Child Custody in Schuylkill County

Child custody issues are among the most important—and often most stressful—to settle during a divorce or separation. While some situations are more contentious than others, even when the parties agree on custody matters, the court must approve a legal custody agreement to make it binding and enforceable.   

In Schuylkill County, the Court of Common Pleas handles child custody cases. Having the experienced attorneys of the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team on your side throughout custody proceedings can help ensure your parental rights are protected, and your children's best interests are kept at the center of the process. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or contact us to schedule a confidential consultation with the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team.   

Where Are Child Custody Cases Heard in Schuylkill County? 

All child custody matters are handled in the Schuylkill County Courthouse located at 401 N. Second Street in Pottsville. Whether you're filing petitions or other documents with the court or participating in custody trials, you will need to go to the courthouse. 

To begin the custody process, a complaint must be filed with the Prothonotary Office on the first floor of the courthouse. The Prothonotary is responsible for creating, maintaining, and certifying all civil matters before or decided by the court the Civil Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County.  

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody? 

The two types of custody that must be addressed in a Schuylkill County custody order are legal custody and physical custody.  

  • Legal custody refers to who makes decisions about important aspects of the child's life, such as education, medical care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. If parents share legal custody, both have a say in the final decision. If one parent has sole legal custody, they are the sole decision-maker. 
  • Physical custody refers to the daily care of the child, namely, who is responsible for providing food, shelter, and clothing, as well as ensuring the child's transport from school, medical visits, activities, etc. For primary physical custody, the petitioner requests that the child live primarily with them. In this case, the other parent generally has partial custody, usually on prescribed days and times. Additionally, one parent may request that the other party have visitation rights, which means the child can be with the other parent only when another responsible adult is present. 

One parent may have sole physical custody and be responsible for the child all the time. Also, in some instances, the court may order that the child's time with the other parent is supervised by someone chosen by the court or agreed to by the parties. Parents may also share physical custody, in which case they each spend approximately the same amount of time with the child; each is responsible for the day-to-day care when the child is in their custody. 

It is important to understand that the arrangements for legal and physical custody do not have to mirror one another; for example, a court may award shared physical custody but grant one parent sole legal custody, or vice versa, or any combination of the two types of custody. 

What Are the Requirements to Be Able to Seek Custody of a Child in Schuylkill County? 

To file for custody of a child in Schuylkill County, the child must have lived within the county for the previous six months. If a child is younger than six months old, however, Pennsylvania law provides that a custody petition may be filed if abandonment or abuse is alleged affecting either the child, the parent, or a sibling. 

In legal terms, the person bringing a case must have standing to do so, and for custody matters, there are several people who may have standing to bring a petition. While a parent is the most common party to bring a custody case, other potential people who could file a custody complaint include a grandparent or someone else who has been taking care of the child and assuming parental duties. Alternately, if neither parent can care for the child, someone with a long-standing interest in the child's well-being and who is willing to take on the responsibility of caring for the child can also request that a court grant them custody. 

What is the Procedure Used to Resolve Child Custody Cases in Schuylkill County? 

The first step in most custody actions in Schuylkill County is filing a “Complaint for Custody” in the Prothonotary's Office. The Prothonotary will then schedule a custody conciliation conference during which a Court Conciliation Officer will meet with both parties in the hopes of coming to an agreed-upon resolution. This conference is an informal opportunity for the parties and their legal representatives to discuss the issues in dispute; there is no presentation of formal evidence or testimony, and the Conciliation Officer doesn't have the authority to make decisions or rulings. 

In addition to physical and legal custody, other issues that are commonly covered in custody agreements include: 

  • Holiday and vacation schedules 
  • Exchange point location and time as well as transport responsibilities 
  • Contact with the non-custodial parent during custody with the other parent 
  • Modes of communication between the parties 

Custody agreements in Pennsylvania generally prohibit the parties from disparaging one another either through words or actions and from relocating with the child to a new residence if it significantly affects the other party's ability to spend time with the child. 

If the parties agree on all terms at the conciliation conference, the Conciliation Officer will prepare a stipulation for the parties to sign; then, the officer will sign the stipulation and submit it to the court for approval. Even if both parties are in general agreement about custody issues, having an experienced custody attorney from the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team on your side can make sure the stipulation includes all of the issues that the reviewing judge is likely to raise before granting approval and entering a child custody order

If, after the conference, the parties remain in dispute, the Conciliation Officer will prepare a report with recommendations for the judge assigned to the case. The parties have 20 days to file “exceptions” to the recommendations explaining why they aren't in agreement with them. If exceptions are filed, the judge will hold a hearing at which the parties can argue in favor of their position.  

