Child Custody in Cumberland County

Cumberland County was founded in 1751. Its population is 257,848, based on the 2020 Census. The county is comprised of 555 square miles and contains both urban areas and rich farmland. The county's primary economies are business, manufacturing, and agriculture. The county seat is Carlisle, and all custody cases are handled by the family court in the Court of Common Pleas.

Child custody issues often arise from relationship strains a couple experiences during legal separation and divorce. Even amicable divorces with informal custody arrangements require a formal custody order from a judge to enforce a child custody agreement. If you or a family member are experiencing custody issues in Cumberland County, then the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can help you face and resolve those issues while protecting all your legal rights. Call the offices today at 888.535.3686 or contact us.

Where Child Custody Cases Are Heard in Cumberland County

All custody matters are scheduled before Judges and Custody Hearing Officers of the Family Court at the courthouse in Cumberland County. The address of the courthouse is 1 Courthouse Square, Carlisle, PA 17013. All civil legal proceedings, including custody cases, are filed in the Office of the Prothonotary, in Suite 100 of the courthouse. The phone number for the Office of the Prothonotary is 717-240-6195, and the Fax is 717-240-6573. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. The office uses a Confidential Documents Form and a Confidential Information Form, which contain all the parties' personal information and are attached to the case filings. These documents are available to all parties, officers, and representatives in the case but are not available to the general public without a court order. All custody cases follow the rules of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, supplemented by the Rules of Civil Procedure that govern custody actions.

Types of Child Custody

There are several types of possible caretakers involved in a child custody case. A custodian for a child is the guardian responsible for caretaking a child over time. The law in Cumberland County distinguishes between types of custody as listed in its Complaint form. Legal custody includes the right to make major decisions in the best interests of the child, including decisions about religious, educational, and medical affairs. Legal custody can either be sole or shared. Primary physical custody concerns the actual physical control and care of the child for a substantial amount of time. This type of custody would include things like providing food and shelter, transportation, and medical care for the child. Physical custody is subdivided in Cumberland County into sole physical custody, primary physical custody, shared physical custody, partial physical custody, and supervised physical custody. Partial physical custody is for less than a majority of the time, and supervised physical custody is when an agency or designated adult, agreed upon by the parties or designated by the court monitors the interactions between the child and the supervised adult.

Procedures Involved in Child Custody Cases in Cumberland County

The first procedure in a child custody case is the filing of a complaint in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas. A person must be an interested party in the suit, which the law defines as standing. An interested party in a child custody suit is usually one of the separated parents. It could also include a grandparent who has been responsible for caretaking the child for at least a year or who testifies that the child is at risk for abuse or neglect. An adoptive parent or other guardian may also have standing if substantial care has been given to the child over time.

Most child custody cases concern children who are older than six months of age. However, In cases of emergency involving issues such as abandonment or abuse to either a child or a parent, the Cumberland County court may take emergency action regardless of the child's age. Any person can bring an Emergency Petition for Special Relief in a child custody case under Rule 1915.4 if they qualify as an interested party. The Family Court responds to a request for emergency relief within one day, which greatly shortens the time needed to make a decision regarding emergency or interim custody. A Petition for Expedited Relief can also be filed in important but non-emergency situations, and the family court will conduct a hearing on the petition within a few days. Child custody complaints in a non-emergency situation can take months to process in the Cumberland family court process.

Emergency and expedited petitions, as well as regular child custody complaints, are filed in the Office of the Prothonotary at the Cumberland County Courthouse. In a regular child custody case, after the complaint is filed and filing fees are paid, the case will be handled by the Court Administrator, who will assign the case to a Custody Conference Officer, who is a lawyer or other appropriate person appointed by the court. A conciliation conference must occur within 45 days of the assignment by the Court Administrator.

The Custody Conference Officer will preside over the Custody Conciliation. The purpose of a conciliation conference is to help parties reach a mutual agreement concerning child custody to avoid litigation before the court. It is not a court hearing of record with witnesses, and the parties' statements in the conference are not admissible in court. The conciliation conference will discuss such topics as the best interests of the child, the schedule of the child throughout the year, and the parties' decision-making responsibilities. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the Conciliator prepares and delivers a report within seven days to the Court Administrator along with a proposed order containing an agreement between the parties so that the Court can enter a Consent Order.

