Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania
County of Allegheny
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Consistent with the Order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dated April 1, 2020, this Court having originally declared a judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania through April 14, 2020, President Judge Clark now declares that the judicial emergency be extended through May 8, 2020. The Fifth Judicial District Emergency Operations Plan dated March 26, 2020, as amended, shall remain in effect through the duration of the judicial emergency. Additionally, in recognition of the likelihood that this judicial emergency may, of necessity, be extended through May 31, 2020, it is further ORDERED that any case postponed due to this emergency be scheduled after May 31, 2020, and that the suspension of the operation of Rule 600 be applied to those postponements, subject to constitutional limitations. Cases that can be resolved entirely through the use of Advanced Communication Technology may be postponed to a date prior to May 31, 2020.


EMERGENCY CUSTODY MOTION INSTRUCTIONS

These instructions may change.  Further updates may be found on the Fifth Judicial District Website and local media notifications.

1. The Family Law Center is closed for all non-essential functions.

2. Emergencies are immediate situations.  If you have an EMERGENCY regarding custody of your child and it does NOT involve a juvenile court case, determine if you need to make a report to the Office of Children, Youth, and Families and/or local law enforcement.

3. If you are represented, contact your attorney.

4. If you are not represented, you may prepare your own emergency custody motion.  During this emergency public health situation, Duquesne University and University of Pittsburgh Law Schools have established a hotline to provide general legal guidance and advice via telephone on family law issues.  The hotline numbers are as follows:

Duquesne Law School  412-396-4704
University of Pittsburgh Law School  412-648-1879

5. If you would like to discuss your case with a law school student, please call one of the two numbers listed above.

6. If you believe that your situation requires an Emergency Motion for Custody Special Relief petition, evaluate the following frequently asked questions before proceeding.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CUSTODY
(while operating under the Court’s emergency order for essential functions)

Question:   Given Governor’s Wolf entry of a stay at home order, am I able to exchange my child during this time period?

Answer:  Yes.  Custody orders entered before the judicial emergency, unless otherwise modified by the Court, remain in effect.  Custody exchanges shall be made utilizing social distancing and with a minimum number of people involved to ensure a safe exchange.

Question:  I have a current custody order.  Do I still need to follow the order and is the other party expected to follow it during this time period?

Answer:  Yes.  Both parties should be following the provisions of the current custody order as written. Remember, if you and the other party both agree to a modification, you may make that change without coming to the Court to modify the order.  Failure to follow the order, if the child is physically safe, is not an example of an emergency.  You can address this interruption in the custody order, should it occur, with the Court when regular business operations resume.  Please keep your children’s best interests in mind.  (See Administrative Order re: Existing Custody Orders))

Question:  I have a current custody order which provides for a school-time custody schedule and a summer-time custody schedule.  Since my kids are not currently in school, can I exercise my time as if it’s summertime?

Answer:  You should follow the order as written.  Although school may not be in session, it normally would be at this time.  The summer schedule will begin when it is summer.  Remember, if you and the other party both agree to start the summer schedule, you may do so without coming to the Court to modify the order.  This is not an example of an emergency.

Question:  My work schedule or the other parties’ work schedule has changed during this time and I’d like to make changes to the custody order.  How do I do this?

Answer:  Discuss this with the other party and try to work out an agreement that makes sense for your family.  Remember, if you both agree to change the order, you do not need to come to Court.  Requesting a change to your custody order due to a change in work schedule is not an emergency.

Question:  I’d like to file a custody complaint, petition for modification, or petition for contempt.  How do I do that since the Family Law Center is closed?

Answer:  These filings are not considered to be an emergency, and therefore, you should file your paperwork when the Court resumes regular business operations.

Question:  I have a scheduled court date on a custody case which was filed before the Court was closed.  What will happen now?

Answer:  All scheduled court dates for custody, including the Generations education seminar and mediation session, are cancelled.  The Court will notify you, or your attorney if you are represented, with a rescheduled date once the Court resumes regular business operations.

NOTE:  Some judges are still proceeding with custody conciliations (NOT hearings; no hearings or trials are currently being held) remotely if both parties are represented by an attorney.  If you fall into this category, please contact your attorney for further information.

Question:  The other party is refusing to follow the custody order because of the Coronavirus.  What should I do?

Answer:  If you have an attorney, contact your attorney.  Otherwise, please keep in mind that if your child is physically safe, this is not an emergency.  You may address the interruption in the custody schedule by filing the appropriate legal paperwork when the Court resumes regular business operations.

Question:  I have an emergency child custody situation.  How do I contact the Court?

Answer:  If this involves a juvenile case, please contact your attorney, CYF caseworker, or probation officer.  If you are represented, please contact your attorney.  If this does not involve a juvenile case and you are unrepresented, first determine if you need to contact CYF and/or local law enforcement.  Please be aware that if the Court determines that this not an emergency, your relief may not be granted.

If your emergency custody relief has not been addressed above, you may submit the following:

Special Relief Emergency Motion Package

NOTE: Emails sent to the Courts should ONLY contain that which is required in the Special Relief Emergency Motion Package.

The Court e-mail account will only be monitored Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

This is NOT a general advice email account where questions will be answered. The Court will not provide you with legal advice. E-mails that do not conform to the specifications as outlined in the Special Relief Emergency Motion Package will not be addressed.


All Requests for Special Relief must be submitted with an attached copy of the current custody order. Once your packet has been completed, email the packet to emergencycustody@alleghenycourts.us along with your contact information (email address, mailing address and phone number).

Please do your best to notify the other party either via text, email, or phone that you will be presenting this motion.

The Court may contact you by phone to discuss your motion and/or rule on your motion by paper. If the court needs to speak with you, we will attempt to call you three (3) times. If you do not respond to these attempts to contact you, your motion may be denied.

Please keep in mind that the Court may decline to grant your relief if it is determined that it is not an emergency.