Washington County PA Divorce Procedures
In Washington County, Pennsylvania an action for divorce begins with filing a Divorce Complaint with the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County and then service of it upon the defendant by certified mail. In the majority of cases, our Washington County Divorce Lawyers are able to negotiate a settlement of the division of marital property and debts and the divorcing spouses sign a Marriage Settlement Agreement. When parties to a divorce cannot come to an agreement, the formal court process of Equitable Distribution of the marital assets and debts will take place.
Upon payment of the appropriate fees, an initial conference will be scheduled with the Washington County Divorce Master who will encourage the parties to reach a settlement agreement through a process similar to mediation. If no settlement is reached, a formal listing of the marital property is filed with the Washington County Family Court.
The assigned Family Court judge may then conduct a Pre-Trial Conference during which settlement options will be discussed as well as procedural issues involving any trial that will be scheduled. If a settlement is not reached at this stage, the case will proceed through several stages before the Divorce Master before reaching a hearing. The Master's recommendation at the hearing will become a Final Order unless either spouse files timely Exceptions to it and requests review of the case by the assigned Washington County Family Court Judge.
Washington County PA Support Procedures
In Washington County, PA a Support Complaint must be filed with the Washington County Domestic Relations Division to begin the process to receive child support, spousal support or alimony pendente lite (APL). An initial support conference hearing will be scheduled to take place in approximately three weeks. A Domestic Relations Officer (DRO) will preside at the initial conference and will utilize the Pennsylvania Automated Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES) Child Support Calculator in order to estimate the appropriate amount of support and encourage the parties to come to a settlement agreement regarding their Washington County support issues.
If an agreement is reached at the initial conference, the parties will sign a Consent Order of Court and, if not, a Recommendation will be made by the DRO based on the PA Child Support Guidelines or PA Spousal Support Guidelines. If the plaintiff and/or the defendant dispute the Recommendation by the DRO, that party must request a de novo hearing. The de novo hearing is conducted by a Washington County Support Master who is a Washington County family law attorney. It is important to be represented by a Washington County Support Lawyer at this proceeding since it is a formal legal hearing with testimony taken and documents entered into evidence. Either party may file an appeal from the Support Master and have the issue reviewed by the assigned Washington County Family Court Judge.
Washington County PA Child Custody Procedures
In Washington County, PA a Complaint for Custody or other formal petition must be filed with the Washington County Court of Common Pleas to initiate or seek enforcement or modification of any actions for child custody including primary custody, partial custody, visitation, mothers' rights, fathers' rights and grandparents' rights. All parties to a Child Custody action must attend a mandatory parenting program prior to the initial Pre-Custody Conciliation Meeting and complete a Washington County Parent Plan.
Washington County uses an Alternative Hearing Process for the resolution of Child Custody matters. A Custody Conference Officer (CCO) who is a Washington County family lawyer is appointed to each case and will preside over the majority of the proceedings. First, a brief Pre-Custody Conciliation Meeting is scheduled to determine if an agreement can be reached by the parties and, if so, a Consent Order is drafted by the CCO and, if not, a Custody Conciliation Conference will be scheduled. If an agreement cannot be reached at the second step, the CCO will prepare a Summary Report and Recommended Order for the Family Court Judge. It is encouraged for all parties to have a Washington County Custody Lawyer for the proceedings since the Recommended Order remains in place pending an appeal, pre-hearing conferences, trial, and final order by the Washington County Family Court Judge.
Our Washington County Family Lawyers
Our Washington County Divorce Lawyers, Washington County Support Attorneys, and Washington County Child Custody Lawyers are available to assist you with all aspects of your Washington County, Pennsylvania family law proceeding.
To learn more about our Pennsylvania family law firm, and to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our experienced Washington County family lawyers, call our Southpointe (Canonsburg) office at 724-436-5506, toll free at 1-855-VARI-LAW (855-827-4529) or send us an e-mail. Our Southpointe and Pittsburgh offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and evenings by appointment. Our Cranberry Township family law office is open by appointment only.