Custody Proceedings

warning about your legal rights

Stopsign Self-represented litigants are held to the same standards as attorneys admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Representing yourself does not exempt you from understanding and following statewide and local Rules of Court.

For your protection, be sure to verify you have met all up-to-date requirements by contacting your local county court administration.

Public Access Policy Notice

As a participant in your court case, you must follow the rules regarding confidential information, documents and filings. Please read the policy here:

Consider watching the video that explains the policy:

Introduction to representing yourself in Pennsylvania

Each of the documents listed below inculde a blank form and the instructions to fill out that form. It is important to read the attached instructions before completing each form.

I can't afford to pay the filing fees

Costs to record, or “file” documents such as the complaint, vary from the type of document, or pleading, to the county in which you begin your case. Some court filing costs may be in the hundreds of dollars. If you cannot afford to pay these fees to the court, you will need to complete the form below entitled, In Forma Pauperis, a Latin term, referring to someone who cannot pay. You will be asked for your income and expense statements. The court may require that you appear in person for a hearing or a judge may decide based upon the information you provide on the In Forma Pauperis form. Instructions are included in the form. Once completed, take the IFP form to the appropriate records office in your county courthouse. This office is called the Prothonotary or Office of Judicial Records.

County-specific forms

Check with your county court for applicable child custody procedures.


Child custody in Pennsylvania

You must print each form and take it to the designated office in your county courthouse. Before you initiate a custody action, make sure you know the appropriate county court to bring this action. For child custody proceedings, use the forms below:


Service is the delivery of court papers to a plaintiff or a defendant. Court papers may be served by mail, but you must follow very specific rules. Court papers may be served by personal service - handing a copy of the paper to the other party – but not by you or a person related to you. Proof of Service, called Affidavit of Service or Certificate of Service, is a form you must file with the court explaining how court papers were delivered to the other party. A court will not act on your case unless you have served the court papers and filed proof that you followed Rules of Court.

Pa. R.C.P. 1930.4 states the options for service of original process, the custody or divorce complaint. Pa. R.C.P. 440 states the options for service of legal papers other than original process.

Please use the appropriate affidavit of service form for the mode of service you will use.  If you plan to serve copies of your legal papers by mail, please use form 1.  If you use hand deliver service, perhaps by a deputy sheriff or someone else not you or related to you, use form 2.  If your situation requires you to use other means of service different from original process, use form 4.  You will need to consult with the Pennsylvania Rules of Court regarding service in your type of case to ensure you are properly following the rules.