Here are the lastest changes to family law procedure in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
1. Bad weather. In case of bad weather, the Court is now posting its status on the crawl that appears at the bottom of local newscasts.
2. Scheduling: At the begining of the year, family division judges were experiencing significant delays in scheduling matters. However, with the influx of the new judges, this problem has largely been remedied (at least for now). Obviously, this is a major step forward for parties, clients and the court. Judges are now generally able to schedule 3 months in advance. However, certain judges remain backlogged in certain areas. Ask your attorney about the particular judge assigned to your case and her/his scheduling status.
3. Support conferences: Support conferences are now being scheduled on Fridays. Previously they were only scheduled on other days of the week.
4. Partial custody hearings: In Allegheny County, "partial" custody cases are generally heard by Laura Valles. Ms. Valles does a superb job of scheduling, settling and hearing cases under very trying circumstances. Ms. Valles had almost no assistance with her heavy caseload. The County has finally seen fit to give her a clerk (which she shares with Amy Ross, of the Court). It was about time. Here is hoping that the County provides Ms. Valles with the support she deserves in the future.
Also, no partial custody hearings are now being scheduled for Fridays.
5. Masters Fees. There is no fee if a complex support matter is "continued" (put off) more than 60 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. However, the requesting party will now be required to pay an entire day of Master's fees if the continuance is requested less than 60 days in advance. This is because the court cannot fill docket slots inside of 60 days and so "last minute" continuances become a wasted day for the court. Master's fees typcially run in the hundreds of dollars.
As always, you should consult your attorney to determine how these procedural changes apply to you. And, as always, it is best to retain an attorney who is well versed in the "unwritten rules" of the court, as well as the written rules.