If the parties cannot agree, the Conciliator will still file a Conference Summary Report to the Court Administrator and make an order to schedule a hearing before the court. The Conciliator will also propose an interim order, which is generally granted by the Court and remains in effect until the court judge decides the custody case or the parties reach an agreement before trial.

Other local rule provisions that may apply in a custody case in Cumberland County include the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator whom the court may select to help resolve issues stemming from the custody order. Also, If the parties are unable to agree upon where a child will go to school after a conciliation conference, then a judge can be assigned to hold an abbreviated hearing on the matter in School Determination Court under Rule 1915.13. Each party has ten minutes to present evidence and argument, and the presiding judge can enter an interim order pending a full hearing before an assigned trial judge.

If a disagreeing party requests a trial before the judge, the court officer will then schedule both a pre-trial conference and a trial before the judge. A hearing can be held before a family court judge, and the rules for notice, discovery, and evidence, as outlined in the Cumberland County Court Civil Rules, will be followed to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The final result of the trial will be a formal child custody order that is issued by the family court judge of Cumberland County.

Mutual Agreement and Petition to Modify

A Petition to Modify a custody order may be filed with the Prothonotary's Office in Cumberland County after a final custody order has been issued. Custodial parties sometimes create arrangements that differ from the original child custody order. These informal agreements, however, must be reviewed by the court for a custodial party to avoid contempt of court for violation of a court's final custody order. The court is now the ultimate arbiter of what is in the best interests of the child; the custodial parties cannot simply agree to different terms. Either a filing of mutual agreement showing a schedule of changes or a petition to modify by one party must be filed in the Cumberland County system for the judge to reconsider and review any requests for modification in the custody order. The document states why any modifications or changes are in the best interests of the child. In an instance where both parties agree to the change, another hearing may not be necessary. If the request is brought by one disagreeing party, then another hearing with witnesses and evidence will be scheduled. A petition to modify a custody order is uniform throughout Pennsylvania.

Appeal of a Child Custody Order

Another option to change a final child custody order is to file an appeal. An appeal arises from a final custody order of the Cumberland County family court. The timeline for an appeal is 30 days from the date of the final order by the family court. An appeal to the Superior Court must allege that the final family court order contained legal or procedural errors or involved an abuse of judicial discretion. Appeals require legal briefs, oral arguments, and extra costs for the party that appeals. The appeals professionals at the offices of the LLF Family Law Team can advise you of any merits of an appeal from a final custody order from the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas. The right to an appeal from a family court final custody order is uniform throughout Pennsylvania.

Violation of Child Custody Order by an Ex

A court order on custody issued by the family court in Cumberland County is a final and enforceable decree. Any violation of its terms by a custodial party is an actionable offense and can amount to contempt of court, fines, or possible imprisonment. A Petition for Contempt is filed in Cumberland County, detailing any of the violations of the order and the specific reasons the defendant should be held in contempt of court. If the violation is a repeated offense, the petition can request that the custody order be revised to prevent the reoccurrence of any violation of the court order. An example of a repeated violation would be where one parent has repeatedly failed to return the child to the other parent pursuant to the terms in the final custody order.

Custody Issues Require Help from Trained Professionals

The experienced LLF Law Firm Family Law Team is familiar with the family court rules in Cumberland County and is always available to help you with your issues regarding child custody. The court's duty is to consider the best interests of the child in a custody case, and the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team will work to support your position in obtaining the best legal result possible in Cumberland County with your child's welfare in mind. We will do the necessary research and gather all the evidence required to support you and your child in obtaining a desirable outcome on child custody issues.We will pursue all legal remedies available for you and your child in Cumberland County.

If your Ex has violated the custody terms of a final order, we will help you consider all your options to support bringing a contempt of court violation. If you have been accused of a violation of a child custody order, our offices will work to present a justifiable defense to explain and protect your rights in your child custody case. Our experienced attorneys can also help both parties work to reach a mutual agreement. We can use our experience with the Cumberland County court system to help draft a custody agreement document that will be acceptable to both parties and to the Family Court judge. We are further able to evaluate, write, and argue any family court appeal from a family court in Cumberland County should the circumstances support that option.

If you are facing any issues in resolving a child custody case in Cumberland County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team offices today at 888.535.3686 or contact us .

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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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