Pennsylvania Changes Child Custody Laws

On September 3, 2013, Pennsylvania instituted new rules of procedure which will affect not only new custody cases, but pending custody cases as well. Below we detail the most drastic changes to the custody law, however the full amendment can be seen at 1915.1, et.seq. Pa.R.C.P.

Child Support and Child Custody:

Previously, child support and child custody cases were handled separately by different sections of our courts and often by different judges.  Now, a judge in a child support case is authorized to enter orders regarding custody and visitation when the following criteria are met: 1) venue is proper, 2) there is no current order for custody, 3) no objection by the parties and 4) no delay in the entry of a support order by the determination of the custody claim.

Grandparent Custody Rights:

A grandparent who seeks legal or physical custody of a child must state in his/her initial pleading the standing requirements in the Custody Statute, found in Title 23.  Additionally, great grandparents now have the ability to seek partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, so long as they have standing as established in the Custody Statute.

Criminal or Abuse History and Child Custody

Anyone who is part of a custody action must now disclose their criminal history, and the criminal history of anyone in their household, to the court.  When a complaint for custody or petition for modification of custody is filed, a criminal or abuse history verification must be included. The initiating party must also attach a blank form for the opposing party to complete and file with the court.  Not all criminal charges and convictions will be relevant here, and you should consult an attorney to discuss what must be disclosed and how this may affect your custodial rights.

Order of Court After Child Custody Trial

When a judge issues a ruling after hearing testimony and evidence, the judge must state his/her reasons for the decision on the record in open court, or in a written opinion.