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Child Custody
Self Help - Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas

This informational section is for reference and research purposes. This section explains the basic forms needed for a plaintiff to draft, file, and serve simple Pennsylvania Child Custody actions in a step-by-step format.

A custody action is a lawsuit, usually between separated parents, over legal and physical custody of their minor child. State law authorizes courts to decide whether one or both parents make decisions regarding the child, with which parent the child lives (custodial parent), and how often the child visits the other parent (non-custodial parent).

Child Custody actions involve important legal rights. Only a lawyer can fully explain your legal rights and provide professional advice. Contact Lawyer Referral Service of the Bar Association of Lehigh County to obtain legal advice for a moderate fee (610) 433-7094.

For additional General Information about Child Custody in Lehigh County,

The information provided in this section includes basic forms and instruction for starting a custody case in Lehigh County Court, and modifying or enforcing an existing custody order. The forms provided on this website may not be appropriate for everyone. The form links below are to forms provided by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania and are accepted in all counties in Pennsylvania, unless otherwise noted. The instructions on this page are intended to assist you to complete the local steps in filing these forms in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County only. These local steps will not be applicable in other counties.

For more detailed information on the Custody process, see Lehigh County Custody Office's FAQ page at

IMPORTANT NOTICE: To complete a Child Custody action successfully, you must follow all instructions on the forms exactly as written. If you fail to do the steps in the proper order, fail to complete steps, fail to keep track of dates, or fail to file in the proper county, you risk delay or other legal issues. Completing the child custody forms and process is your responsibility. No additional assistance is available.

State and Local Court Rules Must Be Followed.

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General Instructions To Parties With No Lawyer

There are complex rules of law that everyone who comes to court must follow. You must follow these rules even though you are not a lawyer because the rules exist to provide an orderly process to reach a fair conclusion. Click here

File a praecipe for self-representation with the Clerk of Judicial Records if you are representing yourself in a Family Court case.

COPE - Minor Children

All parties to a custody action must attend a class on the importance of cooperative parenting between separated parents. This three-hour class is offered twice a month in the courthouse, once on Saturday morning and once on Wednesday evening. Parents are not required to attend the same class. The program is presented by A New Dawn Family Solutions. Failure to comply with an Order to attend COPE may result in a finding of contempt, and sanctions imposed by the Court.

  • To view the COPE Schedule and download the registration form in English, click here.
  • To view the COPE Schedule and download the registration form in Spanish, click here.
  • To register and pay online visit the website of A New Dawn Family Solutions, LLC.

Section 1 - Custody Action

Choose one of the following Actions

Filing for Child Custody - Parents

A Custody complaint is filed when no prior order of Custody has ever been entered in any court. If you are a grandparent, filing for Custody of a grandchild, be sure to use the complaint for Grandparents.

Filing for Child Custody - Grandparents

A Custody complaint is filed when no prior order of Custody has ever been entered in any court. If you are a grandparent, filing for Custody of a grandchild, be sure to use the complaint for Grandparents.

Filing a Petition for Modification of an Existing Custody Order

A Petition for Modification is filed when a party desires to change an existing Custody Order.

Filing a Contempt Petition for an existing Custody Order

A Contempt Petition is filed when one party feels the other is in violation of an existing custody order.

Filing for Relocation

A Relocation Notice is filed when one party desires to move to another location inside or outside of Pennsylvania.

Section 2 - Scheduling Order and Filing

Take the following items to the Lehigh County Court House, located at 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown PA, 18101.

  • All four (4) copies of the completed Complaint and forms from Section 1
  • Cash, Money order or Credit/Debit Card to cover filling fees. No personal checks will be accepted. Note when using a Credit/Debit Card a service fee will be added. For filing fees see the Civil fee Schedule

NOTE: Custody intake hours are Monday through Friday 12:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m

Step 1. Request a Scheduling Order
  • When at the Courthouse go directly to the Family Court Administration office located in room 423.
  • Give all four (4) copies to the receptionist. The receptionist will give you back your copies along with the required Scheduling Order.
Step 2. File and pay filing fee at Clerk of Judicial Records
  • Once you have a Scheduling Order, take all the copies of the completed Complaint and forms to the Clerk of Judicial Records, located in room 122.
  • Give the Civil Clerk your remaining copies and pay filing fees.
Section 3 - Serving

Now that you have completed the forms, you are responsible for providing a copy to the opposing side. This process is called "service".

Step 1-Serve all necessary documents on the other party

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.

Step 2-Choose and complete the appropriate Affidavit of Service Form according to the instructions on the form.
Step 3-File Affidavit of Service

File the completed Affidavit of Service in the Clerk of Judicial Records, Room 122, Lehigh County Court House, Allentown, PA 18101. Monday Through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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The forms and instructions that are available from this website are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Court employees cannot give you legal advice or help you fill out /complete the forms. It is your responsibility to read and complete the forms and to take required steps to file and serve the documents. If you decide to use these forms in an actual action, be prepared to spend appropriate time gathering information, completing forms and following the Rules of Court. The Court assumes no responsibility for the use of these forms and accepts no liability for actions taken by using these documents, including reliance on the instructions and/or contents. To obtain legal advice and to insure the proper use of this material, you should contact a lawyer.

If you want to obtain the service of an attorney, but do not know whom to contact, you should visit the Lehigh Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service website.

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