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THE COURTS

Title 255—LOCAL COURT RULES

BERKS COUNTY

Amendments to Local Rules; No. 17-381 Prothonotary; No. CP-06-AD-27-2017 Clerk of Courts

[48 Pa.B. 227]
[Saturday, January 13, 2018]

Order

And Now, this 15th day of December, 2017, the following amendments to Berks County Rules of Civil Procedure 205.2(a); 205.4; 211; 211.6; 211.9; 212.1; 239; 1028(c); 1034(a); 1035.2(a); 1305; 1306; 1910.4; 1910.5; 1910.10; 1910.12; 1910.32; 1910.33; 1915.3; 1915.5; 1915.7; 1915.8; 1915.15; 1915.18; 1915.26; 1915.27; 1915.32; 1915.33; 1920.31(a)(1); 1920.31(b); 1920.32; 1920.42; 1920.51; 1920.51.4; 1920.51.5; 1920.53; 1920.74; and 1940.11; new Berks County Rule of Civil Procedure 1012; 1910.19(1); 1910.19(2); 1910.34; 1915.17; 1920.3; 1930.5; and 4014; and new Berks County Rule of Judicial Administration 510 are hereby adopted and shall become effective thirty (30) days after publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, in accordance with Pa.R.J.A. No. 103(c)(5)(iii) and No. 103(d)(5)(iii).

 (New text appears in underscored bold face, and removed language is shown in bold within brackets.)

 The District Court Administrator is Ordered and Directed to:

 1. Submit one (1) copy of this Order, including the newly adopted rules, to the appropriate Rules Committees of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for review.

 2. Distribute two (2) copies of this Order, including the newly adopted rules, and one (1) disk copy with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 3. File one (1) copy of this Order, including the newly adopted rules, with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts contemporaneously with publishing the local rule in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 4. Compile the local rules within the complete set of local rules available on the Berks County Court website no later than 30 days following publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 5. Distribute one (1) copy of this Order, including the newly adopted rules to each of the Berks County filing offices so they can keep them continuously available for public inspection and copying.

HONORABLE PAUL M. YATRON, 
President Judge

RULES OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION

Rule 510. Public Access Policy.

Pursuant to Sections 7 and 8 of the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts, persons who file documents that contain personal information as defined by the Policy shall file a Confidential Information Form along with the redacted copy of the document and persons who file confidential documents as defined by the Policy shall file a Confidential Document Form along with the unredacted document. Parties are expressly prohibited from filing a redacted and an unredacted version of any document. The policy and forms are available on the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts website www.pacourts.us as well as on the Berks County Court website www.co.berks.pa.us.

RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

PETITIONS, MOTIONS AND ANSWERS

Rule 205.2(a). Physical Characteristics of Pleadings and Other Legal Papers.

 (4) . . .

(5) All filings shall comply with the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania; Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts which can be found at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts website www.pacourts.us as well as on the Berks County Court website www.co.berks.pa.us and with Berks County Rule of Judicial Administration 510.

 The Prothonotary shall accept a party's pleadings, motions, affidavits and other legal papers for filing without regard to that party's failure to comply with any of the above requirements, as long as sufficient information is provided for the Prothonotary to identify the case to which the pleadings, motions, affidavits and other legal papers apply.

Rule 205.4. Electronic Filing and Service of Legal Papers.

 (a)(1) Beginning on the date established by the President Judge by Administrative Order, parties shall file all ''legal papers'' as defined by Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4(a)(2), with the Prothonotary through the Berks County Electronic Filing System ''EFS'' as more specifically provided here and in Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4.

Explanatory Note: The term ''legal paper'' as defined in Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4(a)(2) encompasses all pleadings and other papers filed with the Prothonotary, including exhibits and attachments—even if the legal papers are not adversarial in nature and do not require the non-filing party or parties to respond.

 (2) As used in this rule, the following words shall have the following meanings:

 CMS (Case Management System): A Court case management system manages the receipt, processing, storage and retrieval of data associated with a case and performs actions on the data.

 Electronic Filing (E-Filing): The electronic transmission, acceptance, and processing of a filing. A submission consists of data, one or more documents, and/or images. The definition of electronic filing does not apply to facsimile or e-mail.

[Electronic Service (E-Service): The electronic transmission of an original document to all other electronically-registered case participants via the electronic filing system. Upon the completion of any transmission to the electronic filing system, an electronic receipt shall be issued to the sender acknowledging receipt by the electronic filing system.]

