Child Custody in Franklin County

The process of negotiating a custody agreement can be incredibly stressful. Even if both you and your ex-spouse agree on most points, there is still a great deal of paperwork to file, and you can't ever be certain that the court will accept your plan. If there are battles to be fought over custody, the entire process can feel impossible.

It isn't, of course, especially if you have the right legal representation. The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team is on your side, and we'll do everything we can to make the experience as painless as possible. It's our job to protect your rights and make sure your voice is heard, and we'll fight hard on your behalf. Our first concern, though, is to make sure you and your child are protected throughout the process.

We work with clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Franklin County. What can we do for you? Call 888.535.3686today to find out, or use the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team's contact link to tell us more about your case.

An Overview of the Child Custody Process in Franklin County

Custody issues in Franklin County are under the province of the Court of Common Pleas. That court is located in the Franklin County courthouse at 14 North Main Street, in Chambersburg. This is also where you go to file any petitions, such as your initial Custody Complaint.

Franklin County doesn't have its own Family Court, and it has been granted permission by the state to operate an alternative custody process in shared custody cases. So, for instance, you may never go before a judge or see the inside of a courtroom. Nevertheless, all cases follow Pennsylvania state law and procedure, and contested cases can result in a hearing and possibly a trial.

Two Different Types of Child Custody

Before you begin the process of negotiating a child custody agreement, you should know that there are two types of child custody. Your agreement and the final Court Order will address both of them.

  • Physical Custody relates to those responsibilities involved in a child's day-to-day care. The physical custody portion of a custody agreement deals with issues such as who takes the child to school and who picks them up, who gets them to doctors' appointments, and who shuttles them to soccer practice. It also determines who provides the child's basic necessities, things like shelter, food, and clothing. Parents sometimes "share" custody, meaning both have some responsibilities for caring for the child. In some cases, one or the other parent will be granted "sole" physical custody. Sometimes, a judge may restrict a parent's visitation rights, requiring them to visit with children only at certain times or in certain locations.
  • Legal Custody refers more to the global decisions parents make about a child's upbringing. Legal custody issues might concern what kind of school a child attends, what sort of religious training they are given, and what type of medical attention they'll receive when they're sick. Often, legal custody sets the framework in which physical custody issues are decided. A parent granted the right to enroll their child in music lessons may also be given the responsibility of getting them to and from those lessons (physical custody). As with physical custody, legal custody can be shared or invested in one parent. Sometimes, a judge will grant physical custody to one parent and legal custody to the other.

Your LLF Law Firm attorney will go over both types of custody with you before you file or respond to an official Custody Complaint. They'll work with you to decide what's in your best interest as a parent and what will provide the most benefit for your child.

The Requirements to Seek Custody in Franklin County

Not all child custody cases involve parents. You could be a grandparent seeking custody, for example, or a step-parent. Only certain persons in Franklin County may pursue custody of a child, though.

  • Parents
  • Other close family relatives, such as grandparents
  • Persons have taken on parental responsibilities for a child, such as step-parents
  • Persons who have a direct interest in the child's long-term care
  • In addition, you should know that Franklin County does not consider custody agreements unless the child has been living in the county for a minimum of six months. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. For instance, if a child is less than six months old or is in some imminent danger, the custody process could still move forward.

The Child Custody Resolution Process in Franklin County

The child custody resolution process can be simple if both parties agree on most issues. It can also involve several steps if mediation and adjudication are necessary. Here's a rough outline of what you can expect.

  • First, one parent or another must file a Custody Complaint petition with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
  • Franklin County has permission to use an alternative resolution process in cases where both parties are seeking partial custody. If you're subject to this alternative resolution process, the court will assign a Hearing Officer to handle your case. This Hearing Officer is an attorney, but you should know that you have the right at any time to request a hearing before a judge if you can show that there are complex issues of law involved or that one party has leveled serious allegations against the other.
  • The Hearing Officer may begin by having both parties attend an Office Conference. The purpose of this conference is to work out a reasonable settlement that both parties can agree to. You have the right to bring your LLF Law Firm attorney with you to this conference to make sure that your rights are protected and your point of view is heard.
  • If the parties can reach an agreement that is acceptable to both, the Hearing Officer puts this agreement into writing and submits it to the court for approval. Assuming the judge accepts the agreement after review, the judge signs the agreement, and it goes into effect.
  • If the two parties cannot reach an agreement, the Hearing Officer then sets a time and date for a hearing into the matter.
  • At the hearing, both sides have an opportunity to make arguments and submit evidence in support of those arguments.
  • Ultimately, the Hearing Officer comes to a decision regarding custody. They then draft a custody agreement and submit it to the court for approval.
  • You then have 20 days to file an "exception" to the proposed agreement. If neither side files such an exception, the judge signs the agreement, and it takes effect as a Court Order.
  • If either side files exceptions, the court then sets a time and date for a hearing at which to consider these exceptions.
  • As with the initial hearing, you have the right to make arguments and submit evidence before the judge renders a decision on your exception requests.
  • Should you disagree with the final custody order, you have two remaining options. You can file a Motion for Reconsideration with the judge. You can also file a direct appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

If the case should go to trial, you have the right to call witnesses to testify in addition to presenting physical evidence. In such cases, the judge writes the final order, though again, you have the right to appeal that order to the Superior Court.

