Several updates are being made to the rules as it relates to family law matters. Rule 1915.11, which addresses the appointment of an attorney for a child for a custody matter, now permits the court to apportion the costs for an attorney appointed for a child as the court deems appropriate.
When we work with you on your divorce, your divorce settlement agreement will contain all the important issues facing you and your spouse including who has what type of custody. If your relationship breaks down and one party refuses to recognize the other parent's custody rights, the aggrieved parent can try to have the agreement enforced in court.
To move forward with a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, the parties need only allege an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" and either consent to the divorce after a 90-day period or establish 2-year separation. A no-fault divorce can also be obtained if one of the spouses is institutionalized for a period of 18 months provided they will likely still be institutionalized 18 months following the commencement of the divorce. No-fault divorce became available in Pennsylvania in 1980 when the Divorce Code was revised. Originally, a separation period of three years was required but that has since been reduced to the two year separation period currently required. Recently, there was a legislative push to further reduce the separation period to only one year.
Parties other than parents and grandparents may be able to file for custody. Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws discusses standing for any form of custody. A person who stands in loco parentis may be able to obtain custody. In loco parentis status has been interpreted to mean an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between parent and child. You must be able to establish more than just a frequent care-taker role. New Jersey allows other parties to file for custody if they have become a "psychological" or de facto parent. This person must have established a relationship with the child with consent of one of the parents, be living with the child, have taken on all responsibility for the child, and have developed a meaningful relationship.
Certain counties in New Jersey still require an appearance in court to finalize the divorce even if the divorce is uncontested or issues ancillary to the divorce have already been resolved by agreement. The parties should be prepared to testify as to the their residence in the State of New Jersey, date of marriage and grounds for divorce. For example, the facts establishing the divorce action be it irreconcilable differences, separation, etc. The parties should also state if there are any children between the parties and if so, their names and date of birth.