 (b)(1) Authorized Electronic Format of Legal Papers Electronically Filed. All legal papers shall be filed in a portable document format (''pdf'') or other format as may from time to time be established for electronic filing. A paper presented for filing in hard copy or in a format other than [portable document] the required format shall be converted to [portable document] the required format and maintained by the Prothonotary in that format pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4(b)(1).

 . . .

 (c)(2) Website. Access to the Website

 (i) Website. All legal papers shall be filed electronically through the Berks County Electronic Filing System ''EFS'' which shall be accessible through the County of Berks website, [www.countyofberks.com] www.co.berks.pa.us, or at such other website as may be designated from time to time.

 . . .

 (f)(4) Electronic Filing Fees and Costs

 (i) The Prothonotary shall collect an electronic filing fee for each legal paper or exhibit filed as established by the Prothonotary with the approval of the President Judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.

 (ii) In addition to such electronic filing fee, the Prothonotary is authorized to charge a fee as set from time to time for each page of a legal paper or exhibit which is filed in hard copy format and which must be converted to [a portable document] the required format.

 . . .

 (f)(5) Other Procedures Necessary to the Operation of a System of Electronic Filing

 (i) If a legal paper is accepted, it shall be deemed to have been filed as of the date and time it was received by the Berks County Electronic Filing System; provided, however, that if a legal paper is submitted without the requisite fee, the legal paper shall be deemed to have been accepted for filing as of the date payment was received. The Prothonotary is authorized to refuse for filing a legal paper submitted without the requisite payment. If the pleading or legal paper other than original process is accepted for filing, it will be electronically served as authorized by Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4(g)(1)(ii) and service shall be effectuated as provided in Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.4(g)(2)(ii).

 (ii) Termination Notice. In addition to the procedures set forth in Pa.R.C.P. No. 230.2, in cases where a party is a registered user of the Berks County Electronic Filing System, notice of proposed termination may also be electronic.

 (iii) An electronic filer is not required to file any paper copies unless specifically required by the court.

 (iv) An electronic filer is not required to file multiple copies of documents or to file envelopes as specified elsewhere in these local rules. [If documents are to be served electronically, the electronic filer is not required to provide envelopes as specified elsewhere in these local rules, except for those parties who are to receive the document by regular mail or other means of service at required by other rules.]

 (v) Electronic filing is permitted at all times when the EFS is available. If the EFS is unavailable at the time a registered user attempts to file a document, the registered user shall make reasonable efforts to file the document as soon as the unavailability ends.

 (vi) If a registered user believes the unavailability of the EFS prevented a timely filing to the party's prejudice, the registered user may submit a motion to the court within ten (10) days of the registered user's unsuccessful attempt to file the document. The motion shall state the date and time of the first unsuccessful attempt to file the document electronically, the date(s) and time(s) of any subsequent attempts to file the document electronically, and why the delay was prejudicial.

 (vii) The filing deadline for any document filed electronically is 11:59:59 p.m. EST/EDT.

 (viii) Documents with Attachments. Attachments, including exhibits, that are part of any filing, shall be filed electronically at the same time as the document.

(ix) Pleadings seeking judicial action such as Proposed Orders or scheduling orders shall be filed as separate documents within the same electronic filing as the Motion or Petition they pertain to.

 (x) An attachment or exhibit that exceeds the technical standards for the EFS or is unable to be electronically filed must be filed as ordered by the court. A Notice of Exhibit Attachment shall be filed in the EFS referencing such an exhibit with specificity and stating the reason why the exhibit was not filed electronically.

 (xi) The Court may, on its own motion or for good cause shown, order a filing be made under seal. Filings requested to be made under seal shall be submitted to the Prothonotary's Office over the counter rather than through EFS.

 (xii) Sealed or confidential documents may be submitted for electronic filing in a manner that maintains confidentiality under applicable law.

 (xiii) All filings shall comply with the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania; Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts which can be found at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts website www.pacourts.us as well as on the Berks County Court website www.co.berks.pa.us and with Berks County Rule of Judicial Administration 510. Confidential data may be collected on the EFS so that the data can be viewed by authorized personnel while being protected from public view.

 (xiv) Family Court documents shall be confidential and shall not be viewable in CMS by the public without an Order of Court.

Note: Attorneys and litigants who file documents are required to comply with the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts.

 . . .

 (g)(2) Service by Electronic Transmission

[(iii) Service shall be made to registered users through the EFS and to all others as otherwise provided in the Pa.R.C.P. Service by the EFS is complete upon transmission except that, for purposes of calculating the time for filing a response, a transmission on a Saturday, a Sunday, a holiday recognized by Berks County, or after 5:00 p.m. EST/EDT, shall be considered complete on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or recognized Berks County holiday.

