Chester County Custody Rules & Forms
Actions for Legal and Physical Custody of Minor Children
Rule 1915.3.A. Commencement of Action. Complaint, Order. Parenting Class.
(a) Notice of a custody action and conciliation conference shall include the date and time for each party to attend parenting class, the date and time for custody conciliation, the name of the assigned mediator and instructions to contact the mediator within three (3) days.
(1) Upon petition of either party, issues of relocation shall be heard before the Court. Each petition shall be accompanied by a Rule returnable that sets forth separate Rule and Hearing dates.
(2) All orders for custody shall include a statement that neither party shall relocate the children without proper consent and/or Court approval as required by 23.Pa.C.S.§5337. Strict compliance with 23.Pa.C.S.§5337 is required.
(c) All custody matters alleging the prior existence of a Children, Youth and Families (CYF) proceeding shall include a copy of the order closing the case file prior to the institution of an action for custody in the Family Court.
(d) All initial complaints for custody and petitions for modification shall include an executed copy of the moving party’s Custody Crimes Affidavit. Within ten (10) days of service or at the conciliation conference/appearance before the court, whichever occurs first, the responding party shall file a similar affidavit.
(e) Parenting Class: When an initial complaint or petition to modify custody is filed, all parties shall be required to attend the Court approved Parenting Program. Upon good cause shown, a party may request permission in writing to the Family Court Administrator to attend an approved alternate program. Should the Court grant permission to attend an alternate program proof of attendance must be produced. Any party attending the Court approved program within one (1) calendar year may be excused from attendance. Failure to attend the Parenting Program as directed may result in a finding of Contempt and/or the issuance of Sanctions.
(f) Mediation: In appropriate cases, the parties to a custody proceeding shall be required to attend a Mediation Orientation session. Failure to attend the Mediation Orientation session may result in a recommendation by the custody conciliator that sanctions be entered including but not limited to a fine of up to $100.00.
Comment: For form of the order as required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.3(a) see C.C.R.C.P. 1915.15.A.(a).
See C.C.R.C.P. 1915.4.A.(c) for pleadings to be filed in conjunction with a Petition for Relocation.
For the form of the Custody Crimes Affidavit required by 23.Pa.C.S.§§5328, 5329 see C.C.R.C.P. 1915.15.(A)(b).
The current Court approved Parenting Program is Children in Between. Parties residing outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be given permission to attend the online version of Children in Between. It is the party’s responsibility to provide the Court with the certificate of completion.
Rule 1915.4.A. Prompt Disposition of Custody Cases. Custody Hearing Demand. Pre-Trial Statement. Certificate of Readiness. Relocation.
(a) Initial Contact with the Court.
(1) All complaints for custody and petitions for modification shall be scheduled for mediation within thirty (30) days of filing with the Office of the Prothonotary and/or
(2) All parties shall attend parenting classes within thirty (30) days of filing the initial Complaint with the Office of the Prothonotary.
(b) Listing Trials before the Court.
(1) All temporary orders for custody unless otherwise specifically indicated on the order, shall automatically become a Final Order of the Court no later than 180 days of the filing of the Complaint or Petition for Modification except in those cases where the parties have demanded trial within the time limitations set forth in Pa.R.C.P. 1915.4. and C.C.R.C.P. 1915.4.A.(c)(4).
(2) All temporary orders for custody shall include the following language:
NOTICE: UNLESS A DEMAND FOR TRIAL, A CERTIFICATE OF TRIAL READINESS AND A PRE-TRIAL STATEMENT HAVE BEEN FILED, THIS ORDER SHALL BECOME A FINAL ORDER OF THE COURT WITHIN 90 DAYS OF THE MOST RECENT CONCILIATION CONFERENCE.
NOTICE: NEITHER PARTY SHALL RELOCATE THE CHILDREN WITHOUT PROPER CONSENT AND/OR COURT APPROVAL AS REQUIRED BY 23.Pa.C.S.§5337. STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH 23 Pa.C.S.§5337 (related to relocation ) IS REQUIRED.
(i) When trial is demanded by any party, within thirty (30) days of filing the demand or in conjunction with the filing of a petition for relocation is filed, the moving party shall file with the Prothonotary a completed Certificate of Readiness and a Pre-trial statement containing the following information:
(a) a brief statement of the claim(s) being made by the moving party or the defenses(s) made by the responding party;
(b) a concise statement of the facts;
(c) a concise statement of the factual or legal issues involved, if any, including citations to applicable statues or case law, if any;
(d) a list showing the names and addresses of all witnesses each party intends to call at trial; and
(e) a schedule of all exhibits to be offered at trial.
(f) a proposed Final Order and Parenting Plan; and
(g) updated Custody Crimes Affidavit.
(ii) Attached to the Pre-trial statement shall be the reports of any experts intended to be called.
