How to Apply for Child Custody or Visitation in Pennsylvania

By Carrie Ferland

The District Court of Pennsylvania handles child custody, visitation and support matters through the Family Part. Pennsylvanians can submit an application for custody or visitation to their county's district court. The process is relatively easy and requires no previous legal knowledge -- the courts provide all of the forms you need to apply. While the same forms are used applying for custody and visitation, you can only apply for one at a time.

Obtain a blank custody complaint form, scheduling order, case information sheet (CIS) and court administration form. These forms are used to apply for child custody and visitation. You can request these from the clerk of the Family Division of the Pennsylvania District Court, or download and print them directly from the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System website.

Select whether you are seeking child custody or visitation on the custody complaint form. If you are seeking custody, choose from primary physical custody, joint physical custody, sole physical custody, sole legal custody and/or joint legal custody. If you are seeking visitation, check the option for “secondary primary custody.” You cannot apply for both custody and visitation.

Enter your personal information, including full name, birth date, physical address and Social Security number, on the complaint form. Provide the same information for the other parent. If you are unsure of the other parent’s current address, use the last known address available.

Enter information for each minor child for whom you are seeking custody. You will need to provide the full name, date of birth, current address and Social Security number. Sign the bottom of the form when you are finished.

Enter the matter name for your custody or visitation complaint on the Case Information Statement. List your full name as the plaintiff and the full name of the other parent for the defendant. Sign the bottom of the CIS and the remaining forms when you are finished.

Make a copy of the signed, completed forms. Retain the copies for your personal records.

File the original signed forms with the clerk of the district court where your divorce is currently pending. If you do not have a pending divorce matter, file with the district court in the same county where your child--not you--currently resides. You must pay the filing fee ($220.50 as of 2010) before the clerk will accept your petition. The clerk will then assign a docket number to your custody or visitation matter and return a copy of your file complaint with your new docket number listed at the top.

Make a copy of the filed petition and mail the copy to the child’s other parent via hand delivery, either through a courier service or by certified mail with signature delivery. Retain the signed receipt for your personal records as proof of mailing.

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article