Frequently Asked Questions

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Why can’t I speak with the Judge?

For the same reason the Judge won’t speak with the opposing side. You would not want the Judge to speak with the opposing parties and make a decision without hearing your side of the story. Therefore, in the interest of justice, a Judge will generally only address matters in scheduled proceeding where all parties involved have been properly notified.

What does “Pro Se” mean?

If you are representing yourself without the benefit of an attorney, you are known as a PRO SE LITIGANT. “Pro Se” is a Latin term meaning “for yourself.”

Will I receive fair treatment when representing myself?

As a pro se litigant, you enjoy every right entitled to you under law. You need not worry if you have little or no experience with the courts before. However, pro se litigants are expected to follow/abide by the rules that govern the practice of law in Pennsylvania courts.

Jury FAQs

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Who qualifies for jury service?

To qualify for jury service an individual must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the county, and able to read, write, speak and understand the English language. To qualify, an individual must not have a mental or physical infirmity that would render them incapable of efficient jury service or have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.

What if I don’t meet the qualifications or cannot be available when I am summoned to appear?

You should contact the Court Administrator to request that you be excused from jury service.

How often must I serve?

If a person serves for one or two days, they need not serve again for a period of one year. If service is for three or more days, the exemption period is three years.

Will I get paid for serving as a juror?

Yes. Jurors are paid $9.00 per day for the first three days of jury service and $25.00 per day for every day thereafter. You will receive a check at the end of your jury service.

Does my employer have to pay me for time missed from work due to jury service?

Under Pennsylvania law, an employer is not required to pay persons during their period of jury service. However, an employer may not fire you or otherwise harm you for responding to a summons.

What should I bring when I report?

You should bring your summons. You may also bring something to read during waiting periods.

What if I fail to report for service?

You may be required to appear in court and you could be held in contempt and fined. However, by making jury service as flexible as possible, we hope to avoid using this power.

What should I wear?

Casual attire should be worn as long as it is in keeping with the dignity of court proceedings. Ties are not required. Slacks, sport shirts, and casual dresses are all appropriate.

Please remember: Weapons, including pen knives, cutting instruments, pepper gas and mace are not permitted in the building and will be confiscated and not returned. Cellular phones are permitted in the Courthouse but not in the courtroom.

Child Custody FAQs

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What are the different types of custody?

Legal custody: The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.

Shared legal custody: The right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.

Sole legal custody: The right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.

Physical custody: The actual physical possession and control of a child.

Partial physical custody: The right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.

Primary physical custody: The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.

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 physical custody: The right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.

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.

Relocation: A change in a residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights.

Note: The above definitions are taken from 23 Pa.C.S. § 5322(a).

Do I need to have an attorney to file for custody?

The choice to have an attorney is yours. The court does not require you to do so. For more information see the General FAQs.

How do I file for custody or visitation?

The first document you must prepare is called a COMPLAINT. The function of the complaint is to tell the Court and Defendant the reason for filing the lawsuit and what outcome you want. You may download the form from the Download section of this site. Be sure to state your case in clear, concise terms. Submit your completed forms to the Family Hearing Office so the matter can be scheduled for a conference.

How much does it cost to file for custody?

To file an original Custody Complaint, the filing fee is $119.00 in Warren County and $109.00 in Forest County (subject to change). As no personal checks are accepted, payment should be made by either a money order or certified check, made payable to the “Prothonotary’s Office.”

What if I cannot afford the filing fee?

You may request that the fee be waived by filling out a PRECIPE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS and filing it with your complaint. If your Precipe is approved, the filing fee will be waived and your case will proceed.

Why is my case scheduled for a conference, not a hearing?

The objective of the custody conference is to determine whether the parties can agree to a custody arrangement which will be entered as an Order of Court, or if they cannot agree, what steps are necessary before a hearing may be held. The conference is informal, is not recorded and no testimony is obtained from either parties or witnesses. This is your opportunity to make you own decisions about what is best for you and your children. The Court does not want to interfere in these personal decisions unless forced to do so because you are not able to work out your own custody arrangement.

What happens when a custody agreement is reached?

The terms of the agreement will be written into an Order of Court and signed by a judge, which you should received within 10 days of the conference.

What happens when the parties cannot agree?

When a full agreement cannot be reached, the parties are ordered to take parenting classes. After one of the parties completes the parenting program, the matter will be scheduled for a formal hearing. The hearing will give you the opportunity to present testimony and subpoena witnesses to testify for you. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will make a decision regarding custody of the children and an Order will be issued, reflecting that decision. All parties involved will be expected to follow the judge’s Order of Court.

I already have a custody order. How do I make changes to it?

As your children grow older, your Court Order may no longer apply to your present circumstances, or you may desire a more specific holiday/vacation schedule. In either case, you may file a PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY. There are no fees to file a Petition to Modify Custody. You may download the form from the Download section of this site. Be sure to state you case in clear, concise terms. Submit your completed forms to the Family Hearing Office so the matter can be scheduled for a conference.

The other party is not following the Order. How do I enforce it?

If the other party is not abiding by the Custody Order,you may file a CONTEMPT PETITION. The matter will then be scheduled for a hearing with a judge on the issues raised in your Petition. You may download the form from the Download section of this site. Be sure to state you case in clear, concise terms. Submit your completed forms to the Court Administrator’s Office so the matter can be scheduled for a hearing.

Where can I find additional information regarding child custody?

The Family Hearing Office handles all custody matters in both Warren and Forest Counties. Feel free to contact the office staff with additional questions. However, the Court and its staff ‘cannot provide legal advice‘. Any legal questions should be directed to your attorney.

Where can I get legal assistance?

You may contact Northwestern Legal Services at 800-665-6957. While they may not be able to help you directly, they can point you to someone you can.

Where can I find information about the Parenting Classes?

The parenting classes are provided by Forest-Warren Human Services. You may call them at 814-726-2100 for more information.

If you do not live in Warren or Forest Counties, you may take a class of similar content offered in your home area. Make sure to forward a Certificate of Completion to the Family Hearing Office.

Could I see the steps in the Custody Process laid out in an easy to understand way?

Custody Flowchart.pdf