(iv) Other than original service, the electronic filer shall not be required to serve a paper copy of the electronic filing on the opposing part if the opposing party is a registered user on the EFS and the electronic filing has been served on them through the EFS.]

(i) The electronic filing of a legal paper does not satisfy the filing party's obligation under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure or the Berks County Rules of Civil Procedure to serve the legal paper on all parties to the litigation or on the Court.

(ii) Service of subsequent pleadings other than orders shall be made by the filing party to all other parties. Service of orders shall be made to registered EFS users by the Prothonotary's Office by e-mail notification or mail as elected by the EFS user and to all others by mail.

 (h) Civil and Family Court Cover Sheets will not be required in EFS cases because any required data will be collected through the EFS for transmission to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts as required by Pa.R.C.P. No. 205.5(e).

Rule 211. Schedule for Arguments. Matters for Panel. Matters for Single Judge.

 Civil Argument Court shall be held on the days as scheduled in the Court calendar for that year, subject to change by court order fixing special argument dates. As used throughout these rules, including B.R.C.P. 211.1 through 211.7 inclusive, and B.R.C.P. 1028(c), 1034(a), and 1035.2(a), the term ''argument court date'' shall mean one of the scheduled Civil Argument Court dates listed on the Court calendar, which calendar can be found on-line at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

 . . .

Rule 211.6. Assignment of Cases for Argument.

 . . .

 (b) Court Administration shall prepare a schedule of assignment of cases designating courtrooms, judges and times that arguments will be heard at argument court, and shall post such schedule by noon of the Thursday (or Wednesday if Thursday is a holiday) preceding argument court in the prothonotary's office and online at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us, and shall post such schedule on argument court day in the first floor lobby at the Courthouse and County Services Center.

 . . .

Rule 211.9. Argument Court Procedures for Support Argument.

 (a) Instead of a praecipe as stated in B.R.C.P. Nos. 211.1 through 211.6, a party requesting that Support Argument be scheduled shall:

 (1) File exceptions to the finding of fact and recommendations of the Support Hearing [Master] Officer with the Domestic Relations Section together with a request for transcript and the required fee.

 . . .

Rule 212.1. Filing of Certificate of Readiness and Scheduling of Pretrial Conferences.

 (a) The parties shall indicate their readiness for trial by filing the prescribed form of certificate of readiness (available from the prothonotary) in duplicate with the prothonotary signed by all parties or their attorneys of record. The forms are available in the Prothonotary's Office and online at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

 . . .

[Rule 239. Notice of Adoption. Copies Thereof.

(a) Except for the adoption of a comprehensive set of new Berks County Rules of Court, whenever any Berks County Rule of Court shall be adopted, amended or abrogated, the prothonotary shall forthwith cause the same to be published one (1) time in the Berks County Law Journal in suitable form so that the same may be placed as an additional or replacement page in the current binder of the Berks County Rules of Court. The prothonotary shall maintain a separate file containing the original orders of the court adopting, amending or abrogating the Berks County Rules of Court and shall maintain a current binder of the Berks County Rules of Court containing such additional or replacement pages.

(b) Upon request, the prothonotary shall furnish copies of the Berks County Rules of Court to any person requesting the same upon payment of such charge as may be determined from time to time by the court. They are also available at www.countyofberks.com/courts.]

Rule 1012. Entry of Appearance.

Every initial pleading or legal paper filed with the Prothonotary or the Domestic Relations Office by an attorney should be accompanied by a written entry of appearance. The written appearance will facilitate proper notification being given to all counsel of record. In the event an initial pleading or legal paper, including an initial responsive pleading or legal paper, filed by an attorney is not accompanied by a written entry of appearance, the Prothonotary or the Domestic Relations Office shall enter the name of the attorney as counsel of record provided that the attorney's full name, signature, Supreme Court ID number and address are contained on the pleading.

Rule 1028(c). Preliminary Objections.

 (a) A party filing preliminary objections which are not endorsed with a notice to plead, as they involve issues raised under Pa.R.C.P. Nos. 1028(a)(2), (3) or (4), shall file simultaneously with the Prothonotary an original and one copy of the preliminary objections, a praecipe for argument, an argument brief and a proposed order granting the relief requested, accompanied by a proof of service of copies of those documents upon counsel for all other parties and any unrepresented parties by first class mail. The praecipe shall order that the preliminary objections be listed for argument on the next argument court date that is at least twenty-four (24) days from the date of filing, or any later date that the party filing the praecipe certifies is agreeable to all parties and the assigned judge. Said argument court date must be in accordance with the Civil Argument Court calendar, which can be found online at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

 . . .

Rule 1034(a). Motion for Judgment on Pleadings.

