When a family begins to fracture, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves making plans.  In child custody cases, where your focus is on your child or children’s lives and best interest, we sometimes want to jump to step ten before grounding ourselves with step one.  It can be important to consider some foundational ideas when starting the custody process with your family lawyer before moving towards your local courthouse. Here are some basic considerations to think about that can be easy to overlook:

  • Where do I file? In both PA and NJ we look to where the child, not the parent resides and then file in the appropriate county.
  • What do I file? The initial filing can take on a variety of names but really you are looking to file an initial Complaint or Petition for Custody.  Sometimes in NJ this can also be titled as a Motion.
  • What happens first? Typically, and no matter which state or county you file, the court will send the matter to a custody master, concilliator or mediator.  Some counties require court-ordered mediation prior to a scheduled court date.  Some schedule you directly before a custody master before allowing the matter to go up to a judge.  The ultimate goal is always the same- to find the best resolution in the best interests of your child or children.
  • Can I make an agreement? Yes, at any time. The court always encourages families to take matters into their own hands.  Who better to make an order or schedule than the parties who have to live it in real life?  The court is a mechanism available only if you cannot reach an agreement.  Your lawyer can draft a careful and detailed agreement to make sure all issues are covered.  A custody master or mediator can also collaborate on agreements.  An agreement is submitted to the court and is binding in the same way as if it came directly from the bench.

If you are at the beginning of a custody dispute and are worried about where to start, contact the experienced attorneys at Petrelli Previtera, LLC. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.