Title 255—LOCAL COURT RULES
Local Rules of Civil Procedure; Custody; Civ. No. 847-2021
[51 Pa.B. 6590]
[Saturday, October 23, 2021]
And Now, this 8th day of October, 2021, it is hereby Orders and Decrees as follows:
1. Local Rule 1915.4A is rescinded and replaced with the following Local Rule 1915.4A. The rule shall be effective thirty (30) days after publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
2. The Venango County Court Administrator, with the assistance of the Venango County Domestic Relations Rules Committee, shall:
(a) Distribute this Order and the following Local Rule 1915.4A to the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by emailing a copy of this Order to email@example.com and sending two (2) copies to:
Legislative Reference Bureau
Pa. Code and Bulletin Office
647 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0033
(b) Amend the Venango County website to include the following Local Rule 1915.4A within thirty (30) days after the publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin; and
(c) File one (1) copy of Local Rule 1915.4A with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC).
By the Court
OLIVER J. LOBAUGH,
Rule 1915.4A. Procedure in all Custody Cases.
(a) Alternative Hearing Procedures for Partial Custody Actions.
(1) Except as otherwise set forth below, the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County, Pennsylvania, hereby adopts the alternative hearing procedure authorized in Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 1915.4-2 pursuant to which an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody may be heard by a hearing officer, except as provided herein.
(2) Promptly after the parties' initial contact with the court, a party may move the court for a hearing before a judge, rather than a hearing officer, in an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody where:
(a) There are complex questions of law, fact or both; or
(b) The parties certify to the court that there are serious allegations affecting the child's welfare.
(3) The president judge shall appoint a family law hearing officer, who shall be a lawyer. The family court hearing officer who is a lawyer employed by, or under contract with, a judicial district or appointed by the court shall not practice family law before a conference officer, hearing officer, permanent or standing master, or judge of this judicial district.
(b) Custody Conciliation Conference.
(1) Upon commencement of an action for any form of legal or physical custody, or an action seeking to initiate or reinstate any proceeding to modify, terminate or otherwise affect contact between children and parties, a custody conciliation conference shall be scheduled. A conciliator will be appointed by the court from a list of qualified conciliators.
(2) The conciliator shall make every effort to conduct a custody conciliation conference within forty-five (45) days after his or her appointment. All parties and their attorneys shall attend the custody conciliation conference. The conciliator shall review the court file before the custody conciliation conference in order to ensure that all pleadings and documents have been properly filed by all parties, including a verification regarding any criminal record or abuse history. If a party has not filed the verification, then the conciliator shall have that party complete the verification before commencing the custody conciliation conference, and the conciliator shall ensure that the verification is filed of record after the conference.
(3) At the custody conciliation conference, the conciliator shall meet with the parties, their attorneys, or both to discuss the issues and use their best efforts to reach a settlement based on the best interests and welfare of the children. If any component of the case is settled, the conciliator shall file a written report with the court setting forth the agreement and the proposed court order to be entered in the case. If any component of the case is not settled, the conciliator shall file a written report with the court that recites the following:
(a) the parties and attorneys that attended the custody conciliation conference;
(b) the results of the conference;
(c) recommendations for an interim court order, if any, with a proposed court order to be entered in the case;
(d) recommendations whether counsel for the child should be appointed;
(e) and any other information that may help the court as the court addresses the matter in further proceedings under this rule.
The proposed court order submitted by the custody conciliator shall include terms for the court to schedule a custody pre-trial conference with the family law hearing officer.
(c) Custody Pre-Trial Conference.
(1) If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at the custody conciliation conference, then all of the parties shall thereafter attend a custody pre-trial conference with the family court hearing officer. This shall not preclude any party from requesting a pre-trial conference before a judge in a case that involves primary physical custody or shared physical custody, in which case, no pre-trial conference shall be scheduled before the family court hearing officer. In those matters scheduled for a pre-trial conference before the court, the pre-trial procedures set forth in Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 1915.4-4 shall be applicable.
(2) A pre-trial statement shall be filed with the court by each party at least five (5) days before the custody pre-trial conference in accordance with Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 1915.4-4(b). A copy of the pre-trial statement shall be sent to the family court hearing officer when filed. If a party fails to file a pre-trial statement or otherwise comply with the requirements of the aforesaid rule, the family court hearing officer may refer the matter to the court for consideration of the entry of an appropriate order under Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 4019(c)(2) and (4) governing sanctions.
(3) At the custody pre-hearing conference, the family court hearing officer shall initially meet with the parties, their attorneys, or both to discuss the issues and use their best efforts to reach a settlement based on the best interests and welfare of the children. If the respondent fails to appear as directed by the court, the conference may proceed without the respondent.
In those matters that involve partial custody or supervised physical custody, the family court hearing officer may make a recommendation to the parties relating to partial custody or supervised physical custody of the child or children.
If an agreement is reached at the conference, the family court hearing officer shall prepare a written order in conformity with the agreement for signature by the parties and submission to the court with the family court hearing officer's recommendation for approval or disapproval. The court may enter an order in accordance with the agreement without hearing the parties. The family court hearing officer may direct one of the attorneys to draft the agreement for signature by the parties and submission to the court within a designated time frame. In that instance, a copy of the written agreement shall be mailed to the family court hearing officer. In the event a written agreement signed by the parties is not submitted to the court within thirty (30) days of the date of the conference, then the family court hearing officer shall proceed to schedule a hearing with the court or the family court hearing officer in accordance with this rule.
(4) If an agreement cannot be achieved, the following matters shall be considered at the custody pre-trial conference:
(a) issues for resolution by the court;
(b) unresolved discovery matters;
(c) any agreement of the parties;
(d) issues relating to expert witnesses;
(e) settlement and/or mediation of the case; and
(f) such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the case, including, without limitation, number of days of the hearing, witness lists, an interim custody arrangement pending final hearing, and appointment of an attorney to represent the legal interest of a child.
(5) At the conclusion of the conference, in those matters that are not settled:
(a) If the matter involves partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, the parties shall be given notice of the date, time and place of a hearing before the family court hearing officer, which may be the same day, but in no event shall be more than forty-five (45) days from the date of the conference, unless the parties agree otherwise. The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with subdivision (d).
(b) If the matter involves primary physical custody or shared physical custody, the family court hearing officer shall issue a report to the court with a proposed court order to be entered that details the agreements made by the parties as to any of the matters considered, limiting the issues for trial to those not disposed of by agreement, and referring the matter to the court to schedule a hearing with recommendations concerning the length of the hearing to be scheduled. Such order shall control the subsequent course of action unless modified at trial to prevent manifest injustice.
(d) Hearings Before Family Court Hearing Officer.
When a hearing for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody is scheduled before the family court hearing officer, the family court hearing officer shall conduct the hearing and file a report in accordance with Pa.R.Civ.P. No. 1915.4-2(b).
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 21-1750. Filed for public inspection October 22, 2021, 9:00 a.m.]
No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.
This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Bulletin full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.