(iii) All Pre-trial statements shall not exceed three (3) pages in length;
(iv) A time-stamped copy of the filed Pre-trial statement shall be served upon Family Court and opposing counsel;
(v) The responding party shall file his/her Pre-trial statement within twenty (20) days of the filing of the movant’s statement.
(vi) Failure to comply with the timely filing of a pre-trial statement may result in the imposition of sanctions including but not limited to exclusion of evidence at trial, fines and costs.
(vii) Failure to comply with the timely filing of a certificate of trial readiness shall result in the recommendation of the custody conciliator being entered as a final order for custody.
(i) The form of Demand for Trial as required by C.C.R.C.P. 1915.4.A.(c)(1)(i) shall be substantially in the following form:
Demand for Trial
(ii) The form of Certificate of Readiness required by C.C.R.C.P. 1915.4.A.(c)(1)(i) shall be substantially in the following form:
Certificate of Readiness
(iii) (a) A copy of the Certificate of Readiness and the Pre-Trial Statement shall be served upon the Family Court Administrator, who shall schedule the case for hearing and promptly notify all counsel and unrepresented parties in the case. Any certificate of readiness that fails to include an estimated time of trial will be rejected and not scheduled for trial.
(b) Failure to timely file a Certificate of Trial Readiness and Pre-Trial Statement shall result in the temporary order entered after the conciliation conference being entered as a Final Order for Custody unless good cause can be shown for the matter to proceed to trial.
(i) The information contained in all pre-trial statements shall be updated, as appropriate, any time prior to commencement of the custody hearing. Failure to produce the information required may result in exclusion of such evidence at time of hearing.
(4) (a) All demands for trial shall be filed within ninety (90) days of the most recent conciliation conference.
(b) A copy of the demand for trial shall be served upon the Family Court Administrator.
Comment: In the event no demand for trial has been filed, the docket will automatically reflect that the Order of the Court was finalized no later than 180 days after the filing of the Complaint or Petition for Modification. This rule does not apply to collateral matters not involving actual custody issues such as legal, physical, partial physical and primary physical custody.
See 23 Pa.C.S.§5331 for the contents of the proposed Parenting Plan.
In the event the Certificate of Readiness is filed without the Pre-Trial Statement, no hearing date will be scheduled until the Pre-Trial Statement is filed.
The demand for trial must be served upon Family Court in order for the case to be placed on the trial list.
Rule 1915.5.A. Questions of Jurisdiction. No Responsive Pleading by Defendant Required. Counterclaim. Venue. Discovery.
(a) (1) All references to hearing in Pa.R.C.P. 1915.5 shall be construed as referring to the conference before the custody conciliator. If a question of jurisdiction or venue is raised by timely Preliminary Objections, the conciliation shall be continued until decision by the court.
(2) All Preliminary Objections to jurisdiction or venue shall be accompanied by a Rule to Show Cause stating separate Rule Returnable and Hearing Dates.
(b) Requests for discovery shall be in accordance with C.C.R.C.P. 208 et seq. except that no brief shall be required.
B. Custody Conciliator. Conference.
(a) The Court shall appoint appropriate persons as custody conciliators.
(b) The custody conciliator:
(1) shall conciliate custody, and visitation cases filed with the court;
(2) may hear contempt cases filed with the court;
(3) may recommend to the court that interim temporary and final custody orders be entered; and
(4) may recommend that the appointment of counsel and/or a guardian ad litem for the child.
(c) All custody matters shall be scheduled for conference before the custody conciliator no sooner than ten (10) days after filing of an action. Emergency matters may be scheduled for an earlier conference on a standby basis. All parties shall be present at such conference. Failure of a party to appear at the conference may result in the entry of an order in the absence of such party.
(d) An appearance by counsel before the custody conciliator shall be deemed an entry of appearance on behalf of the party represented.
(e) To facilitate the conciliation process and encourage frank, open and meaningful exchanges between the parties and their respective counsel all statements, except agreements made by the parties, shall not be the subject of direct or cross examination at a later hearing before the court. The custody conciliator shall not be subject to subpoena as a witness.
(f) (1) An order, agreed upon by the parties or recommended by the custody conciliator shall issue at the conclusion of the conciliation conference or at the discretion of the conciliator by the close of the next business day. In the event a recommendation does not issue at the conclusion of the conference, upon letter request of counsel or the party(ies), the custody conciliator may conduct a brief conference call limited to minor issues regarding the implementation of his/her recommendation. The conciliator shall submit the order reflecting the agreement or recommendation to the Court for approval.
