Jana R. Barnett, Esq
(610) 478-1860


Attorney Jana R. Barnett represents parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and third parties who seek custody or visitation rights.

Although custody disputes generally are between biological parents, other people may seek and get custody or visitation of a child.  Those people include grandparents and third parties who have served in loco parentis.

There are two types of custody: legal and physical.

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child.  Examples of the types of decisions which are legal are medical, religious and educational. It is common for parents to have joint legal custody.

Physical custody is the right to have the child for a period of time.  A parent may have sole physical custody.  A person with “primary” physical custody has the child a majority of the time; the other parent has “partial” physical custody. The term “shared physical custody” is often used interchangeably with “50-50″ custody.

In Berks County, when a custody action is filed, Family Court Administration generally notifies parties that they are expected to attend parenting classes called “Children in the Middle”, which are held at The Family Guidance Center, 1235 Penn Avenue, Suites 205-206, Wyomissing, PA 19610.  The cost of the parenting classes is $45 per person, and is paid when scheduling a class.

Mediation is held at the courthouse.  The cost of mediation is $85 per person.  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 of the outcome of the mediation.  When parties reach agreements, they prepare and sign a stipulation and proposed order, and file it with the Prothonotary so that the judge can make it a court order.

If the parties do not reach an agreement during mediation, they will attend a custody conciliation at the 7th floor of the County Services Center, 633 Court Street, Reading, Pa. 19601.  Unless the parents are living in the same house, or unless one parent seeks to relocate, the Custody Masters will listen to the parties, then recommend that the Court enter a specific order which they believe are in the best interest of the children.  If neither party files exceptions to the recommendation within twenty (20) days of the mailing, the recommended order will become an Order of Court.

Parties can reach agreements at any point in the process.  Although many people benefit from Children in the Middle, mediation, and the masters’ recommended orders, parties can enter into stipulations at any time, and ask the court to make their agreement a court order.  When parents file stipulations simultaneously with the custody complaints or petitions to modify custody, they may not be ordered to attend Children in the Middle classes or mediation.

Judges of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas utilizes standard appendixes which serve as a roadmap for putting the best interests of the children first.

To read custody statutes, the Berks County appendixes, and related materials, please use the drop-down menu.

If you need assistance with a custody matter, call Attorney Jana R. Barnett at 610/478-1860 or e-mail her, and she will reply as quickly as possible.