Getting a Custody Order

You can start a custody action yourself or through an attorney. Even if there is an agreement about custody, you still need to prepare and file a Custody Complaint if you want your custody agreement to be an Order of Court.

If you Do Not Have an Agreement at the Time of Filing


There are two Complaint forms found on the Supreme Court's web page
(1) Complaint For Custody and (2) Complaint for Custody (Grandparents and Third Parties). If you do not have an agreement, please follow these instructions.
a.



Bring the COMPLETED Complaint, Criminal Record/Abuse History Verification form, also found on the Supreme Court's Web Site, and Scheduling Order to the Custody Office (4th Floor Courthouse Annex). (Although you may use the Order found on the Supreme Court's Web Page, the Custody Scheduling Order found at the Westmoreland County Custody Forms web page is specifically adapted to county practice.) At that time, you will be given a hearing date.
b.

A party without financial means may file a Petition to Proceed in Forma Pauperis found on the Supreme Court's web page. The Verification and Order must be delivered to the Custody Office together with the Complaint and Custody Scheduling Order.
c.
After you receive your hearing date, you will then take the Complaint and Scheduling Order to the assigned Judge (the Custody Secretary will direct you to the proper office before leaving the office).
d.





You will be ordered to attend a custody conciliation conference. After the scheduling order has been signed by the Judge, you will then take the Complaint, Criminal Record/Abuse History Verification Form and Scheduling Order, along with three copies, to the Prothonotary’s Office (5th Floor, Courthouse Annex) for filing, along with the necessary filing fee of $158.10 which must be paid by cash, money order, or certified check. Personal checks will not be accepted. Delivery of a Verification and signed Order to proceed in Forma Pauperis will waive the filing fee. You will file the original and one copy with the Prothonotary. One copy is for you and the other copy must be served on the Defendant.
e.



Each Party will be ORDERED on the County's Custody Scheduling Order, to submit to the Custody Office, pursuant to Westmoreland County Rule of Civil Procedure W1915.4-3, a completed Parent Information Form found on the Westmoreland County Custody Forms web page and proof of his or her most recent earnings at the time of the conference. The Petitioner will also be ORDERED to serve a blank copy of the Parent Information Form on the Respondent.
f.






Service (providing a copy of the documents you are filing to all other parties). Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1930.4 requires that Original Process (such as a Custody Complaint or Petition to Modify) must be properly served on (mailed or handed to) all other parties, or their attorney, if any. Service must be made by certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt; or personal service by a sheriff or constable; or personal service by a competent adult not a party to the matter. Please read Rule 1930.4 carefully and select the best method for service. Affidavits of Service - Complaint and Acceptance of Service - Complaint forms are available on the Westmoreland County Custody Forms web page. YOU ONLY NEED TO COMPLETE ONE OF THESE FORMS.
g.
Together with a copy of the Complaint, the Plaintiff must also serve a copy of the Scheduling Order and a blank Criminal Record/Abuse History Verification Form on the Defendant and any other parties.
h.

An Affidavit or Acceptance of Service form must be filed with the Prothonotary’s Office prior to the scheduled Custody Conciliation Conference. If you do not properly serve all other parties, your case may be delayed, or even dismissed.

If You Have an Agreement at the Time of Filing


You can prepare the Custody Complaint and the written agreement and file them in the Prothonotary's Office at the same time. If you are filing an agreement, you do not need to file a Scheduling Order. There is a separate packet available for Custody Agreements found on the Westmoreland County Custody Forms web page.