What Your LLF Law Firm Attorney Can Do for You

Your LLF Law Firm attorney is responsible for conducting all aspects of your case, from filing the Custody Complaint to representing you at trial. You can expect them to

  • Draft your initial Custody Complaint and ensure it is filed with the proper court
  • Work with you before the custody conference to identify your goals and map out your negotiation strategy
  • Represent your interests at the custody conference and make sure your rights are protected
  • Ensure the agreement reflects your interests and the best interests of your child
  • Represent you in all phases of the custody hearing if necessary.
  • File any exceptions to the custody agreement
  • Represent you at any exception hearings, including submitting evidence on your behalf and conducting witness examination
  • Represent you at trial if necessary
  • File a Motion for Reconsideration if necessary
  • Draft and file an appeal with the Superior Court if necessary

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team has represented hundreds of Pennsylvania clients in domestic matters and custody complaints. As a result, we have a deep understanding of the law and experience navigating local judicial systems. We've worked in Franklin County in particular and know the rules and procedures involved in custody cases. You can trust us to represent your interests, whether you're involved in negotiations or litigation.

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

Sometimes, the other party in a custody agreement refuses to abide by the terms of that agreement. Keep in mind, though, that a Final Order in a custody case isn't just a polite agreement. It is an official court order signed by a judge, and it carries the weight of Pennsylvania state law. Any time one of the parties violates the order, they can be held liable by the court.

Violating a court order is not the same as breaking the law. Unless your child is in imminent danger, you cannot call the police to arrest your ex-spouse just because they're not abiding by the terms of your custody agreement. You can, however, file a Petition for Contempt with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. And, should a judge decide to hold your ex-spouse in contempt, they can assign punishments ranging from fines to jail time.

If your ex-spouse should repeatedly violate the court's order, you can also ask the court to reconsider the terms of the agreement. If, for example, your spouse continually returns your child to you late, fails on multiple occasions to pick them up from school when that's their responsibility, or puts your child in danger, you can ask for "sole" physical or legal custody.

Remember that your LLF Law Firm attorney isn't just a trial lawyer. Yes, we're seasoned litigators, but our job goes well beyond representing you in court. From filing Petitions for Contempt to offering evidence of contempt to the court, we can make sure your ex-spouse is held accountable any time they violate the terms of your custody agreement.

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

It's important you never violate the terms of the court's final custody order. Again, any violation can lead to a charge of Contempt of Court, and that can lead to fines and/ or jail time. Even if you and your ex-spouse agree to alter how you care for your child, any changes that don't have court approval technically represent a legal violation of the order.

There are good reasons to take care. Of course, you can never tell when your ex-spouse may change their mind or decide to use your behavior as an excuse to file for an order modification. In addition, though, the court carefully reviews any changes because it wants to be certain those changes are in the best interest of the child and not just a matter of convenience for the parents.

As with all other aspects of custody cases, the LLF Law Firm can work with you any time you need to file a Petition for Modification. We're familiar with the processes and procedures in Franklin County. We know where to file petitions and what kinds of timelines you can expect. Of course, we can also represent you at any petition hearings.

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

The LLF Law Firm's Family Law Team is knowledgeable when it comes to Pennsylvania Law. We've worked for a number of years in the field of domestic disputes and custody issues, and we understand the system. In addition, we've worked with clients across Pennsylvania, including those in Franklin County.

You can count on the LLF Law Firm to fight for your rights and to get you the very best possible resolution to your case. We'll make sure your voice is heard and that you are treated fairly. If there's a trial or a hearing, we're here to represent you. We can help you to enforce the terms of your custody agreement if need be. We can work with you to modify those terms. And if you should ever be accused of violating an agreement, we're here to defend you.

More important than anything else, though, you should know that the LLF Law Firm has your and your child's best interests at heart. We know just how difficult these situations can be. Emotions can run high, and it's not always easy to maintain composure, balance, and perspective. We're always on your side, though, and ready to do what we can to make the situation as smooth as possible.

If you are facing a child custody issue in Franklin County, contact the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888.535.3686 or by using our contact form to set up a confidential consultation.

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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