Family Court – Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

If you have a family-related court matter pending in Lancaster County, the Family Court of the Lancaster County Court of Pleas will probably hear your case. Because family-related matters can be so personal and complicated, there is a Family Court Division to address these matters and provide some assistance for filers in limited cases. The Lancaster County Domestic Relations Office is in the Lancaster County Government Center, while hearings for family court matters typically occur at the Historic Courthouse in Lancaster.

Lancaster County Government Center

150 N. Queen St.

Lancaster, PA 17603

Historic Courthouse

50 N. Duke St.

Lancaster, PA 17602

Matters Handled by Family Court

In Lancaster County, the Family Court Division hears all cases related to domestic matters, including:

  • Child custody and visitation,
  • Divorce,
  • Separation of marital property,
  • Child and spousal support,
  • Termination of parental rights,
  • Adjustments to spousal or child support, and
  • Protection from abuse orders.

Child Custody in Lancaster County

If you and your partner can't reach a mutual agreement regarding child custody and visitation, your case will go to the Lancaster County family court. In determining custody, the court's main consideration will be “the best interests of the child.” The court will consider many factors, including:

  • Whether either parent has a history of abuse or domestic violence or whether someone in either parent's household has a history of abuse,
  • Whether the parents can agree upon and discuss matters related to the child cooperatively,
  • What parental duties each parent performs for the child regularly,
  • Whether one parent is more likely to encourage an ongoing relationship and visitation between the child and the other parent,
  • Whether either parent has attempted to turn the child against the other parent,
  • Extended family in the child's life and whether one parent is more likely to continue those relationships,
  • Whether one parent will provide more stability and continuity in the child's life regarding their home life, education, and general welfare,
  • The child's relationship with any siblings,
  • Whether one parent will provide a more loving, nurturing, and stable home,
  • The distance between the homes of the two parents,
  • How cooperative the parents are with one another,
  • Each parent's mental and physical health,
  • Any history of drug or alcohol abuse by either parent,
  • Whether each parent can make any necessary childcare arrangement,
  • Any other relevant factors.

The court may also consider the child's preference in custody and visitation if the child is old enough and mature enough to articulate a preference.

The judge may award a variety of custody and visitation arrangements, based on the best interests of the child, including:

  • One parent has sole custody, and the other has visitation.
  • Both parents have joint legal custody, and one parent has sole physical custody, while the other has visitation. When this happens, both parents are entitled to make decisions about the child's health, welfare, and education jointly.
  • Both parents have joint legal and physical custody with equal visitation. This joint arrangement allows the parents to decide collaboratively on all decisions and share time with the child equally.
  • The court can also decide to grant a combination of all of the above.

The Lancaster County Domestic Relations office handles all child support matters, including:

  • Enforcement of support orders, including the financial and medical provisions of support orders,
  • Establishing support orders and modifying existing support orders,
  • Services for child and spousal support as well as alimony pendente lite actions, and
  • Establishing paternity.

The Domestic Relations Office is in the Lancaster County Government Center.

Lancaster County Government Center

150 N. Queen St.

Lancaster, PA 17603

Protection from Abuse Order in Lancaster County

A Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is a civil order from a judge that gives protection relief to the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The order can protect a victim from stalking, harassment, physical intimidation, and threats involving bodily harm.

  1. Obtaining a Protection from Abuse Order

Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders are available for those with a family or intimate relationship with the alleged offender. These relationships include:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Current or former sexual or intimate partners
  • Household members related by blood
  • Household members related by marriage
  • Same-sex couples
  • Parents and children

If the applicant is under 18, they'll need a parent or guardian to file on their behalf. A PFA isn't available for strangers, roommates, neighbors, coworkers, or classmates outside of the family or intimate relationships mentioned above.

To obtain a PFA order in Lancaster County, you must appear:

Bail Administration

2nd floor of Historic Courthouse

50 N. Duke St.

Lancaster, PA 17602

8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday

Obtaining the order can take several hours, so it's best to appear at the courthouse early in the day. If you need an emergency PFA after hours, you can call your police department and ask for the Magisterial District Judge. These judges typically have someone on call for emergency orders on weekends, holidays, and at night. If you obtain an emergency PFA, it will expire on the next business day. You can then appear at the courthouse to obtain a temporary PFA.

  1. Defending Yourself from a PFA

If the police or a service processor serves you with a PFA, it will be one of two kinds – temporary or final. If a judge issues a temporary PFA, they will also set a hearing for the final PFA. The temporary PFA is typically only valid for seven to ten days, and the final hearing will happen within ten days. If you don't appear at the final PFA hearing, you risk having a final order in place against you, prohibiting you from contacting, approaching, or harassing the plaintiff.

You have a right to have an attorney at the final PFA hearing and present evidence and witnesses to the court. Your attorney can also cross-examine witnesses presented by the plaintiff and challenge the evidence they present in court. While having an attorney is not mandatory, having skilled legal representation is your best chance for success at a final PFA hearing.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can work quickly and efficiently to protect your rights in court for custody and other family law matters including PFA hearings. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento 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. Family Law Attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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