 (1) A party filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings shall file simultaneously with the Prothonotary a praecipe for argument and an argument brief, accompanied by a proof of service of copies of the motion, praecipe and brief of argument upon all other counsel and any unrepresented parties by first class mail, all in accordance with the Berks County Rules of Civil Procedure governing Civil Argument Court. The praecipe shall order that the motion be listed for argument on the next argument court date that is at least twenty-four (24) days from the date of filing, or any later date that the party filing the praecipe certifies is agreeable to all parties and the assigned judge. Said argument court date must be in accordance with the Civil Argument Court calendar, which can be found online at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

 . . .

Rule 1035.2(a). Motion for Summary Judgment.

 . . .

 (4) If the moving party files the praecipe for argument, an argument brief shall be filed therewith and the case shall be listed for the next argument court date that is at least twenty-four (24) days thereafter, or any later date that the party filing the praecipe certifies is agreeable to all parties and the assigned judge, accompanied by a proof of service of copies of the praecipe and argument brief upon counsel for all other parties and any unrepresented parties by first class mail. Said argument court date must be in accordance with the Civil Argu- ment Court calendar, which can be found at [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us. The non-moving party shall thereafter file an argument brief on or before the Tuesday (or Monday, if Tuesday is a holiday) before the argument court date, accompanied by a proof of service of copies of the argument brief upon counsel for all other parties and any unrepresented parties by first class mail. When the argument date is by agreement of the parties and the assigned judge, unless the assigned judge orders otherwise, the non-moving party shall file its argument brief no later than seven (7) days prior to the agreed upon argument date.

 . . .

ARBITRATION

Rule 1305. Conduct of Hearing.

 On the date fixed for the hearing, the chairperson and the members of the panel shall [pick up the file and take their oaths of office before the Prothonotary] report to the designated location for the hearing and shall organize for the hearing at least fifteen (15) minutes before the scheduled time. The panel shall conduct the hearing in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1302, 1304 and 1305 and in accordance with courtroom decorum [including but not limited to, appearing in proper attire and refraining from smoking during hearings]. The chairperson of the panel shall preside and see to the proper conduct of the hearing[. He/she shall], announce all rulings of a majority of the panel pertaining to the law and/or the admissibility of evidence, and be responsible for the proper filing [of the award] with the Prothonotary of the completed oath and award.

Comment: It is the intention of these rules that the arbitration proceed in an expeditious fashion and that all parties will take full advantage of submitting documentation and tangible evidence pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1305 without the need for expert testimony unless extraordinary circumstances warrant.

Rule 1306. Award, Damages for Delay.

 An award shall be [entered] made promptly upon termination of the hearing pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1306. If delay damages are an issue, the parties shall submit to the arbitrators in a sealed envelope a stipulation containing the following:

 (a) Whether an offer was made in writing;

 (b) The amount of the offer; and

 (c) The date of the offer.

 It shall be the plaintiff's obligation to provide said stipulation to the arbitrators. If the parties are unable to stipulate to the above facts, a separate evidentiary hearing will be scheduled pursuant to B.R.C.P. 1305.1.

SUPPORT

[Rule 1910.4. Commencement of Action. Modification or Termination of Order.

All civil actions or proceedings brought in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County to enforce a duty of support within the scope of Pa.R.C.P. 1910.1 shall be commenced by filing an original and three copies of a complaint with the Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas. The form of the complaint shall be in strict compliance with the applicable Pa.R.C.P. Subsequent proceedings to modify or terminate a support order shall be initiated by filing a petition, together with three copies thereof with the Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas. The form of the petition shall be in strict compliance with the applicable Pa.R.C.P.

Rule 1910.5. Order Directing Party to Appear at Conference. Service.

(a) An order shall be attached to the front of the complaint or petition directing the parties to appear before a conference officer at the time and place directed by the court.

(b) A certified copy of the complaint or petition with order shall be served upon the defendant or respondent as provided by Pa.R.C.P. 1930.4.]

Rule 1910.10. Office Conference and Hearing Procedure.

[The action shall proceed as prescribed by the alternative procedure of] Support proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1910.12.

Rule 1910.12. [Nonappearance Before Conference Officer or Support Master.] Office Conference. Hearing. Record. Exceptions. Transcripts. Failure to Appear.

 (a) If either party fails to appear at the conference before the conference officer or at the hearing before the [Support Master] hearing officer, after notice [thereof] and without good cause shown, the conference or hearing may proceed without that party. If the plaintiff or moving party fails to appear at the support conference before the conference officer or at the support hearing before the [Support Master] hearing officer, after notice [thereof] and without good cause shown, the court may dismiss the action or petition and may place the costs on the party who failed to appear.

