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231 Pa. Code Rule 1915.1. Scope. Definitions.

Rule 1915.1. Scope. Definitions.

 (a)  These rules govern the practice and procedure in all actions for legal and physical custody of minor children, including habeas corpus proceedings and claims for custody asserted in an action of divorce.

   Official Note

   The term custody includes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, partial physical custody, primary physical custody, shared physical custody, sole physical custody and supervised physical custody. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  5322(a). Rule 1920.32(a) provides that when a claim for custody is joined with the action of divorce, the practice and procedure governing the claim for custody shall be in accordance with these rules.

 (b)  As used in this chapter, unless the context of a rule indicates otherwise, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

   ‘‘action,’’ all proceedings for legal and physical custody and proceedings for modification of prior orders of any court;

   ‘‘child,’’ an unemancipated individual under 18 years of age;

   ‘‘conference officer,’’ an individual who presides over an office conference pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-2(a) or the initial non-record proceeding under Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-3(a). For purposes of these rules, a conciliator is synonymous with a conference officer;

   ‘‘custody,’’ the legal right to keep, control, guard, care for, and preserve a child and includes the terms ‘‘legal custody,’’ ‘‘physical custody,’’ and ‘‘shared custody;’’

   ‘‘hearing officer,’’ a lawyer who conducts a record hearing on partial custody cases pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-2(b);

   ‘‘home county,’’ the county in which the child lived with either or both parents, a person acting as a parent, or in an institution for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the action, and in the case of a child less than six months old, the county in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of the child from the physical custody of the parent, institution, or person acting as parent shall not affect the six-month or other period;

   ‘‘in loco parentis,’’ a person who puts himself or herself in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relationship without going through the formality of a legal adoption. The status of in loco parentis embodies two ideas: (1) the assumption of a parental status; and (2) the discharge of parental duties;

   Official Note

   See A.S. v. I.S., 130 A.3d 763, 766 n.3 (Pa. 2015).

   ‘‘legal custody,’’ the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious, and educational decisions;

   ‘‘mediator,’’ an individual qualified under Pa.R.C.P. No. 1940.4 and who assists custody litigants independently from the procedures set forth in Pa.R.C.P. Nos. 1915.1—1915.25 by engaging the litigants in the alternative dispute principles in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1940.2 to resolve custody matters in whole or in part;

   ‘‘mediation,’’ the confidential process by which a neutral mediator assists the parties in attempting to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on issues arising in a custody action. Mediation is not a court proceeding; rather, it is an independent, non-record proceeding in lieu of court involvement for the purpose of assisting the parties to address the child’s best interest. An agreement reached by the parties must be based on the voluntary decisions of the parties and not the decision of the mediator. The agreement may resolve all or only some of the disputed issues. The parties are required to mediate in good faith, but are not compelled to reach an agreement. While mediation is an alternative means of conflict resolution, it is not a substitute for the benefit of legal advice. The participants in mediation shall be limited to the parties to the custody action, primarily the child’s parents and persons acting as parents. Except as provided in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1940.5(c), non-parties, including children, grandparents, and the parties’ attorneys, shall not participate in the mediation.

   ‘‘non-record proceeding,’’ the initial office conference set forth in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-3. Mediation, as outlined in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1940.1—1940.9, shall not be construed as a non-record proceeding;

   ‘‘partial physical custody,’’ the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time;

   ‘‘person acting as a parent,’’ a person other than a parent, including an institution, who has physical custody of a child and who has either been awarded custody by a court or claims a right to custody. See also the definition of in loco parentis;

   ‘‘physical custody,’’ the actual physical possession and control of a child;

   ‘‘primary physical custody,’’ the right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time;

   ‘‘relocation,’’ a change in a residence of the child that significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights;

   ‘‘shared legal custody,’’ the right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child;

   ‘‘shared physical custody,’’ the right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child;

   ‘‘sole legal custody,’’ the right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child;

   ‘‘sole physical custody,’’ the right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child; and

   ‘‘supervised physical custody,’’ custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.

   Official Note

   The term ‘‘supervised visitation’’ in the prior statute has been replaced by the term ‘‘supervised physical custody.’’

   Official Note

   The definitions of the terms of the various forms of legal custody and physical custody are taken from 23 Pa.C.S. §  5322(a).

   For additional definitions, see the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, 23 Pa.C.S. §  5402.


   The provisions of this Rule 1915.1 amended November 8, 1982, effective January 1, 1983, 12 Pa.B. 4040; amended November 7, 1988, effective January 1, 1989, 18 Pa.B. 5323; amended March 30, 1994, effective July 1, 1994, 24 Pa.B. 1943; amended November 19, 2008, effective immediately, 38 Pa.B. 6595; amended August 1, 2013, effective September 3, 2013, 43 Pa.B. 4702; amended February 8, 2018, effective April 1, 2018, 48 Pa.B. 1095. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (381079) to (381080) and (390109).

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