Child Custody Services
The Child Custody Services Office deals with the Court custody process regarding legal and physical custody of minor children between parents, grandparents, and third parties. The Child Custody Services Office does not deal with any issues relating to child support.
Filing a Complaint
The initial step for a custody action is the filing of a Complaint. This may be done as a Complaint for Custody or a Complaint in Divorce in which there is a Count for Custody.
The fees for filing a Custody Complaint or for filing a Complaint in Divorce containing a Count for Custody are listed on the Prothonotary's fee list (PDF). All fees are made payable to the Prothonotary's Office. All fees are subject to change.
It is recommended that you have an attorney represent you in a custody action. When a complaint for custody or modification of a current Custody Order is filed, all parties are required to attend a Child Custody Education Class presented by the Crime Victims Center of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Attendance is mandatory for all parties in an action and is reported to the Child Custody Services Office. Parties living outside of the area may contact an agency near them to attend a similar class.
Procedure for Custody Mediation
If the parties to an action are unable to amicably resolve their custody issues, any party may request that the matter be referred to Child Custody Services for a Mediation Conference to be held.
A Mediation fee of $100 shall be made payable by cash or money order to the Prothonotary's Office upon the filing of any request asking for a referral to the Child Custody Services Office. Once a request is received, a Mediation Conference will be scheduled, generally within four to six weeks of the date of the Order. The purpose of the Mediation Conference is for the parties to attempt to amicably resolve the matter. All fees are subject to change.
If the matter is not resolved at the Custody Mediation Conference, the next step would depend on the type of case.
Procedure for Custody
If the Mediation Conference is unsuccessful, the Child Custody Mediator/Hearing Officer may hold a Pre-Hearing Conference to obtain information which may include interviewing children. A Pre-Hearing Conference may be held immediately following the Mediation Conference. Following the Pre-Hearing Conference, the Court may enter an Interim Order that will become final unless either party makes a request within 30 days for a Hearing before the Mediator or the Court. If a timely request for a Hearing is made, a custody trail will be scheduled.