How Long Does a Custody Battle Typically Take?

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends.” Due to the legally complex and emotionally charged nature of a custody case, representation by an experienced Philadelphia child custody attorney is essential. At Schwartz, Fox, and Saltzman, LLC, our family law attorneys have efficiently guided clients through the child custody process for over 40 years.

In this article, our law firm provides an overview of the factors affecting the child custody process in Pennsylvania.

How Long Does a Custody Battle Take?

On average, a custody case in Pennsylvania may take several months to well over a year to resolve. For example, in 2021, out of 17,299 child custody cases filed in Philadelphia, only 6,949 were resolved, i.e., 40% within 12 months. However, it is important to note that each case is unique and can be influenced by various circumstances as explained below.

Timeline of Child Custody Cases

A custody battle typically begins with one parent or the other filing a complaint for child custody if no prior child custody agreement was entered by a court or by filing a petition for modification of an existing child custody order. You will be assigned to appear before a Domestic Relations Hearing Officer who may refer you and the other parent to mediation, in some counties. If your child custody case cannot be resolved via a negotiated settlement, you will proceed to a hearing in front of a Judge.

What Affects the Length of a Custody Battle?

When it comes to child custody hearings, the duration can vary significantly depending on various factors. Specifically, the type of custody sought by one parent, e.g., sole custody or shared custody, can complicate and prolong the process as it will require more time to litigate. Understanding what influences the length of a child custody case can help you better navigate the process and set realistic expectations.

If Your Case Goes to Trial

If your custody case does go to trial, it will likely take longer to resolve. Preparing for trial is time-consuming. Trials themselves require a divorce attorney to present evidence, question witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, present legal arguments, all of which can turn a trial into a multi-day affair, in some cases.

The Judge Themselves

The assigned judge plays a significant role in determining the length of a child custody trial. The judge’s workload, personal preferences, whether they elect to order a custody evaluation, and approach to managing cases can impact the pace at which your case progresses. Some judges may prioritize timely resolutions, while others may take more time to review evidence along with analyzing the best interests of the child factors ((§5328(a) of the Custody Statute in Pennsylvania), leading to potential delays.

The Court Calendar

The Court’s docket and calendar can affect the timeline of a custody trial. Courts often have numerous civil and criminal cases to manage, and the availability of court dates can impact the scheduling of hearings, conferences, and trial dates. Factors such as holidays, emergencies, and other ongoing cases may also influence the availability of the Court and prolong the overall duration of your custody case.

Details of Your Case

The specific details and complexities of your custody case can influence the amount of time it takes to resolve. Factors such as the type of custody sought by the non-custodial parent, the level of conflict between the parents, and arguments regarding the child’s best interests can prolong the custody process. Each case is unique, and the more complex or contentious it is, the more time it may require to resolve.

Your & Your Ex’s Attorneys

The selection and involvement of attorneys can impact the expense and duration of a child custody case. Competent and experienced child custody lawyers who efficiently handle the legal process can help streamline a child custody case and reach a resolution more quickly. Conversely, inexperienced or uncooperative attorneys, or frequent changes in legal representation, can contribute to delays and prolong the overall duration of a child custody case.

Talk with a Child Custody Lawyer for Assistance

A negative outcome in a child custody case can have severe consequences on your relationship with your child and possibly your child’s life and future. An experienced child custody attorney can build a strong case on your behalf and litigate it efficiently. Contact the family law lawyers at Schwartz, Fox, and Saltzman, LLC, for a free consultation.

Summary of How Long Custody Battles Can Take

A child custody dispute case in Pennsylvania may take several months to over a year to resolve. The involvement of a trial, the assigned judge, the court calendar, the details of the case, and the effectiveness of the attorneys involved can all influence the duration. Consulting with a child custody lawyer can provide you with valuable guidance to navigate the process in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

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