Philadelphia County is home to over 1.5 million residents. When a family has a custody case in Philadelphia County, the hearings will occur at the Court of Philadelphia in the Family Division. This division is also known as Philadelphia 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.
Custody In Philadelphia County
In Philadelphia County, when a person wishes to address custody matters, they must petition the court. In Pennsylvania, there are two types of custody. Physical custody refers to the actual, physical location and caretaking of the child, whereas legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions for the child. These will be settled in the custody order. Custody may also belong to one sole parent, or it may be shared among both. Sole custody is typically only assigned in cases with more difficult circumstances, such as one parent being absent for some time. Parents may sometimes receive shared physical custody, but one parent has sole legal custody. The court will consider a number of factors when making a decision, some of which include any criminal history of the parents, the homes of each parent, and the healthiness of the bond between parent and child. Ultimately, the decision will be based on what Philadelphia Family Court deems to be in the "best interest of the child."
Typically, custody filings are done at the same time as a divorce, however, if the parents are unmarried, a custody proceeding will take place. At times, custody decisions can be settled before the case reaches a courtroom. This is done through a brief mediation process, or sometimes through a hearing with a court-appointed Master. A Philadelphia Family Court Master acts similar to a judge and can rule upon matters of custody. If the matter cannot be resolved at a Philadelphia custody master's hearing, parents must resolve the matter in court.
It can be helpful at all stages during matters of custody to retain the services of a Family Law attorney. During the initial mediation phases, or at a custody master's hearing, an attorney can work with a parent to ensure that their interests in the matter are not only being heard but also protected. An attorney involved from the start will also have a better read on the situation if the matter must go to court. If the matter does go to court, having an attorney at your side can make all the difference in court.
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in matters of Family Law in Philadelphia County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.