One of the most popular questions we receive from our clients is how long will their case take. There are a number of factors that can impact the time line for your case. One of the biggest factors is the cooperation, or lack thereof, of the other party. Resolving matters by agreement is almost always quicker than litigation. However, if an agreement is not possible, the court's schedule will dictate when your case can be heard. For custody and support matters in Bucks County, it is approx. six (6) weeks from date of filing to the date of your first court appearance. The first appearance is a conference to see if the matter can be resolved with the assistance of a court officer. If there is still no resolution after the conference it can be another six (6) weeks until you have a hearing before a Judge. With a custody case, there is the potential the parties will need to participate in a custody evaluation. The evaluation can take several months to complete. The evaluator then has six (6) weeks to draft their report for the court. You can motion for a custody hearing once the report is received and again, be prepared to wait at least six (6) weeks from date of filing to the actual hearing date.
Once a relationship starts to turn south one of the first objectives is often to find a way to physically separate. This can be difficult if the parties own a home together. Neither party may want to give up the marital residence. It can also be difficult financially to go from sustaining one household to two. In situations where there is a lot of hostility, tension and potential for even physical fighting, it is necessary to get a party out of the home sooner rather than later for the sake of everyone involved. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. § 3502(c), the court has the express authority to award exclusive possession of the marital residence to one or both parties during the pendency of the divorce. Laczkowski v. Laczkowski, decided in 1985, was the first case to hold that the court could award exclusive possession of the martial residence during a divorce. 344 Pa. Super. 154 (Pa. Super. 1985). In Laczkowski, the home was to be given to the spouse having physical custody of any minor children.