Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is home to over 800,000 residents and a number of townships and municipalities. The Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County is the highest available court, and holds six divisions: Judges, Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, and Orphans. The Family division is also known as the Domestic Relations division, which is where custody issues are settled. All proceedings in the court are to be held within Montgomery County's courthouse, located a 2 East Airy Street in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The court is open from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm on business days.
What To Expect In Court
Custody proceedings in Montgomery County begin with a filing with the court for custody. The filing is done with the Prothonotary at the Montgomery County Court. Prior to a Conciliation hearing for custody, both parties must undergo a Mediation Orientation as well as the county's Our Children First Seminar. Failure to do so may result in negative sanctions from the court. Mediation sessions will be led by a court approved mediator. The overall goal of the mediation sessions will be to discuss the terms of custody in a non-adversarial manner. The mandatory seminar is a 4-hour program that teaches parents about the child's experience in a parental conflict.
A Conciliation Conference is heard out and decided upon by a Custody Conciliator, who are appointed by the court to resolve custodial issues in a conference without needing to bring the matter to the courtroom. At this stage, your attorney may accompany you and discuss the matter with the assigned Conciliator. Conciliation is a non-adversarial process intended to focus on the children and what is objectively best for them. The Conciliator will attempt to bring both parties to an agreement. Prior to Conciliation, it is likely that legal counsel from both sides will meet with the Conciliator and discuss the matter. If the case does not settle at this stage, and the child is 6 years of age or older, the Conciliator may conduct an interview with the child. This interview is strictly expressive in nature and does not give the child a "vote" in favor of either parent. After the interview, parents and counsel will hear feedback from the interview, and again discuss potential terms of settlement. If the case does not settle at this stage, then it will head to the courtroom.
If the case is to go in front of a judge, the hearing will be scheduled 6 weeks from the initial Conciliation date. If your case is set to go to trial, your attorney will be able to walk you through the process and necessary filings. Trials will be evidentiary in nature, and the standard used to make a decision will be based upon what the judge deems best for the child.
In any custody proceeding, it is important to obtain counsel from an experienced Family Law attorney early on to secure you and your child's best interests. If you or a loved one is involved in a custody battle, or any other matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.