Child Custody in Erie County

Often, the most difficult part of a separation or divorce involves making decisions about custody arrangements, which can involve exhausting and emotionally charged exchanges. Even the most well-meaning, compassionate, and cooperative soon-to-be-exes can make this part challenging. If you are going through a separation or divorce and need to decide what the living arrangements for the children will be and who will make important decisions about their education, medical care, religious upbringing, discipline, diet, mental health care, and other important matters, we hope your discussions are amicable and that your children are impacted as little as possible in the process.

Ideally, you see eye to eye with your children's other parent when it comes to legal and physical custody. But do keep in mind that you would be wise to get formal agreements in writing and on record with the Erie County Family Court. This is helpful in the event the unexpected were to happen, whether a change of heart or mind, a new job opportunity in another state, one party's new romantic relationship or spouse, a death in the family, a new baby, or any other unforeseen possibility that would complicate an existing agreement. Even the most civil breakups can take a sharp turn quickly and unexpectedly.

The Erie County Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas, also known as Family Court, oversees child custody placement and enforcement in Erie County, Pennsylvania. First and foremost, their goal is to help divorcing couples reach a custody agreement through mediation without the need for lengthy litigation. Their philosophy is that parents and guardians are more likely to adhere to an arrangement that they have had a part in developing rather than one that is forced on them.

Whether you opt for mediation or need representation at a trial, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today. We assist parents and guardians in Erie County to reach acceptable and favorable outcomes that put your rights and your children's rights front and center. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to set up a confidential consultation.

Who Oversees Child Custody Cases in Erie County?

Erie County's Family Court is located at 140 West Sixth St. in Erie. It is here that you would file child custody forms and related documents. If you have a child custody matter in Erie County and need to appear in court for that matter, your case will be heard here by a hearing officer or judge (note that this is not the case for a contempt order). These officials also deal with related domestic relations issues such as divorce, child and spousal support, and domestic violence matters.

What Are the Various Child Custody Types?

Generally, there are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. When a hearing officer or judge issues a child custody order in Erie County, they will award both types to one or more parents or guardians. Depending on your family's circumstances, you and the child's other parent will likely each wind up with one of the following:

  • shared legal custody
  • sole legal custody
  • partial physical custody
  • primary physical custody
  • shared physical custody
  • sole physical custody
  • supervised physical custody

As its description implies, physical custody of a child means when the child is physically with you, you are responsible for their care, food, transportation, safety, and so on. It is commonly shared between parents or guardians, but there are also situations in which it is decided that children should reside solely with one parent or guardian and not the other (perhaps one parent does not have a safe, stable place to live). A parent might have physical custody of their child as well as legal custody, or they may have any combination of both types, along with the other parent.

Legal custody means that a parent has the right to make legal decisions for the child. If both parents are cooperative, they may share legal custody. If one parent is seen as unfit in any way to do so (perhaps they are abusive, negligent, incarcerated, or otherwise absent), the other parent may be granted full legal custody. That doesn't necessarily mean the other parent would never have visitation, but important decisions about where a child might go to school or what doctor they see may be left to one parent or guardian only.

What Are the Requirements for Filing for Custody of a Child in Erie County?

In general, a child must be living in Erie County for at least six months in order for the Family Court to hear a custody case relating to that child. Now, if the child is in danger in any way, if one parent is refusing to allow the other parent to see the child, if the child is under six months old, if a parent has died, or if there are any other number of example scenarios requiring expediency, the court may decide that it needs to intervene right away, regardless of how long the child has lived in Erie County.

But for most situations, a custody case will be taken up for a child whose established home is in Erie County and will usually involve the child's two parents or guardians. Various other circumstances might mean a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling is involved in a custody case. You can imagine this might be the case if one or both parents are not available for one reason or another, such as incarceration.

You likely don't know the Family Court judge, and they likely don't know your family, their background, or their circumstances. We point this out because courts have an incredible amount of power in determining a child's fate and a family's fate when they are forced to do so. Relying on them to make a life-changing decision for you and your family members with a limited amount of information and time is a vulnerable position to be in, and they understand this as well, stating in their instructions that “No one knows better than you what your chil/ren's personality is and your lifestyles… The Court does not want to interfere with these personal decisions unless forced to do so because you are not able to work out your own custody arrangement.” Don't make the mistake of trusting that they will make the best decision, even though that is their intention.

