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Custody and Guardianship of Children

Legal Information
Frustrated Woman.

This section of PALawHelp.org has information and resources about Custody and Guardianship of Children issues in Pennsylvania.

Click on a resource category listed below to see information related to that category.

Child Custody

Information from Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. on rights relating to custody and visitation of children.

Child Custody Video Workshop - North Penn Legal Services

This video workshop from North Penn Legal Services provided basic information about child custody and visitation and describes how custody disputes are handled throgh the courts or through negotiation or mediation.

Custody

Chapter 5 of Family Law Manual, developed by North Penn Legal Services. [PDF]

Custody and Visitation in PA (Audio-MP3)

Episode of Northwestern Legal Services' "Access to Justice" Radio show broadcast on JET 1400 AM in Erie, PA on 5/22/2008. Robert Oakley, NWLS Director interviews Judge Stephanie Domitrovitch, Erie County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and Karen Klapsinos, NWLS Staff Attorney regarding custody in Pennsylvania. Information is provided on what a Custody Order is, what it means, how to obtain one, and issues to consider when pursuing custody or visitation. (24:06)

Custody Law in Pennsylvania

General information on custody law in Pennsylvania

Custody - Myths & Facts

Information from MidPenn Legal Services on the true facts regarding child custody law.

General Information On Custody and Visitation

Definitions and general information on custody and visitation from Northwestern Legal Services.

Overview of Custody - Guidelines of Conduct

Information from Northwestern Legal Services on the guidelines of conduct surrounding child custody.

Planning for Custody and Care of Children: an Informational Guide for Immigrant Families

This guide is designed to provide important basic information about child custody to immigrant families.

Child Custody

Information from Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services, Inc. on child custody proceedings and the child custody process.

Child Custody

Consumer Information Pamphlet from the Pennsylvania Bar Association on Child Custody offering information on the law relating to child custody and the procedure in child custody proceedings. Rev. 1/13 [PDF]

Custody

Information from the Erie County Bar Association on the law concerning child custody from the Erie County Bar Association.

Custody

Fact sheet from the Youth Justice Project on child custody. [PDF]

Inside Custody Court: Factors Relevant to Custody Decisions (Video)

This video produced by Penn Law School with the assistance of Philadelphia Legal Assistance, provides an introduction to the factors relevant to custody decisions in Pennsylvania.

Understanding "The Best Interests of a Child"

Review of the sixteen factors listed in Pennsylvania law that the Court must consider when deciding the “best interests of the child” in a custody case, and how these factors might apply in your case.

Custody Update 2014 (Video)

This video from North Penn Legal Services, presented by Ellen Kramer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, provides updated information for issues related to custody relocation and the factors a court needs to consider in any custody case.

Custody Proceedings - Representing Yourself: Forms and Information from the Pennsylvania Courts

Free online information is available from the Pennsylvania Courts website to assist the growing number of Pennsylvanians who want to file their own family law cases in courts across the state. Standardized court forms for child custody proceedings may be obtained on this page of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s website. Included are forms for both parents and third parties, including grandparents.

Local Forms and Self-Help Information

For local forms and information for your county, click the title to see the SELF-HELP FORMS AND INFORMATION sub-topic. Counties are listed alphabetically after some generally applicable forms or you can set your location on the page to see only forms applicable for that location.

PA Courts Public Access Policy - Filing Requirements in the Courts (Video)

Effective on January 6, 2018, a new Public Access Policy is in effect in Pennsylvania Courts. This policy imposes requirements on anyone filing court documents in the trial and appellate courts to safeguard information in the documents they file. The Pennsylvania Courts have released this series of videos that explain the judiciary’s new policy for protecting confidential information and the required steps you must take to protect that information when filing documents in the courts.

