In Chester County, the custody procedure is a multi-step process. After the filing of a complaint for custody or a motion to modify an existing custody situation, each party is required to attend a mandatory parenting class as well as a mandatory mediation session with a court appointed Mediator. This mediation session is conducted without lawyers and is intended to facilitate a custody arrangement that is satisfactory to the parties.
ALTHOUGH THIS MEDIATION IS CONDUCTED WITHOUT YOUR COUNSEL PRESENT, YOU SHOULD CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED CHESTER COUNTY FAMILY LAWYER TO LEARN HOW TO BE BEST PREPARED FOR A MEANINGFUL AND PRODUCTIVE MEDIATION SESSION THAT RESULTS IN THE CUSTODY ARRANGEMENT THAT IS IN YOUR CHILDREN’S BEST INTERESTS AND TO ENSURE THAT ANY RESULTING COURT ORDER ACCURATELY REFLECTS ANY AGREEMENT.
If the parties are unable to settle their matter at the mediation, the parties attend, with their attorneys, a custody conciliation conference conducted by a Master. This is not an evidentiary hearing. However, the Master can set a custody and visitation schedule. You will leave with an Order that will be signed by a Judge. There are numerous types of Custody and Visitation Orders which might be entered. For this reason, you need an experienced Chester County custody lawyer to ensure that the best interests of your children are protected and that the right schedule is put into place.
If either party is unhappy with the schedule set by the Master at the Conciliation Conference, then that party has the right to file for a trial before a Judge.
Some important child custody terms that you need to be familiar with include:
- Sole Legal Custody – One parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions regarding the children’s education, religion and medical care.
- Shared Legal Custody – Both parents share the responsibility of making these major decisions. So long as the parents are able to work together to ensure that the best interests of the children are being respected, family court judges in Chester County will generally enter an Order of shared legal custody.
- Sole physical custody. Sole custody is the award of custody rights to one parent with no custody rights to the other parent. Sole physical custody is rarely awarded by the Pennsylvania family court judges.
- Primary physical custody. Primary custody is the right of one parent to have the majority of custodial time with the children.
- Partial physical custody. Partial custody is the right to take possession of the children away from the custodial parent for certain, defined periods of time and may include the right to have overnight custody with the children.
- Shared physical custody. Shared physical custody (sometimes referred to as joint physical custody) is the term used to designate frequent and continuing contact between the minor children and both parents. This term is utilized most frequently by the Chester County family courts when the actual custody time is split anywhere from 60/40 to 50/50 arrangements. The parent who has physical custody on a given day makes the routine decisions impacting the children.
- Visitation. Visitation is the right to spend time with the minor children, but not the right to remove the child or children from the custodial parent’s presence or control.
We Are Experienced Chester County Child Custody Attorneys
Jeffrey J. Valocchi and Robert Teti have represented hundreds of clients in all aspects of the child custody process, including: original orders, modifications, relocations, enforcement, obtaining independent psychological evaluations, and Grandparents’ visitation. Whether we negotiate a fair and workable agreement that is in the best interests of the child, or whether we need to try the case before one of our Chester County judges, we provide competent and compassionate representation of our clients throughout the entire process.
We have represented clients from Chester Springs, Downingtown, Coatesville, Thorndale, Marshallton, Avondale, Kennett Square, Valley Forge, Phoenixville, West Chester, Parkesburg, West Grove, and the Western Main Line including Devon, Berwyn, Daylesford, Paoli and Malvern.