After this ruling, the next step is a pre-trial conference before the judge, at which the parties may reach an agreement or determine further logistics for a possible trial. Before this conference, the judge may order the parties to take part in evaluations. If there is still no agreement at the pre-trial conference, the case will be scheduled for a formal trial. 

In Pennsylvania, a child custody trial's focus is the best interests of the child. Proceedings may last hours or days, depending on the complexity of the issues between the parties. At trial, each party may present witnesses and documentation to support their position. Depending on the age of the child involved, the judge may also speak directly to the child about their preferences and experiences with each party. 

Upon hearing all the evidence, the judge will make a decision and enter a child custody order that details all of the issues that pertain to custody. Similarly, if an agreement had been reached by the parties before trial, the judge would review it and enter a child custody order, which may be exactly as the parties agreed upon or may have modifications based on the judge's discretion. 

It is important to note that if the child's health, welfare, or safety is in immediate danger, instead of a “Complaint for Custody,” an emergency petition for relief should be filed as it will be handled by the court within a day or so. If there are custody issues that need to be resolved quickly but not urgently, a petition that requests expedited relief can be entered into the court docket faster than it would in the normal course of custody actions. 

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team knows Pennsylvania custody law and procedures and can guide you through this critical time. We are ready to work with you to ensure that you obtain a custody order in your child's best interests and protect your parental rights. 

What if I Disagree With the Terms of a Child Custody Order in Schuylkill County? 

Upon the court's entrance of a child custody order, a party that isn't happy with the outcome can either file a motion for reconsideration, which is heard by the same judge, or an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. An appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date of the custody order; this deadline applies regardless of whether a party has also filed a motion for reconsideration. 

If you would like to challenge a custody order or are facing a challenge by the other party, the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can help you navigate the appellate process. We are ready to gather all the information you need to help you achieve the best result possible. 

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

A child custody order is a legally binding document, and violating its terms can have serious repercussions, including fines or jail time. If you feel your child's other parent is violating a child custody order, the first step is filing a Petition for Contempt in the same court that entered the custody order. 

If one party alleges that the other has repeatedly violated the custody agreement's terms, they can ask the judge to revise the custody order. For example, if one parent consistently refuses to return the child to the other parent at the time or place required by the order, the other parent may wish to pursue contempt charges. Also, if the child's well-being is in danger with one parent on multiple occasions, the other parent may pursue a modification to the custody order to limit time with the child or request supervised visitation. 

The LLF Law Firm can help protect your child's best interests if you would like to file a contempt petition. We can also protect your rights if you are defending yourself against one. We understand the requirements and considerations for contempt petitions in Schuylkill County, and we are here to help. 

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

As custody orders are enforceable legal documents, any changes to the agreement must be ordered by the judge. This principle is true even if both parties agree to an adjustment, or else both parties risk being held in contempt for violating the custody order. While this may seem a harsh outcome, it is important to remember that the child's best interests remain at the center of the proceedings. Therefore, even if an adjustment to the custody order suits both parents, it must be approved by the judge as being in the best interests of the child. 

To request a change in the custody order's terms, a party must file a request for modification with the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas, explaining the reasons behind the request. The judge will hear both sides at a hearing and decide on the petition. 

The LLF Law Firm Family Law Team knows how to handle custody order modification requests whether you're seeking them or disagreeing that any adjustments are needed. We know the factors that Schuylkill County judges consider when reviewing modification requests, and we are prepared to be on your side. 

How the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team Can Help You With Custody Issues in Schuylkill County 

The LLF Law Firm understands Pennsylvania child custody laws and procedures from the initial filing through conferences, trials, and any modifications or contempt petitions. We can help parties come to mutual agreements on terms that will be acceptable to the judge, who will eventually sign the custody order, and we can also help you enforce your custody order once it's in place. 

We have years of experience helping many families across Pennsylvania in child custody matters, and we are here to help you, too. If you need guidance on child custody in Schuylkill County, contact us today by calling 888.535.3686 or by using our contact form to arrange 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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.