[(b) Either party may demand a hearing by filing a properly filed written demand for a hearing within ten (10) days from the date of the default order as set forth in Pa.R.C.P. 1910.12(b)(2).]

(b) If no agreement is reached at the time of the support conference, the case shall be scheduled for a hearing before a hearing officer without further request by a party. If a party who failed to appear at the conference and objects to the interim order recommended at the conference, the objecting party shall file a written demand for a hearing before a hearing officer within twenty (20) days from the date of mailing of the interim order, as set forth in Pa.R.C.P. 1910.12(b)(2). The filing deadline appears on the DRS notice which is sent with the interim order. If no hearing is requested by the filing deadline, the interim order shall become final.

(c) Parties choosing to file exceptions to the report and recommendation of the hearing officer shall comply with the written exceptions procedure (regarding filing, transcription of the record, and associated costs) and filing deadline, which is sent to each party and counsel of record with the report and recommendation. Upon filing of exceptions, the court shall issue an order scheduling the matter for argument, directing the party filing exceptions to obtain a hearing transcript, and setting a briefing schedule.

(d) The party filing exceptions is responsible for immediately requesting transcription of the record of the proceeding by filing a motion for transcription on the form which accompanies the written exceptions procedure. Failure to request or make payment for the transcript may result in the dismissal of the exceptions.

Comment: For requirement of physical presence of a non-resident party or intrastate petitioner in a UIFSA (interstate) or IFSA (intrastate) case, see 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 7316(a) and 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 8311(a).

Rule 1910.19(1). Termination of Alimony Pendente Lite and Spousal Support Orders Upon Entry of Divorce Decree.

In any DRS case in which there is a current charging order of alimony pendent lite (APL) or spousal support, or an allocated order which includes APL or spousal support, the party filing to finalize the related divorce action shall promptly provide the DRS Docketing Division with a copy of the signed final divorce decree. The party filing to finalize the divorce action shall include a proposed form of order to terminate APL or spousal support in substantially the form set forth below.

If APL or spousal support is included in an unallocated order of support, the party filing to finalize the divorce action shall also file a Petition to Modify the unallocated order of support to terminate the APL or spousal support obligation and recalculate the remaining child support obligation with the DRS Docketing Division along with the copy of the signed final divorce decree unless an agreed order is filed.


: IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
: OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Plaintiff
: DOMESTIC RELATIONS SECTION
         Vs. :
: DIVORCE DOCKET NO:
: SUPPORT DOCKET NO:
Defendant
: PACSES CASE ID:
: ASSIGNED JUDGE

ORDER TO TERMINATE APL/SPOUSAL SUPPORT

AND NOW, this      day of       , 20  , it is hereby ORDERED that the alimony pendent lite or spousal support order is TERMINATED effective as of the entry of the decree of divorce in the parties' related divorce action. The party filing to finalize the divorce shall provide the Domestic Relations Section Docketing Division with a copy of the divorce decree in the related divorce action upon receipt of the signed decree. Arrears, if any, shall stand and remain payable at a rate of ($  per month) or (at 25% of the amount of the monthly APL or spousal order to be terminated).

This order is entered without prejudice such that if an appeal is filed, the APL or spousal order may be reinstated. This order shall become final thirty (30) days from the entry of the divorce decree if no appeal has been filed or, if an appeal has been filed, when all appeals have been exhausted.

By the Court:
_________________
J.

Distribution:

Prothonotary
Domestic Relations Section
Plaintiff/Plaintiff's Attorney
Defendant/Defendant's Attorney

Rule 1910.19(2). Alimony-Only Orders Collected Through the Domestic Relations Section.

Parties seeking to have an alimony-only order paid through the Domestic Relations Section shall file a DRS alimony order, copy of signed divorce decree in the parties' related divorce action, and post-nuptial or property settlement agreement containing terms of the alimony in the Domestic Relations Section Docketing Division. The form of order for alimony payments through the DRS may be obtained in the DRS Docketing Division or on the Berks County DRS website at http://www.co.berks.pa.us/dr/. The order for alimony payments through the DRS shall be in substantially the same form as is available through the DRS. The DRS order for alimony shall include a provision for payment of any arrears which may accrue. The arrears payment will not be collected unless arrears have accrued on the order. Alimony-only orders are subject to limited enforcement measures (wage attachment) by the DRS. Parties seeking modification, termination, enforcement or other relief related to an alimony-only order shall file the appropriate motion before the assigned judge or court.

Rule 1910.32. Subpoena.

