Since August 1988, all custody cases filed in Beaver County are scheduled for an initial conference before a Custody Conference Officer.
It is a mechanism, which brings the parties together for the first time after the filing of the custody complaint and attempts to get the parties to resolve issues regarding custody and visitation without the need for formal court proceedings.
Since its inception, the Child Custody Program has helped the vast majority of litigants resolve their custody disputes without Court intervention.
Beginning the Process
An action for custody begins with the filing of a custody complaint with the Prothonotary, which is the filing office for civil cases. A custody conference date is then obtained from the judge who is handling Custody Motions.
The Custody Conference
At the custody conference, the Custody Conference Officer works with the parties in an attempt to a resolution at this stage. If there is an agreement reached between the parties, a proposed Order is submitted to the Court of Common Pleas for review and signature by a judge.
If the parties cannot reach a resolution, the Custody Conference Officer will submit a proposed Order to the Court of Common Pleas. Once an Order is signed by the Court of Common Pleas and filed, each party has 20 days to file exceptions to that Order if they are not in agreement. The exceptions are heard by a Court of Common Pleas judge.
After a hearing on the exceptions has taken place, if a party is still dissatisfied, then the case may go to trial if the issues cannot be resolved during a pre-trial conference.
Enforcement and Contempt
Allegations that one or both parties are in contempt of a custody order are filed with the Court of Common Pleas, not with Juvenile Services.
However, a conference will first be scheduled with a Custody Conference Officer at Juvenile Services in an effort to resolve contempt issues. If a resolution is not reached, then a hearing is scheduled before a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. It should be noted that 85% of custody contempt allegations are resolved in that initial contempt conference.
It should be noted that Juvenile Staff members are neither qualified nor permitted to give legal advice. Child custody matters often involve complex legal issues. Questions regarding child custody issues should be referred to your attorney.
Information and forms related to the filing of child custody actions are available in the Beaver County Law Library’s Pro Se Center, located in the basement of the Courthouse.