Our blog today discusses the steps in the child custody process in Pennsylvania, and specifically in Allegheny County. While all counties are similar, Allegheny County has adopted a unique program called “Generations” that is a mandatory program for any parent going through a custody matter in Allegheny County.
It is important to keep in mind that in any county in Pennsylvania, most of the steps of the child custody process can be skipped if parents are able to reach an agreement on their custody issues. This is usually done through a Consent Order of Court that can be filed with the Department of Court Records or Prothonotary’s office and is considered a valid and enforceable court order with regard to custody.
However, if parties are unable to agree on a custody order from the outset, most PA courts have created a designated step-by-step system requiring parties to attend various conferences/conciliations designed to lead them to a settlement. In Allegheny County, the Generations Program was designed for that reason. Once a party files a custody complaint in Allegheny County, they are immediately scheduled for a parenting education class along with a mediation session. The mediation session is the first time that the parents are scheduled for a joint session to discuss custody issues in an attempt at resolving some or all of the issues.
The next step in the Generations Program is the Generations Conciliation. This involves both parties and their attorneys, and is again designed to get the parties to attempt to settle their custody matter. If parties are unable to agree at this stage, they are then scheduled for a conciliation with their assigned Judge in Allegheny County. Generally, if the parties are unable to resolve their case at the judicial conciliation level, they are next scheduled for an evidentiary hearing. This can take the form of a partial custody hearing with a hearing officer, or a custody trial with their assigned Judge.
Keep in mind, however, that the goal throughout this process is to have the parties agree on their custody schedule and custody-related issues. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, this “consented to” order reflects the mutual understanding of the parties, and more importantly, reflects what the parents believe is in the best interests of their child or children.
Have questions about navigating the custody process in Pennsylvania? Contact one of our experienced child custody attorneys today!