 The parties to a hearing before the [Support Master] hearing officer shall have the right to subpoena necessary witnesses and records as provided by the law for presentation at the hearing before the [Support Master] hearing officer. Application to enforce any such subpoenas shall be made to the court.

Rule 1910.34. Continuances.

Applications for continuance of a support proceeding (conference before a DRS establishment or compliance officer, hearing before a support hearing officer, Section Application for Continuance form. The form searing before a judge) shall be made by the attorney of record or a self-represented party on the Domestic Relations Section Application for Continuance form. The form may be obtained in the DRS Docketing Division or on the Berks County DRS website at http://www.co.berks.pa.us/dr/ under Forms/Filing Requirements. Applications for a continuance shall be submitted at least 25 days prior to a scheduled proceeding or at the earliest possible opportunity. The applicant shall follow the instructions on the continuance form.

(a) An application for continuance for a matter scheduled before an establishment or compliance conference officer shall be submitted to the DRS Docketing Division, to be forwarded to the appropriate unit manager for review and decision. Any party objecting to the decision may seek relief before the emergency family court judge.

(b) An application for continuance for a hearing before a hearing officer shall be submitted to the DRS Docketing Division, to be forwarded to the assigned hearing officer for review and decision. Any party objecting to the decision may seek relief before the emergency family court judge.

(c) An application for continuance for a hearing scheduled before a judge shall be submitted to the DRS Docketing Division, to be forwarded to the assigned judge for review and decision.

CHILD CUSTODY

Rule 1915.3. Commencement of Action; Filing.

 (a) An action shall be commenced by filing a verified complaint and a copy for each party substantially in the form provided by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.15(a). If the complaint is filed electronically pursuant to B.R.C.P. 205.4, only the original shall be filed.

 (b) [Scheduling Order shall be attached to the complaint substantially in the form provided by B.R.C.P. No. 1915.15(b).] A Custody Scheduling Order substantially in the form provided on the Berks County Family Court website www.co.berks.pa.us shall be filed as a separate document along with the complaint in (a), unless a stipulated custody agreement signed by all parties is being submitted simultaneously with the complaint.

 (c)(1) In the event a claim for custody[, partial custody or visitation] is joined with an action for divorce, a form entitled ''Notice to the Prothonotary'', substantially in the form provided by B.R.C.P. No. 1915.15(a) shall be included.

 (c)(2) If a claim for custody, [partial custody or visitation] is asserted in a divorce complaint, it shall receive a separate term and number as the divorce action. Such pleading shall contain the information required by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.15. If a custody count is filed as part of a divorce complaint or counterclaim to a divorce complaint, the filer must attach a stipulated custody agreement or custody scheduling order simultaneously with the filing. If the filer does not want the custody matter to proceed forward at the time the divorce complaint or counterclaim is being filed, the custody count may not be included with the divorce complaint or counterclaim. If a stipulated custody agreement or custody scheduling order is not attached when a custody count is filed as part of a divorce complaint or counterclaim, the custody count may be dismissed.

 (d) An Order shall be attached to the complaint directing both parties to attend the ''Children in the Middle'' program, or other suitable alternative program, and pay the costs thereof. The Order shall be substantially in the form provided by B.R.C.P. 1915.15(b).

[(e) No attorney shall be permitted to represent a party in custody proceedings unless a written appearance of that attorney is first filed of record.]

(e) All custody actions shall contain a notation in the caption to identify it as a CHILD CUSTODY filing.

Rule 1915.5. Question of Jurisdiction and Venue.

 All references to a hearing in the proposed Order required by B.R.C.P. 1915.3(b) shall be construed as referring to a conference before the Custody [Master] Conciliator. If a question of jurisdiction or venue is raised by timely preliminary objections, the conference shall be continued until decision by the Court.

Rule 1915.7. Consent Order.

 If an agreement for custody, [partial custody or visitation] is reached prior to commencement of an action and the parties desire a consent Order to be entered, they shall submit to the Court a proposed Order bearing the written consent of the parties or counsel and shall file of record and serve a custody complaint, but shall not be required to file the proposed order otherwise required by B.R.C.P. 1915.3(b).

Rule 1915.8. Physical and Mental Examination of Persons.

 (a) [The Prothonotary] Court Administration shall maintain a list of experts acceptable to the Court for conducting [psychological and home study] evaluations. The list shall be [filed with the Prothonotary] on the Berks County Family Court website www.co.berks.pa.us and shall be updated from time to time as the Court directs.

 (b) In the event it is determined that [a psychological or home study] an evaluation shall be conducted, either party or the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall prepare a proposed Order directing the evaluation to be conducted and setting forth how the costs of the evaluation shall be paid. The form shall be substantially in the form prescribed by B.R.C.P. 1915.18.