(i) Recommendations that change primary custody: The recommendation of the custody conciliator shall state whether or not the recommendation will result in a change in primary custody that is not agreed upon by the parties. The conciliator shall advise the objecting party to an Order recommending a change in primary custody that a request for stay of the entry of the recommended order shall be filed within five (5) days of the conciliation conference. If no stay is filed within five (5) days, the order shall be entered. If no demand for trial is filed within ninety (90) days, the recommended order shall become a final order of court. If a request for stay is timely filed, a hearing shall be scheduled within thirty (30) days to determine if the recommended order shall be made a temporary pending trial. The party seeking the stay shall submit an order for hearing. The objecting party shall file a Demand for Trial and serve Family Court Administration no later than the date set for the hearing. A certificate of trial readiness and pre-trial statement shall be filed within thirty (30) days of the filing of the demand for trial. The certificate of trial readiness and pre-trial statement shall be served upon Family Court Administration. Failure to file a timely demand for trial or certificate of trial readiness and pre-trial statement shall result in the recommendation of the conciliator being entered as a final order of court.
(ii) The form of order required by C.C.R.C.P. 1915.5.B.(f)(2)(i) shall be substantially in the following form:
Notice and Order to Appear Change in Primary Custody
Comment: It is the general practice of this Court to schedule Custody conciliation conferences not later than 90 days from the filing of the Complaint or Petition to Modify.
Rule 1915.11.A. Appointment of Attorney for Child. Interrogation of Child. Attendance of Child at Hearing or Conference.
(a) If counsel or a guardian ad litem is appointed for the child, fees may be assessed against the parties.
(b) (1) No child(ren) shall be present at a conciliation conference unless specifically ordered to appear.
(i) Parties requesting the presence of children ages ten (10) and older at a conciliation conference shall do so by submitting their request in the form of a proposed order to the Office of the Family Court Administrator. That office shall maintain such forms in blank, for this purpose. The proposed order shall be served by the requesting party on all other parties promptly and in sufficient time so that the opposing parties are given at least ten (10) days notice, prior to the conciliation conference, of the entry of the order.
(ii) The form of order required by C.C.R.C.P. 1915.11.A.(b)(2) shall be substantially in the following form:
Order for Appearance of Child/Children
(3) The custody conciliator may at his/her discretion reschedule a conference and direct the appearance of a child or children of any age.
Rule 1915.12.A. Civil Contempt for Disobedience of Custody Order. Petition. form of Petition. Service. Order.
(a) All petitions for Contempt shall be accepted for filing by the Office of the Prothonotary upon payment of the appropriate fee.
(b) All petitions for Contempt shall allege with specificity the facts that constitute a willful failure to comply and indicate the remedy the party is seeking.
(c) All Petitions for Contempt may be scheduled for a hearing before the Custody Conciliator. The hearing shall be limited to one (1) hour in duration at which time the parties may present evidentiary testimony. At the conclusion of the hearing, the custody conciliator shall make a recommendation and advise the parties they have ten (10) days in which to request a hearing de novo. At the conclusion of the ten (10) days if no objections have been filed, the recommendation shall become an order of the court. In the event objections are filed, the matter shall be listed, in the normal course of business, for a hearing de novo before the Court. The hearing shall be limited to the issues raised by the petition for contempt.
(d) The recording of testimony during an evidentiary hearing before the custody conciliator is precluded.
(e) Timely objections to the recommendation of the custody conciliator shall be filed in writing with the Office of the Prothonotary. A copy of the objections shall be filed upon the Family Court Administrator who shall promptly schedule the matter for hearing before the Court.
(f) The form of order required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.12(a) shall be in the following form:
Notice and Order to Appear - Contempt
Rule 1915.13.A. Special Relief
(a) Petitions seeking a stay or other immediate, substantive relief may be presented to the court at any time.
(b) The court will not enter a stay or grant the relief ex parte unless:
(1) Notice – it appears from the petition or motion that reasonable notice, under the circumstances, has been given to all parties in interest of the date, time and place of the application; or
(2) Stipulation – it appears from the petition or motion that there is an agreement by all parties in interest; or
(3) Exigency – the court in its discretion shall determine that there are extraordinary circumstances justifying a stay or immediate relief. Such exigent circumstances include those where immediate action is necessary to protect the mental or physical well-being of a child or children, or to undo the effects of a “snatch” (that is, a recent sudden change in a longstanding custody agreement brought about contrary to the wishes of the custodial parent), or to preserve the status quo.
(c) Where prompt action is necessary, the family court may also enter temporary orders based on:
(1) the recommendations of the conciliator; or
(2) affidavits, depositions, reports of physicians, police or school personnel, and the oral representations of counsel; or
(3) investigations of child service agencies, or
(4) a combination of the foregoing.
Rule 1915.15.A. Form of Complaint. Caption. Order. Petition to Modify a Partial custody or Visitation Order.
(a) The form of order required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.3(a) shall be in the following form:
Notice and Order to Appear Initial/Modification
(b) The form of Custody Crimes Affidavit as required by 23 Pa.C.S.§§5328, 5329 shall be in the following form:
Custody Crimes Affidavit
(c) All Petitions for Modification shall be accepted for filing by the Office of the Prothonotary upon the payment of the appropriate fee.
(d) All Petitions for Modification shall allege with specificity the modification sought and the reasons for seeking the modification.