Criminal Record and Abuse History in Custody Actions with Instructions

Beginning in September 2013 any person filing a complaint for custody, or any petition for modification for custody must also file a verification regarding any criminal or abuse history of the petitioner and anyone living in the petitioner’s household. This form, completed and filed following the included instructions, may be used to satisfy this requirement. [PDF]

Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Costs to record, or “file” documents such as the complaint, vary from the type of document, or pleading, to the county in which you begin your case. Some court filing costs may be in the hundreds of dollars. If you cannot afford to pay these fees to the court, you will need to complete this form, In Forma Pauperis, a Latin term, referring to someone who cannot pay.

Collaborative Law

Consumer legal information brochure from the Pennsylvania Bar Association on Collaborative Law, a dispute resolution process that is an alternative to litigation. Rev. 1/13 [PDF]

Filling out an Affidavit of Service (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services explains how to complete and file an Affidavit of Service in a custody proceeding after servicing legal papers on the opposing party in your case. The video covers situations where a person is personally served by giving them a copy of the papers and when the service is done by mail.

How to Complete a Custody Complaint Form - For Grandparents and Third Parties (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete a Custody Complaint form 2 (for grandparents and third parties) that is available from the PA Courts "Representing Yourself" website.

How to Complete a Custody Complaint Form - For Parents (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete a Custody Complaint form 1 (for parents) that is available from the PA Courts "Representing Yourself" website.

How to File a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides an explanation of what In Forma Pauperis is (a request to file legal papers without having to pay the filing fee because you cannot afford to pay the fees) and line-by-line instructions on completing a petition to request permission to proceed without paying filing fees.

Preparing for a Custody Hearing - Pennsylvania (Video)

This video explains what happens at a child custody hearing, describes the "best interest of the child" standard, and gives you tips on how to obtain the custody order you want. The video is part of Philadelphia Legal Assistance's "Make Your Case" video series.

Child Custody Video Workshop - North Penn Legal Services

This video workshop from North Penn Legal Services provided basic information about child custody and visitation and describes how custody disputes are handled throgh the courts or through negotiation or mediation.

Grandparent Rights

Information from the Erie County Bar Association on grandparent rights concerning custody and visitation from the Erie County Bar Association.

How to Complete a Custody Complaint Form - For Grandparents and Third Parties (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete a Custody Complaint form 2 (for grandparents and third parties) that is available from the PA Courts "Representing Yourself" website.

Overview of Grandparents' Rights in Family Court (Video)

Jennifer Pierce, Managing Attorney for Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, provides a brief overview of grandparent’s rights in family court.

Pennsylvania KinConnector

Pennsylvania KinConnector is a resource designed to help kinship care families connect to services and supports that can help children and their caregivers. It provides guidance, advice, and support for grandparents raising grandchildren and other relative and non-relative Kinship Caregivers. Kinship care is the full-time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives or any adult who has a “kinship” bond with the children.

Understanding Kinship Foster Care (Video)

This video has been produced by the Pennsylvania Courts to help potential kinship providers learn about and understand kinship foster care, navigate the dependency court system and take the necessary steps to become a kinship parent.

Understanding When Grandparents and Others Can Seek Custody

Informational brochure from the PA Bar Association describing when grandparents and other third parties may seek custody or a child.

Local Forms and Self-Help Information

For local forms and information for your county, click the title to see the SELF-HELP FORMS AND INFORMATION sub-topic. Counties are listed alphabetically after some generally applicable forms or you can set your location on the page to see only forms applicable for that location.

Erie County: How to Get a Custody Order in Erie County

Information from the Erie County Bar Association about the steps involved in getting a custody order in Erie County

McKean County Family Law Forms

Listing of Family Law forms available from the Court.

Montgomery County: How To File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA (Video)

A short, step-by-step instructional video on "How to File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA. This video was produced by the 38th Judicial District Court of Common Pleas in cooperation with Montgomery Bar Association.

Philadelphia County: Child Custody in Philadelphia County

Information on filing for custody in Philadelphia County.

Philadelphia: Proceedings in Philadelphia Family Court during COVID-19

Information from Philadelphia Legal Assistance on how to stay informed and access the Philadelphia Family Court, including how to file pleadings and attend virtual hearings.

Washington County: Pro Se Custody Resource Guide

Forms and information on representing yourself in a custody action in Washington County.