You need to advocate for your children and your family from day one. Not doing so could mean that your case isn't heard right away, even if you believe it's urgent. What may not feel like an emergency to the court may actually be, and this is why it is so important for you to actively advocate for your child by hiring the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team, who understands this urgency and will fight for and protect them. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to set up a confidential consultation.

How Does One Seek Custody of a Child in Erie County?

This depends on whether you and your child's other parent agree on custody arrangements at the outset. If you do, one of you should contact the Erie County Custody Office to schedule an Agreement Conference. At this conference, what you and the other party have agreed to will be put into writing in order for it to become an Order of the Court. You will also need to sign up to go through a four-hour seminar, described in the next two paragraphs.

If you and the other party disagree about what the custody arrangement should look like, one of you will need to file a Complaint for Custody with the Erie County Custody Office and schedule an Intake Conference. Particularly if you and your child's other parent or guardian are at odds about what the custody arrangement should look like, you should obtain the services of the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team.

If you reach an agreement at the Intake Conference, you will get the agreement in writing, and it will be filed as an Order of the Court, signed by a judge. Most arrangements are resolved at this level before they proceed to a trial. If you can't agree at this stage, your case will proceed to a Conciliation Conference. The Conciliation Conference includes a mandatory four-hour seminar called “Children Cope with Custody and/or Visitation” held at Erie County Family Services at 5100 Peach Street in Erie. It is designed to help both parties appreciate the perspectives of the children involved and learn strategies for helping children to cope.

If both parties are still unable to reach agreeable arrangements, you'll need to attend another conciliation conference scheduled for 90 minutes and possibly be issued a Temporary Court Order to abide by as you wait for the conference date. If, at your second Conciliation Conference, you are still at odds, your case will proceed to Custody Trial.

When Erie County Child Custody Cases Go to Trial

At a custody trial, each party can provide witnesses and exhibits that support their argument for obtaining or retaining custody of their children. The focus of the judge is on what will be in the children's best interests, which may mean arriving at a child custody order that neither you nor the other party is satisfied with. Again, you are strongly urged to retain the services of the LLF Family Law Team in your custody case, especially if you are going to trial.

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has helped numerous clients with their child custody matters in Erie County and across the country. We understand what's at stake and are ready to help you protect your rights and your children's rights.

Changing the Terms of a Custody Order in Erie County

To modify an existing order, your LLF Family Law Team attorney will file a Petition for Modification on your behalf. You will have the opportunity, along with the other party, to describe to the judge why you (individually or jointly) wish to modify the order. Your request could be granted or denied as is or amended by the judge.

When an Erie County Child Custody Order Is Violated

Erie County encourages parents and guardians, if at all possible, to work out disagreements, scheduling conflicts, and unexpected circumstances privately and, when helpful, in writing. When parties aren't cooperative, or this approach doesn't suffice, you can file a petition and related paperwork to have the other party served and held in contempt of court. Note that these proceedings are not handled by the Custody Conciliation Office. Erie County advises that “You may want to consult an attorney about these proceedings since the Custody Conciliation Office will not be able to address any of your questions or concerns…. In the event that you are unable to engage the assistance of an attorney, you will need to familiarize yourself with the local rules of Court, as well as the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure and relevant Pennsylvania statutes to assist you in preparation for your proceeding.”

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team understands the requirements for contempt-related petitions in Erie County, and we are familiar with attempts by opposing parties to avoid being served. Our experienced attorneys can help you file – or defend against – a petition brought in Erie County.

The LLF Law Firm Will Prioritize Your Erie County Child Custody Case

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has years of experience helping parents and guardians with child custody issues. We will work with you to gather the information you need to support you and fight for your rights, all with the understanding that the court is focused on your child's welfare and future.

While we are experienced with helping our clients when there is a dispute about child custody terms, we can also help the parties reach an agreement on them. One of the most valuable things our attorneys can do for you is to leverage our experience with the Family Court in Erie County to help develop a custody agreement acceptable to both parties that will also be acceptable to the Family Court judge.

If you are entering into child custody discussions as you go through a separation or divorce in Erie County, call the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888.535.3686, or describe your case to us using our contact form to set up a confidential consultation. This is likely the most important legal matter you will ever encounter. We want to help you and your family through it.

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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