 (c) The contents of an expert report prepared pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1915.8 shall be disclosed to the parties, the Court, attorneys in the case and other experts involved in the case. Disclosure to an unauthorized person, including the child who is the subject of the action, may result in sanctions.

Rule 1915.15. Forms.

 (a) In a divorce complaint containing a count for custody, the Notice to the Prothonotary shall be substantially in the following form:

NOTICE TO PROTHONOTARY

 A claim for custody, [partial custody or visitation] is asserted in this pleading. [There have been no prior proceedings between the parties, or there has been a prior proceeding between the parties which is as follows:

 (Include the caption and term number and the nature of such prior proceedings)]

 (b) The Custody Scheduling Order shall be substantially in the form provided on the Court's website [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

Rule 1915.17. Relocation.

(f)(4) In addition to the documents required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.17(f), the party proposing relocation shall also file a scheduling order for the court to designate a date and time for an expedited hearing.

(g)(3) In addition to the documents required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.17(g), the non-relocating party shall also file a scheduling order for the court to designate a date and time for an expedited hearing.

(h)(3) In addition to the documents required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.17(h), the non-relocating party shall also file a scheduling order for the court to designate a date and time for an expedited hearing.

[Rule 1915.18. Form of Order Directing Expert Examination and Report.

An Order of Court directing psychological or home study evaluations in a custody matter pursuant to B.R.C.P. No. 1915.8 shall be substantially in the form provided on the Court's website www.countyofberks.com/courts.]

Rule 1915.26. Conciliation Conference.

 (a) The court shall refer all actions for custody, [partial custody and visitation] of minor children to a Custody [Master] Conciliator for purposes of a conciliation conference. Applicable Pennsylvania and local Mediation Rules shall be followed.

 (b) The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall be an attorney of law authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and shall be appointed to such position by the Board of Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall not practice family law before a Judge, conference officer, or hearing officer [or permanent or standing master] employed in the same Judicial District.

 (c) The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall attempt to mediate the differences between the parties, encourage amicable resolution of those differences and may recommend mediation, counseling services or physical and mental examinations of persons under Pa.R.C.P. 1915.8. The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall attempt to negotiate a settlement by stipulation in writing, signed by the parties and counsel, for approval and entry as an Order of the Court.

 (d) The Custody [Master] Conciliator may conduct an informal hearing, take testimony of the parties under oath, and hear the position of the parties relative to custody, [partial custody, and visitation]. The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall have the right to conduct oral examination of the child who is the subject matter of the proceeding. No other witnesses shall be permitted, except in extreme cases, and at the discretion of the Custody [Master] Conciliator. The testimony shall not be recorded or transcribed. The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence and all evidence of reasonably probative value may be received. The Custody [Master] Conciliator shall consider the Court-Ordered written evaluations of experts. The hearing shall not be considered a hearing of the type permitted by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.4-1 but shall be considered an extension of the conciliation process.

 (e) The hearing shall be concluded on the date fixed for the hearing, except that the Custody [Master] Conciliator may continue the hearing to a date certain for good cause shown, or to obtain investigative or evaluative reports from a social service agency or private providers.

 (f) Any investigative or evaluative reports ordered and obtained shall be considered by the Custody [Master] Conciliator.

 (g) If a written settlement is not reached, by stipulation, the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall file a recommended order. At the discretion of the Custody [Master] Conciliator the Conciliator may also file findings of fact, conclusions of law and a written report.

 (h) Notice of the Custody [Master] Conciliator's findings of fact, conclusions of law and/or recommended order shall be served on counsel of record, parties without counsel of record, and on any other persons without counsel of record who were given notice of the hearing before the Custody [Master] Conciliator. The notice shall state that each party has twenty (20) days from the date of notice to file written exceptions with the Prothonotary to the findings of fact, conclusions of law or recommended order, and that upon failure to file such exceptions within twenty (20) days, the recommended order of the Custody [Master] Conciliator will be submitted to the Court for entry as an Order of Court.

Rule 1915.27. Nonappearance at Hearing before Custody [Master] Conciliator.

 (a) If a [plaintiff] plaintiff/petitioner fails to appear, without proper cause shown, at the conciliation conference before the Custody [Master] Conciliator, and the Custody [Master] Conciliator is satisfied that proper notice of the order giving the date and time for the conciliation conference has been given to [plaintiff] plaintiff/petitioner, the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall recommend to the Court that an order be entered dismissing the complaint or petition to modify with respect to that party.