Custody Proceedings - Representing Yourself: Forms and Information from the Pennsylvania Courts

Free online information is available from the Pennsylvania Courts website to assist the growing number of Pennsylvanians who want to file their own family law cases in courts across the state. Standardized court forms for child custody proceedings may be obtained on this page of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s website. Included are forms for both parents and third parties, including grandparents.

PA Courts Public Access Policy - Filing Requirements in the Courts (Video)

Effective on January 6, 2018, a new Public Access Policy is in effect in Pennsylvania Courts. This policy imposes requirements on anyone filing court documents in the trial and appellate courts to safeguard information in the documents they file. The Pennsylvania Courts have released this series of videos that explain the judiciary’s new policy for protecting confidential information and the required steps you must take to protect that information when filing documents in the courts.

Criminal Record and Abuse History in Custody Actions with Instructions

Beginning in September 2013 any person filing a complaint for custody, or any petition for modification for custody must also file a verification regarding any criminal or abuse history of the petitioner and anyone living in the petitioner’s household. This form, completed and filed following the included instructions, may be used to satisfy this requirement. [PDF]

How to File a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides an explanation of what In Forma Pauperis is (a request to file legal papers without having to pay the filing fee because you cannot afford to pay the fees) and line-by-line instructions on completing a petition to request permission to proceed without paying filing fees.

Local Forms and Self-Help Information

For local forms and information for your county, click the title to see the SELF-HELP FORMS AND INFORMATION sub-topic. Counties are listed alphabetically after some generally applicable forms or you can set your location on the page to see only forms applicable for that location.

Filing for Emergency Custody: A Walk-Through (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides a walk-through of completing the forms necessary to file for Emergency Custody in Armstrong, Cambria, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson and Westmoreland Counties.

Filling out an Affidavit of Service (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services explains how to complete and file an Affidavit of Service in a custody proceeding after servicing legal papers on the opposing party in your case. The video covers situations where a person is personally served by giving them a copy of the papers and when the service is done by mail.

How to Complete a Custody Complaint Form - For Grandparents and Third Parties (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete a Custody Complaint form 2 (for grandparents and third parties) that is available from the PA Courts "Representing Yourself" website.

How to Complete a Custody Complaint Form - For Parents (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete a Custody Complaint form 1 (for parents) that is available from the PA Courts "Representing Yourself" website.

How to File a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides an explanation of what In Forma Pauperis is (a request to file legal papers without having to pay the filing fee because you cannot afford to pay the fees) and line-by-line instructions on completing a petition to request permission to proceed without paying filing fees.

Child Custody

Consumer Information Pamphlet from the Pennsylvania Bar Association on Child Custody offering information on the law relating to child custody and the procedure in child custody proceedings. Rev. 1/13 [PDF]

Collaborative Law

Consumer legal information brochure from the Pennsylvania Bar Association on Collaborative Law, a dispute resolution process that is an alternative to litigation. Rev. 1/13 [PDF]

Custody

Information from the Erie County Bar Association on the law concerning child custody from the Erie County Bar Association.

Erie County: How to Get a Custody Order in Erie County

Information from the Erie County Bar Association about the steps involved in getting a custody order in Erie County

Grandparent Rights

Information from the Erie County Bar Association on grandparent rights concerning custody and visitation from the Erie County Bar Association.

Guardianship

Information on legal guardianship from the Erie County Bar Association (August 22, 2018)

Montgomery County: How To File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA (Video)

A short, step-by-step instructional video on "How to File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA. This video was produced by the 38th Judicial District Court of Common Pleas in cooperation with Montgomery Bar Association.

Philadelphia County: Child Custody in Philadelphia County

Information on filing for custody in Philadelphia County.

Understanding When Grandparents and Others Can Seek Custody

Informational brochure from the PA Bar Association describing when grandparents and other third parties may seek custody or a child.

