The following resources are intended to assist with understanding the process of obtaining and protecting your right to legal custody and/or physical custody of minor children. Legal custody is the authority to make significant, non-emergency decisions for a child. The court will award the parties in a custody case with either sole legal custody or shared legal custody. Physical custody is the actual physical possession and control of a child. The court will award the parties in a custody case with primary physical custody, shared physical custody, or partial physical custody.
Primary physical custody is when the child lives with one parent most of the time. Generally, if a parent is awarded primary physical custody an order of shared legal custody is also awarded.
Shared physical custody is when both parties share nearly equal physical time with the child.
Partial physical custody is when one parent has the child on certain nights or during specific scheduled time.
How Do I File for Custody?
To start a custody case, please download our instructional Custody Packet which includes the forms you will need to file with the Prothonotary’s office in the state and county where the child and a parent, or an individual acting as a parent, lived for at least six months (or since the child’s birth) immediately prior to the filing of the custody complaint.
If a custody order is already in place and you feel the order is not in “the best interest” of the child and needs to be changed, you can file a Petition to Modify Custody. If a custody order is already in place but the other parent is not following it, you can file a Petition for Civil Contempt of a Custody Order. Finally, if you feel that the child is at immediate risk of significant physical or mental harm you can file a Petition for Special Relief. You will file a Petition to Modify Custody, Petition for Civil Contempt, or Petition for Special Relief in the state/county where the currently effective order was issued.
Please note, there is a generally a fee to file a custody complaint/petition. If you cannot pay this fee you can request a waiver of fees by filling out a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP) . You will need to file the completed form with the Prothonotary who will provide it to a judge to review and make a decision on your request.
For more information and guidance on custody, please contact one of our attorneys.
Instructional Custody Packet
Download pdf File size:(1 MB)
This packet includes instructions on how to start a custody case and the forms needed to file with the Prothonotary’s office.