The process of legally obtaining or changing child custody can be complex and may drastically change your child's living situation including residence, school and his ability to see friends or family. If you choose to file for full child custody, you will need to follow specific court procedure. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, understanding court procedure for child custody may assist you in your case.
Fill out original child custody request forms, if you do not have a current child custody order. The forms you must complete include:
a. Custody Complaint
b. Scheduling Order
c. "Focus on Children" Seminar Registration Form, Brochure and Application
d. Civil Cover Sheet
e. Court Administration Cover Sheet.
After you complete the necessary forms, make a copy for the other parent and the court.
Fill out modification of child custody forms, if you have a current child custody order and you want to modify (change) it. To modify custody, you must fill out the following forms:
a. Modification Petition
b. Civil Cover Sheet
c. Court Administration Cover Sheet.
Attach a copy of your current custody order to the petition, before you submit it to the Office of the Prothonotary. Make a copy of all documents for the other parent and the court.
File your completed forms at the Office of the Prothonotary. Pay the filing fee by money order, made payable to the Office of the Prothonotary. As of December 2009, the filing fee for an original custody case is $220.50, while the filing fee for a modification is $89.50. Give the clerk all copies of your papers, the filing fee money order and a self-addressed 9 x 12 envelope with enough postage to return all papers to you.
If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may qualify for a "fee waiver." To apply for this waiver, you must fill out an In Forma Pauperis (IFP) petition to tell the court why you cannot afford the fee. Submit the IFP petition with your papers when you file your custody paperwork.
Check your mail for the self-addressed envelope with file-stamped copies. When you receive your filed papers, be sure to note the day and time for your Custody Conciliation Conference, which will be scheduled within six weeks of the filing date.
Serve the filed papers to the other parent. To complete service "properly" (legally), you must serve the papers in person or by certified mail and complete a proof of service form. Bring the completed form to your Conciliation Conference.