Custody Proceedings - Representing Yourself: Forms and Information from the Pennsylvania Courts

Free online information is available from the Pennsylvania Courts website to assist the growing number of Pennsylvanians who want to file their own family law cases in courts across the state. Standardized court forms for child custody proceedings may be obtained on this page of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s website. Included are forms for both parents and third parties, including grandparents.

PA Courts Public Access Policy - Filing Requirements in the Courts (Video)

Effective on January 6, 2018, a new Public Access Policy is in effect in Pennsylvania Courts. This policy imposes requirements on anyone filing court documents in the trial and appellate courts to safeguard information in the documents they file. The Pennsylvania Courts have released this series of videos that explain the judiciary’s new policy for protecting confidential information and the required steps you must take to protect that information when filing documents in the courts.

Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Costs to record, or “file” documents such as the complaint, vary from the type of document, or pleading, to the county in which you begin your case. Some court filing costs may be in the hundreds of dollars. If you cannot afford to pay these fees to the court, you will need to complete this form, In Forma Pauperis, a Latin term, referring to someone who cannot pay.

Pennsylvania KinConnector

Pennsylvania KinConnector is a resource designed to help kinship care families connect to services and supports that can help children and their caregivers. It provides guidance, advice, and support for grandparents raising grandchildren and other relative and non-relative Kinship Caregivers. Kinship care is the full-time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives or any adult who has a “kinship” bond with the children.

Understanding Kinship Foster Care (Video)

This video has been produced by the Pennsylvania Courts to help potential kinship providers learn about and understand kinship foster care, navigate the dependency court system and take the necessary steps to become a kinship parent.

Local Forms and Self-Help Information

For local forms and information for your county, click the title to see the SELF-HELP FORMS AND INFORMATION sub-topic. Counties are listed alphabetically after some generally applicable forms or you can set your location on the page to see only forms applicable for that location.

Erie County: How to Get a Custody Order in Erie County

Information from the Erie County Bar Association about the steps involved in getting a custody order in Erie County

Filing for Emergency Custody: A Walk-Through (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides a walk-through of completing the forms necessary to file for Emergency Custody in Armstrong, Cambria, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson and Westmoreland Counties.

Filing for Emergency Custody: A Walk-Through (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides a walk-through of completing the forms necessary to file for Emergency Custody in Armstrong, Cambria, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson and Westmoreland Counties.

McKean County Family Law Forms

Listing of Family Law forms available from the Court.

Montgomery County: How To File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA (Video)

A short, step-by-step instructional video on "How to File a Custody Complaint in Montgomery County, PA. This video was produced by the 38th Judicial District Court of Common Pleas in cooperation with Montgomery Bar Association.

Philadelphia County: Child Custody in Philadelphia County

Information on filing for custody in Philadelphia County.

Philadelphia County (Custody): Domestic Relations Information Sheet

Form from the Family Division of the Court of Common Please of Philadelphia that may be used in domestic relations proceedings, including Child and Spousal Support, Divorce, Child Custody, and Domestic Violence. taking place in Philadelphia courts.

Philadelphia County: Domestic Relations Information Sheet

Form from the Philadelphia Bar Association's Family Law Section for use in domestic relations proceedings taking place in Phildelphia courts.

Philadelphia: Proceedings in Philadelphia Family Court during COVID-19

Information from Philadelphia Legal Assistance on how to stay informed and access the Philadelphia Family Court, including how to file pleadings and attend virtual hearings.

Washington County: Pro Se Custody Resource Guide

Forms and information on representing yourself in a custody action in Washington County.

Filing for Emergency Custody: A Walk-Through (Video)

This video from Laurel Legal Services provides a walk-through of completing the forms necessary to file for Emergency Custody in Armstrong, Cambria, Clarion, Indiana, Jefferson and Westmoreland Counties.

Washington County: Pro Se Custody Resource Guide

Forms and information on representing yourself in a custody action in Washington County.

Philadelphia: Proceedings in Philadelphia Family Court during COVID-19

Information from Philadelphia Legal Assistance on how to stay informed and access the Philadelphia Family Court, including how to file pleadings and attend virtual hearings.

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