

Parents are often confused by the term custody, as it has more than one meaning. In a custody issue in Crawford County, two kinds of custody will be at issue—physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where a child resides and who will care for the child. This involves the day-to-day activities of raising a child, including getting the child to school, medical and dental appointments, and activities. A person with physical custody feeds, houses, and cares for the child.

The Court has the authority to award physical custody primarily to one party or share it between the parties. This time-sharing arrangement may be evenly split or involve one parent having more days or hours per week with the child. Physical custody encompasses situations where one party has sole physical custody or cases where one party is only allowed limited time with the child.

Legal custody is the power to make decisions on the major aspects of your child's life—education decisions, medical and dental decisions, and other decisions on your child's upbringing. The Court may award legal custody to only one parent, which is distinct from physical custody issues.

What Are the Requirements for Seeking Custody of a Child in Crawford County?

The Crawford County courts have the authority to make decisions about custody in most cases where a child has lived in the county for at least six months. In some situations, the Court may hear custody cases even if this residency requirement is not met, such as when an infant is involved or if a child has been abandoned or abused. Generally, a parent seeks custody of a child, but grandparents or other caregivers who act as parents may also be able to seek custody.

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

Every county in Pennsylvania has a slightly different process for deciding child custody issues. In Crawford County, the procedure involves mediation as an alternative to a hearing before the judge. Mediation means different things in different courts and situations, but in Crawford County, the custody Mediator is a hearing officer and settlement facilitator.

The custody process begins when a party files a complaint or seeks modification of a prior order. This formal legal document outlines the party's request and the reasons for it. Mediation is required as an alternative to Court or before going to Court. The party initiating the action must provide a $200 deposit or the amount ordered by the Court for Mediator's fees. Note that the Court will allocate the total fees for mediation. It's important to consult with your attorney before filing a complaint or seeking a modification, as they can help you prepare the necessary documents and understand the legal requirements.

Role of Custody Mediator

The Court will appoint a custody Mediator for the case. Custody Mediators are lawyers with experience in family law and child custody issues. They are neutral and do not represent either party. Mediators can do the following things:

  • Conduct mediation conferences and set when and where they occur.
  • Address issues with children, including counseling and interviewing children.
  • Request investigations and reports from service agencies or psychological or psychiatric evaluations and other reports.
  • Facilitate the process of agreement on some issues through consent orders.
  • Submit a recommended order to the Court with a memorandum, which shall include an analysis of the case and the reasons for the order.

Settlement Conference

The Mediator will hold a settlement conference, where the parties will state their respective positions in a Custody Questionnaire. This is an opportunity for both parents to express their concerns and preferences regarding custody. The custody Mediator will mail a questionnaire to the parties and allow viewing of the other party's questionnaire at the conference. The Conference will be set within 30 days after the Mediator is appointed. It's important to come prepared with your proposed custody arrangement and supporting documents or evidence.

The custody Mediator sets the date and sends notice to the parties. Any party's failure to attend this conference can result in a recommendation to the Court to dismiss issues or take action. The Mediator may recommend dismissal of claims or assessment of costs. If a party fails to appear at the mediation conference, the Mediator will conduct a conference and submit a recommended order to the Court.

At this or future conferences, the parties must engage in good faith efforts to settle disagreements. The custody Mediator will assist in these efforts. If the parties cannot settle, the custody Mediator will continue the alternative process.

Report of Custody Mediator

If the parties cannot agree, the custody Mediator will hear issues and submit a Report to the Court with recommendations. The Report will set forth the parties' positions and proposals, the Mediator's recommendation and basis, and a proposed order. The Mediator shall also submit a copy of the proposed order to each party or counsel. The Mediator will also recommend an allocation of any fees or costs incurred by the Mediator. The parties are bound to the recommendations unless and until modified by further Court order.

If a Party Seeks De Novo Hearing in Court

After the judge enters an order, a party may file a demand for a de novo hearing on issues before the Court. It's important to note that a demand for a de novo hearing will not automatically stop the order, although the judge can stay it. This process is crucial to understand if you are considering appealing a custody order.

The Court may enter an order requiring all parties and counsel to appear at a pretrial child custody conference after a demand for a de novo hearing.

The Court will require a party seeking a de novo hearing on custody issues to file a Pretrial Memorandum, which includes:

  • A statement of issues.
  • A proposed resolution.
  • A witness list with anticipated testimony.
  • An exhibit list.
  • A statement of things the parties can agree on, called stipulations.
  • Any special requests for hearing procedure or time.

Appointment of Special Master

The Court may appoint a Special Master to hear any issues before the Court. The Special Master may hold hearings and report to the Court.

Final Custody Order

After the de novo hearing, the judge will enter a custody order. This order may or may not conform to the custody Mediator's recommendation.

The LLF Law Firm has represented numerous parents in Pennsylvania who are dealing with custody issues. When so much is at stake, hiring a firm that can protect your rights and your family makes sense. We can assist you in obtaining a custody order that prioritizes your child's best interest.

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

After a judge enters a custody order, a party can appeal if they disagree with the custody order. One option is to file a motion for reconsideration with the judge. A second option is to appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This must be done within a limited period after entry of the custody order you are appealing.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can advise you on how to proceed after entry of a custody order with which you disagree. We can also advise you if the other party is appealing an order you are satisfied with.

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

Violation of a custody order is a very serious issue in Pennsylvania. Any party who violates the terms of a custody order may be found in contempt of Court. The judge may find someone in contempt and even jail them in extreme situations. If your ex violates a custody order, you begin fighting the violation by filing a petition for contempt with the Court that entered the order.

After the violation, the Court may modify the terms of the custody order to prevent further violations. If your ex has refused to return the children on time or as required in the custody order, the judge may ask for further protections and procedures to prevent this from happening again. If a parent does violate the custody order after this modification, they may lose the right to unsupervised visitation.

If you are concerned about this or any other custody order violation, the LLF Law Firm can advise you on the best process to combat the violation. If you have serious concerns that your children's safety may be at issue, it is important to call immediately. The LLF Law Firm understands how to fight violations through the contempt process to keep your child as safe as possible.

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

To change the terms of a custody order, you must seek a modification order in Court. Modifying a custody order in Crawford County is governed by the same mediation process as the original custody order.

If the parties can agree to a custody order modification, they still must go to Court and get the agreement spelled out in a court order. If the parties cannot agree, they will present evidence through the mediation process or in a court proceeding. The Mediator or Judge will focus on the child's best interests when determining if a modification is appropriate.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team understands the procedure used by the courts of Crawford County and the legal standards used to modify custody orders. We can help if the situation has changed from the original custody order and you want to relocate or change the custody arrangement.

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

The LLF Law Firm is experienced in custody law in Pennsylvania and can help parents and guardians seek custody orders that protect their children. The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is experienced in Pennsylvania family courts and will help you fight for your child's best interest.

Wherever you are in the custody process, the LLF Law Firm can help. This might involve commencing a custody action, modifying a prior custody order, or addressing the other party's violations of an existing order.

The LLF Law Firm is experienced in the Crawford County process and can help you resolve child custody disputes. We know how to craft a custody order that will work in each stage of your child's life and your unique situation.

If you have a child custody issue in Crawford County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888.535.3686 or use the contact link to set up a confidential consultation. Let the LLF Law Firm help you and your family through this challenging time.

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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