WYOMISSING-READING-BERKS COUNTY ATTORNEY JANA R. BARNETT HELPS THIRD PARTIES IN CHILD CUSTODY MATTERS
Although custody disputes usually are between biological parents, other people may seek and get custody or visitation of a child, including grandparents, great-grandparents, and third parties who have served in loco parentis (that is, instead of or in place of a parent). Attorney Jana R. Barnett regularly represents grandparents, great-grandparents and other third parties seeking custody of children, as well as those who oppose such custody.
Under the new custody law, a person who stands in loco parentis has the right to seek any form of legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is the right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child. Examples of the types of decisions that are “legal” are medical, religious and educational. Under the new custody law, legal custody can either be “sole” or “shared”.
Physical custody is the actual physical possession and control of the child for a period of time. A person may have sole physical custody. A person with “sole physical custody” has the exclusive right to physical custody of the child. A person with “primary physical custody” has a right to have physical custody of the child for a majority of the time; the other party has “partial physical custody”. Persons with “shared physical custody” have rights to significant periods of physical custody, but not necessarily “50-50" custody.
Under the new custody law, “visitation” is not recognized.
In Berks County, when a child custody action is filed, the Court orders most parties to attend parenting classes called “Children in the Middle,” and schedules the parties for mediation, and custody conciliation.
“Children in the Middle” classes are held at The Family Guidance Center, 1235 Penn Avenue, Suites 205-206, Wyomissing, PA 19610. The cost of the parenting class is $45 per person.
Mediation is held at the courthouse, at a cost of $85 per person. In mediation in Berks County, the parties have an opportunity to speak with the mediator privately, as well as together. The mediator will notify the Court and the parties' attorneys who attended the mediation, and the outcome.
If the parties do not reach an agreement during mediation, they will attend custody conciliation at the 7th floor of the County Services Center, 633 Court Street, Reading, PA 19601. The Custody Masters will listen to the parties (and perhaps the child), then recommend that the Court enter a specific Order. The Custody Masters also may recommend that a custody evaluation be performed at the parties' expense. If neither party appeals the recommendation within twenty (20) days of the date that the recommendation is mailed, the recommended Order will become an Order of the Court.
The parties can reach agreements at any point in the process, and ask the Court to make their agreements a Court Order.
The Berks County
Court of Common Pleas attaches an Appendix
to custody Orders. These standard
requirements are a roadmap for putting the
best interests of the children first. The
Appendix is part of the order and if these
requirements are not followed, parties can
ask the Court to take action.
Regardless of whether the parties reach an agreement, they are required to attend “Children in the Middle.”
Child custody orders may be modified when it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
To read statutes and related materials, please see "Related Links" on the right.
If you would like to speak with Attorney Jana R. Barnett about how grandparents, great-grandparents, and other third parties can obtain child custody, and learn how she can assist you, call her at 610-478-1860, or click here to send her an e-mail, and she will reply as quickly as possible.