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.
The Child Custody Services Office will resume scheduled mediations on May 11th, 2020, subject to the following procedures and social distancing measures:
- Parties who are represented by counsel do not need to be physically present for mediation conferences if their attorney is physically present, so long as the party is available to their attorney by phone if needed during the proceedings. Parties who are not represented by counsel must be physically present. Parties who are not represented by counsel and are currently incarcerated or who reside in a state where travel would not be permitted may participate by phone only if the party contacts the Child Custody Services Office at least 48 hours prior to their scheduled conference to make arrangements for phone participation.
- Only the named parties in an action and their counsel may appear for mediation conferences. Children are not permitted to attend mediation conferences unless their presence is specifically requested in the scheduling notice. Do not bring any other people to the courthouse for the mediation (including spouses, friends, and relatives). They will not be permitted to participate in the mediation and may be denied entry to the courthouse.
- Any party or attorney participating in a mediation conference must be wearing a mask or other appropriate face covering at all times while in the courthouse and in the Child Custody Services Office. Parties and attorneys may be asked to wash their hands or to use hand sanitizer before or during the proceedings.
- Continuances (rescheduling the mediation) require the agreement of all parties (including those not represented by counsel), or an order of court. Each party must agree to a continuance in writing or by personally contacting the Child Custody Services Office prior to the scheduled conference.
- We understand that school cancellations and other changes may require you to change what is written in your current custody order. Most custody orders allow the parties to make changes to the schedule “as the parties may agree.” If you need to make changes to your custody schedule due to COVID-19 related issues (such as starting your summer schedule early), you do not need court permission if all parties agree to the changes. We encourage you to make your arrangements with each other by text, messenger, email, or other written method so that both parties have a record of your agreement.
- We strongly encourage parties and their attorneys to contact each other prior to scheduled mediation conferences in an attempt to reach a resolution, even if the resolution is a temporary one. If you are able to reach a resolution prior to your scheduled conference and want to enter an order to reflect your agreement, please contact the Child Custody Services Office for assistance.
We appreciate and thank you for your patience. Please contact the Child Custody Services Office if you have any questions about scheduling or these social distancing measures.
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.