In Pennsylvania divorce or separation cases in which children are involved, a county Court of Minor Judiciary will issue an order related to child custody. Other counties usually observe that order, but if a child is being harmed or threatened, you can file a petition in the county's Court of Common Pleas, the next highest level of the state's court system, to change who has custody of the child.
Gather all evidence of the abuse that you suspect has occurred. You'll need records and facts to back up what you say about such abuse to convince a judge to change a custody agreement.
Organize all of this evidence in terms of importance and store it somewhere safe. Examples of such evidence includes reports from social workers, police, doctors or dentists; statements from your child's teachers, and photos and videos documenting abuse.
Download or create a petition for temporary emergency custody. If you're creating your own, on the first page of this petition, you must include the county in which the petition is being filed and the Pennsylvania case number of the original divorce case from the Court of Minor Judiciary. This petition is a "Family Law Petition/Motion Pursuant to Rule 206.8." This is the part of Pennsylvania state law that covers families and children.
Write on the next page the date on which the petition is being filed. Leave a space in which the court clerk can write whether the petition has been delivered and the date of the hearing.
Write "Emergency Petition for Temporary Custody" at the top of the next page. Below that, write "(your name) and (other person's name) have lived separately since (date that you separated from the other person)." Below that, say who has had full-time physical custody of the children and who has had visitation rights.
Write "Incidents:" and then write out what the other person has done that makes you think custody should be changed. Write only facts that you can prove using the evidence you have gathered and mention that evidence in your incidents statement. Limit this to about one page.
Write a paragraph saying that it is in the best interests of the children that they stay with you until a judge can review your case and decide who gets final custody. Sign your name below that statement.
Write the following statement at the bottom of that page and then sign your name and the date after it: "I verify that the statements made in this Emergency Petition for Temporary Custody are true
and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that false statements herein are
made subject to the penalties of 18 Pa. C.S.A. 4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities."
File this petition with the Office of Prothonotary in the Court of Common Pleas at the courthouse in the county where you live. Filing fees vary by county, ranging from $10 to $30 in May 2011.