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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 00-733


Title 231--RULES OF


[231 PA. CODE CH. 1915]

Proposed Amendments to the Rules Relating to Custody; Recommendation 53

[30 Pa.B. 2210]

   The Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee proposes the following amendments to Rules of Civil Procedure 1915.4-1, 1915.4-2 and new Rule 1915.4-3. The Committee solicits comments and suggestions from all interested persons prior to submission of these proposed amendments to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

   Written comments relating to the proposed amendments must be received no later than Friday June 9, 2000 and must be directed to: Patricia A. Miles, Esquire, Counsel, Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee, 5035 Ritter Road, Suite 700, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania 17055, Fax (717) 795-2116, E-mail

   Any notes and explanatory comments which may appear in connection with the proposed amendments have been inserted by the Committee for the convenience of those using the rules. They will not constitute part of the rules and will not officially be adopted or promulgated by the Supreme Court.

Annex A




Rule 1915.4-1.  Alternative Hearing Procedures.

   [(a)  Except as provided in subdivision (b), an] An action for partial custody or visitation may be heard by a hearing officer as prescribed by Rule 1915.4-2. Trials before a judge shall be as set forth in Rule 1915.4-3.

   [(b)  Promptly after the filing of the complaint, a party may move the court for a hearing before a judge where

   (1)  there are complex questions of law, fact or both, or

   (2)  the hearing will be longer than one hour, or

   (3)  the parties certify to the court that there are serious allegations affecting the child's welfare.]

Rule 1915.4-2.  Office Conference[.], Hearing[.], Record[.], Exceptions[.], Order.

*      *      *      *      *

   (d)  At the conclusion of the conference if an agreement relating to partial custody or visitation has not been reached, the parties shall be given notice of the date, time and place of a hearing, which may be the same day, but in no event shall be more than 45 days from the date of the conference.

*      *      *      *      *

   (f)  Within 10 days of the conclusion of the hearing, [The] the hearing officer shall file with the court and serve upon all parties a report containing a recommendation with respect to the entry of an order of partial custody or visitation. The report may be in narrative form stating the reasons for the recommendation and shall include a proposed order, including a specific schedule for partial custody or visitation. [A copy of the report shall be furnished to all parties within ten days.]

*      *      *      *      *

   (i)  If exceptions are filed, the court shall hear argument on the exceptions within 30 days of the date the last party files exceptions, and enter an appropriate final order within 15 days of argument. No motion for Post-Trial Relief may be filed to the final order.

Rule 1915.4-3.  Prompt Disposition of Custody Cases.

   (a)  Initial Contact. Depending upon the procedure in the judicial district, the parties' initial contact with the court (e.g., conference with hearing or conference officer pursuant to Rule 1915.4-2 in actions for partial custody or visitation, conciliation, mediation and/or seminar) shall be scheduled to occur not later than 30 days from the service of the complaint or petition. If the practice in the judicial district does not include conferences, conciliation, mediation, education or another preliminary step, the matter shall be listed for trial before a judge as set forth in subdivision (b) below.

   (b)  Listing. Depending upon local practice, a praecipe, motion or request for trial shall be submitted no earlier than 60 days and no later than 120 days from service of the pleading, except as otherwise provided in this subdivision. If no praecipe, motion or request for trial is filed within 120 days of service of the pleading, the court shall dismiss the matter unless the moving party has been granted an extension for good cause shown, which extension shall not exceed 60 days beyond the 120 day limit. A praecipe, motion or request for trial may be submitted earlier than 60 days after service of a petition for emergency relief, contempt, relocation or for other good cause shown.

   (c)  Trial. Trials before a judge shall commence within 90 days of the date of filing the praecipe, motion or request for trial. Trials and hearings shall be scheduled to be heard on consecutive days whenever possible but, if not on consecutive days, then the trial or hearing shall be concluded not later than 45 days from commencement.

   (d)  Prompt Decisions. The judge's decision shall be entered and filed within 15 days of the date upon which the trial is concluded unless, within that time, the court extends the date for such decision by order entered of record showing good cause for the extension. In no event shall an extension delay the entry of the court's decision more than 45 days after the conclusion of trial.

Explanatory Comment--2000

   A new rule requiring prompt custody trials was recommended by a special committee established by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. That committee concluded that the interests of children who are the subjects of custody litigation would best be served by a requirement that the litigation be concluded within specific time frames.

Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 00-733. Filed for public inspection May 5, 2000, 9:00 a.m.]

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