When you have a Family Law case in Philadelphia County, your hearings will likely occur at the Court of Philadelphia in the Family Division. This division is also known as Family Court, and it is one of three major divisions in Philadelphia County's Court of Common Pleas. The Family Division is split into two separate branches, Juvenile Court and Domestic Relations. Custody, divorce, along with child and spousal support, are all resolved in the Domestic Relations branch.
Family Court In Philadelphia County
The Family Court itself is located in the heart of Philadelphia at 1501 Arch Street.
The court's offices remain open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm on Monday through Friday, unless it is otherwise stated. There are 12 judges that can preside over a hearing at the court. There are also a number of additional services provided at the Family Court. Family Court in Philadelphia County offers the following and more:
- Domestic Violence Unit: This is a case filing unit specifically for victims of domestic violence who are currently not represented by an attorney.
- Parent Locator Service: This is an investigative service to locate whereabouts, income, or assets of absent or missing parents.
- Filing Unit (TANF): This is a filing service for recipients of public assistance programs.
- Genetic Testing Unit: A genetic testing service is offered for the purpose of testing for paternity or maternity. This involves a non-invasive cheek swab which is then taken to a lab. There is no age limit on the test, and the sampling can be done in a very short amount of time.
- Support Masters Unit: A Support Master is a licensed attorney that is given a case to help settle between two parties discussing an issue of support. Parties are allowed to present evidence and testimony similar to the way they would at a hearing in front of a judge.
- Custody And Divorce Masters Unit: Similar to the Support Masters unit, but instead handling issues of divorce and custody.
- Networking for Jobs Program: This service provides assistance with finding or preparing for a job for unemployed parents who are required to pay child support.
- Financial Services: This unit collects payments and also helps determine expenditures for child support.
- Writ Service Unit: The Writ Service Unit exists to locate and serve individuals with legal notices, subpoenas and other legal documents.
- Interpreter Services: If an interpreter is needed, the court will supply one for you across a wide variety of languages.
A full list and explanations for each of the court's services can be found here. All forms necessary for filing are available at the court's website as well.
How Does Child Custody Work in Philadelphia County?
When there are children involved, child custody arrangements can arise during a separation or divorce. If you and your soon-to-be-ex are unable to come to a decision together about child custody, then you may end up with a judge making that decision for you.
When you attend a court hearing with a judge, the judge will attempt to discern what is the best possible option for the child(ren). Legally, this is usually referred to as the “best interest of the child.” The judge's decision will include physical custody and legal custody, most frequently. What's the difference between physical custody and legal custody? It's pretty simple.
- Legal custody refers to components of parenting that are tied to making decisions for the child. Usually, these decisions include religious upbringing, health/medical treatment, and education.
- Physical custody is what most people probably think of when they hear custody being discussed. Physical custody refers to where the child(ren) will live and spend their time.
It's possible for a parent to receive legal, physical, or both types of custody, depending on what the judge uncovers. In order to make these determinations, the courts will attempt to learn as much about the family and the family dynamics as possible. They will consider a range of factors, and here are some of the most common ones.
- Does one of the parents have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?
- Has the child experienced domestic abuse or sexual abuse that involved either of the parents?
- Are the two parents able to work together for the benefit of their child? Do they constantly argue and yell?
- What is the availability of each of the parents when it comes to caring for the child? What does their work schedule look like, and how does that compare to when the child will need care?
- Are there extended family members nearby who will be able to assist with taking care of the child(ren)?
- How close will the two parents' residences be? What is the distance from the child's school to the residences?
- Has one parent tried to alienate the other parent from the child, for a reason other than reasonable safety measures in instances of domestic or sexual abuse?
- Are there any other relevant factors that need to be taken into consideration?
What Do You Need to Know About Protection From Abuse Orders?
A protection from abuse order is also known as a PFA. It's a civil court order that an individual requests from the courts in order to protect themselves from behaviors that threaten their safety. Some examples include: domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and other similar behaviors. The individual requesting the PFA must have a domestic relationship with the individual named on the PFA.
In order to file a PFA, an individual would go to the courthouse in Philadelphia County during normal operating hours. If they require a PFA outside of regular court hours, then a magisterial district judge (who's on call) can grant the PFA.
When an initial PFA is granted, it is temporary. The document outlines very specifically the parameters for engagement between the named individuals, and most PFAs are for seven to ten days. At that time, there is a final hearing where the judge determines whether to grant a final PFA. A final PFA may last for up to three years in Philadelphia County. If an individual is named in a PFA, they are also entered into a statewide database.
Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law in Philadelphia County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online. Someone with experience defending families can ensure that you and your loved ones are taken care of and receive the best possible outcome. There are few attorneys in Philadelphia with the unique experience that Attorney Lento brings to the table, having worked at the court for close to seven years before becoming an attorney. Attorney Lento leverages his experience and passion to fight the good fight on behalf of his family law clients in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania.