Rule 1915.4-1. Alternative Hearing Procedures for Partial Custody Actions.
(a) A custody action shall proceed as prescribed by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-3 unless the court, by local rule, adopts the alternative hearing procedure authorized by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-2 pursuant to which an action for partial custody may be heard by a hearing officer, except as provided in subdivision (b).
(b) Promptly after the parties initial contact with the court as set forth in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4(a), a party may move the court for a hearing before a judge, rather than a hearing officer, in an action for partial custody where:
(1) there are complex questions of law, fact or both; or
(2) the parties certify to the court that there are serious allegations affecting the childs welfare.
(c) The president judge or the administrative judge of the family division of each county shall certify that custody proceedings generally are conducted in accordance with either Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-2 or Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.4-3. The certification shall be filed with the Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and shall be substantially in the following form:
I hereby certify that
County conducts its custody proceedings in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. No.
For a complete list of the Alternative Hearing Procedures for each county: http://www.pacourts.us/courts/supreme-court/committees/rules-committees/domestic-relations-procedural-rules-committee.
These rules provide an optional procedure for using hearing officers in partial custody cases. The procedure is similar to the one provided for support cases in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.12: a conference, record hearing before a hearing officer and argument on exceptions before a judge. The terms conference officer and hearing officer have the same meaning here as in the support rules.
It is important to note that use of the procedure prescribed in Pa.R.C.P. Nos. 1915.4-1 and 1915.4-2 is optional rather than mandatory. Counties which prefer to have all partial custody cases heard by a judge may continue to do so.
These procedures are not intended to replace or prohibit the use of any form of mediation or conciliation. On the contrary, they are intended to be used in cases which are not resolved through the use of less adversarial means.
The intent of the 2007 amendments to Pa.R.C.P. Nos. 1915.4-1 and 1915.4-2, and Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915-4.3, was to clarify the procedures in record and non-record custody proceedings. When the first proceeding is non-record, no exceptions are required and a request for a de novo hearing may be made.
In lieu of continuing the practice of including in the Note a 67-county list identifying the hearing procedure selected by the local county court, the list can now be found on the Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee website.
The provisions of this Rule 1915.4-1 adopted July 15, 1994, effective January 1, 1995, 24 Pa.B. 3803; amended November 30, 2000, effective March 1, 2001, 30 Pa.B. 6423; amended October 30, 2007, effective immediately, 37 Pa.B. 5974; amended April 18, 2008, effective immediately, 38 Pa.B. 1815; amended August 1, 2013, effective September 3, 2013, 43 Pa.B. 4702; amended November 18, 2014, effective in 30 days on December 18, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 7514; amended March 4, 2016, effective April 1, 2016, 46 Pa.B. 1412; amended October 14, 2016, effective December 1, 2016, 46 Pa.B. 6819. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (380178) to (380180).
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