Chester County is one of Pennsylvania's three original counties. The county has over 500,000 residents and has a rich history regarding the state's contribution to the Revolutionary War. The county's courthouse is located in West Chester. The court, known as the County Court of Common Pleas, is split into four administrative divisions: the civil court administration, the criminal court administration, the family court administration and the orphans court administration. There are 17 judges in total, with 13 operating full time and 4 senior judges. The family court administration handles cases of child and spousal support, custody filing, divorce filing, protection from abuse, and equitable distribution.
What To Expect In Court
The custody process in Chester County's court follows a few a steps. First and foremost, a custody complaint must be filed with the court. Complaints can be filed for either modification of a prior custody agreement, or to obtain a new custody agreement. Your attorney will be able to help you with the filing. In any matters of family law, it is best to have an attorney in your corner as early as possible, as an attorney can be helpful both in and out of the courtroom. After a filing, parents are required to attend a parenting class at the court.
The next step in the custody process is a court mandated mediation session, with a court appointed and approved individual acting as mediator. Attorneys may not attend this meeting, though you may want an attorney's coaching prior to the meeting. The purpose of mediation is to encourage parents to reach an agreeable custody order amicably.
If the mediation fails, a custody conciliation will occur. The conciliation is decided upon by a Conciliator, a court appointed individual who acts somewhat like a judge. Your attorney and the opposing party's attorney can attend this. The conciliation conference is intended to act somewhat similar to the mediation process. The child may also be interviewed by the Conciliator. Conciliation often begins simply with counsel from both sides discussing the matter with the Conciliator, and the parents will eventually participate as necessary. If an agreement is reached, a temporary custody order will be prepared and sent for a judge to sign.
For a case to proceed to a custody hearing, all requirements of the Conciliation and Mediation stages must have been met, and the case cannot have settled. Prior to a trial you and your attorney must file a Certificate of Readiness and a Pre-trial statement. Your attorney can assist you with this filing. Hearings will be decided by a judge, who will make a decision based upon what is deemed to be best for the child, based upon evidence introduced at a hearing.
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.