Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as “Montco” 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. All proceedings in the court are to be held within Montgomery County's courthouse, located at 2 East Airy Street in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The court is open from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm on business days. The court has 20 judges in service, and 7 senior judges, as well as 2 judges for the Orphans' Court.
Family Court in Montgomery County
The Family Division, or Domestic Relations, as it is known, is in charge of all Family Law matters in Montgomery County. The Domestic Relations division is designed to handle cases of divorce, support for children and spouses, temporary and permanent alimony, division of marital property, child custody, and even services to protect victims of domestic abuse. The court website offers online payment for child support obligations.
The Family Court Process
In order for a case to be considered by the court, all parties involved must go through a brief intake process. This is essentially the filing of your case. You will want to have help from an attorney, while filing your papers. Depending on your case, the court demands a number of documents before your case can officially be filed with the court. You will have to attend an “intake appointment” where you will need to produce a number of documents, including:
- social security cards
- birth certificates
- photo ID
- proof of address
- employer information
- divorce decree/marriage license
- proof of income
- proof of medical insurance coverage
Additional documentation may be necessary, depending on your case. You may need documentation such as daycare costs, or information regarding the other parent if your case deals with custody or a demand for support. Once you have your documents in order, you will attend your intake interview. The intake interviewer will answer any questions you have about your case. From here, your case will either go to a conference of a hearing. If a solution cannot be reached at a conference, it will likely move forward to hearing with a hearing officer, who is appointed by the judge, to make the determination. At this stage, if you do not already have the representation of an attorney, you should seek out a Family Law attorney immediately. If you disagree with your results from the hearing, you may file an exception to the hearing officer, and you will have an appearance before a judge.
Once a hearing is scheduled, all parties involved in the matter must attend. Failure to attend court can result in fines or imprisonment.
Important Considerations for Child Custody
When it comes to children, it can be hard for parents to come to an agreement in the middle of a divorce. In instances where they're unable to decide, the matter will go to the Family Matters court in Montgomery County. The courts will do their best to discover what is in the “best interest of the child” by looking at several factors.
The factors that they explore are designed specifically to help them answer that question, and so there are many components that the courts consider. Here are some of them.
- Can the parents work together for the child's benefit? How is their communication?
- How close will the two parents live from each other? Is the distance conducive to visits and easy transition for the child?
- How close are the homes to the child's current school? Will they be able to continue attending the same school?
- How available is each parent to care for the child? Are there siblings or other relatives who are also involved in the care?
- Have there been instances of abuse involving either parent, whether physical or sexual abuse?
- Has one parent tried to alienate the other parent from the child since the separation?
- Does either parent have a history of substance abuse, whether alcohol or drugs?
Once the courts feel they have a clear understanding of what is best for the child, they will usually decide legal and physical custody.
Physical custody determines where the child will reside, and for how long (if joint custody). Legal custody is the aspect that allows parents to make legal decisions for the child. For example, this might include deciding on medical treatments, religious beliefs/upbringing, or education.
Protection from Abuse Orders in Montgomery County
There are three types of protection from abuse (PFA) orders that an individual can obtain: a temporary PFA, an emergency PFA, and a final PFA. Before exploring the distinctions between the different types, it's best to first understand the basics of what a PFA is.
A PFA is a civil court order that an individual applies for when they are fearful of bodily injury from someone they live with. Often, their concerns include sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and so on. The court order is available for anyone who has a domestic relationship with the named individual. Some common examples of relationships that might fall under this umbrella are:
- biological siblings
- spouses, former spouses, partners, former partners
- a child of the named individual
- a family member related by blood relationship or marriage (such as an aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc.)
In Montgomery County, to file for a temporary PFA, you'll want to go to the courthouse in Norristown, Monday–Friday between 8:30 am and 1:30 pm. You do not have to pay to file the petition for a temporary PFA. A judge may or may not grant the PFA; regardless, there will be a hearing within ten business days. At that hearing, the attending judge will determine whether or not to issue a Final PFA, which can last for up to three years.
In instances where an individual is not able to file for the temporary PFA, they can request an emergency PFA from the magisterial judge that is on call.
Experienced Family Court Attorneys in Montgomery County
If you or a loved one is involved in matters of Family Law in Montgomery County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today via phone: 888.535.3686. You can also contact Attorney Lento and the Firm through the online form. You don't have to face these emotionally trying times alone. With Attorney Lento and his team by your side, you can rest easy, knowing you have someone who will fight for you and your loved ones.