 (b) If a [defendant] defendant/respondent or party joined in the case fails to appear, without proper cause shown, at the conciliation conference before the Custody [Master] Conciliator, and the Custody [Master] Conciliator is satisfied that proper service of the order has been given to the [defendant] defendant/respondent or non-appearing party, it shall be presumed that said party has agreed to a [hearing] conciliation conference in that party's absence, and the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall proceed [to conduct a hearing and make findings of fact, conclusions of law,] and recommend an order to be entered by the Court.

 (c) If all parties fail to appear at a [hearing] conciliation conference before the Custody [Master] Conciliator, and the Custody [Master] Conciliator is satisfied that proper service has been given to all parties, the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall recommend to the Court that an Order be entered dismissing the complaint or petition to modify.

Rule 1915.28. Exceptions. Hearing by Judge.

 (a) If there are exceptions to the recommended order, a pre-trial conference followed by a hearing de novo shall be held before the Judge assigned to the case.

 (b) Any exceptions shall be filed in accordance with B.R.C.P. 207.1(a), including therewith a copy for the Custody [Master] Conciliator.

 (c) The proposed Order to be submitted by the party filing the exceptions shall be in the following form:

ORDER

 AND NOW, ______ , exceptions having been filed to the Order recommended by the Berks County Custody [Master] Conciliator, a pre-trial conference is hereby scheduled for ______ at ______  in ______ of the Berks County Courthouse/Services Center. A pre-trial conference memorandum shall be filed in accordance with B.R.C.P. 212.2(a). The memorandum shall contain the following: (1) Summary Statement of Facts; (2) Witnesses Expected to be Called; (3) Expert Witnesses Expected to be Called; (4) Exhibits Expected to be Offered into Evidence; (5) Legal Issues Anticipated; and (6) Special Problems.

BY THE COURT:

_________________
J.

Rule 1915.32. Appendix.

 Any Order for custody entered by the Court, either by stipulation or after hearing held, shall have affixed to it one or more appendixes that shall be made a part of the Court Order. The appendixes shall be substantially in the form provided on the Court's website [www.countyofberks.com/courts] www.co.berks.pa.us.

Rule 1915.33. Continuance Requests.

 Continuance requests for custody conferences before the Custody [Master] Conciliator shall be faxed, mailed, e-mailed or personally delivered to the Custody Office in the form of a letter. The request shall include the docket number, the names of the parties, the date of the conference, the reason for the requested continuance, and an indication of whether or not the opposing party is in agreement with the request. The Custody Office shall notify the requesting party whether or not the request has been granted.

DIVORCE

Rule 1920.3. Caption.

All divorce actions shall contain a notation in the caption to identify it as a DIVORCE filing.

Rule 1920.31(a)(1). Filing Claims for Alimony Pendente Lite, Child Custody, [Partial Custody or Visitation,] Child Support or Paternity.

 (A) A Confidential Family Court Cover Sheet shall be attached to any pleading under the Divorce Code, wherein a party asserts a claim for alimony pendente lite, child custody, [partial custody or visitation,] child support or paternity. The filing party shall certify the existence or non-existence of any former proceeding between the parties including the caption and term number thereof, and the nature of such prior proceeding on the Confidential Family Court Cover Sheet.

 (B) If a claim for alimony pendente lite, child support or paternity, or pleadings responding to such claim, are filed in a divorce action, the party filing such pleading shall file such additional copies with the Domestic Relations Section as shall be required by the Berks County Rules pertaining to Support.

 (C) If a claim for custody[, partial custody or visitation,] is asserted in a divorce complaint, it shall receive a separate term and number as the divorce action. Such pleading shall contain the information required by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1915.15. If a custody count is filed as part of a divorce complaint or counterclaim to a divorce complaint, the filer must attach a stipulated custody agreement or custody scheduling order simultaneously with the filing. If the filer does not want the custody matter to proceed forward at the time the divorce complaint or counterclaim is being filed, the custody count may not be included with the divorce complaint or counterclaim. If a stipulated custody agreement or custody scheduling order is not attached when a custody count is filed as part of a divorce complaint or counterclaim, the custody count may be dismissed.

 (D) Where pleadings under the Divorce Code asserting a claim for custody, [partial custody or visitation,] or pleadings responding to such claims, are filed, the party filing the same shall file such additional copies as shall be required by the Berks County [Rules pertaining to child custody] Prothonotary Office.

Rule 1920.31(b). Disposition of Alimony Pendente Lite, Child Support and Paternity Claims.

 . . .

 (2) Upon filing with the Domestic Relations Section as provided in subsection (1), the alimony pendente lite and/or child support claim shall proceed in accordance with the rules pertaining to Support including B.R.C.P. 1910.19(1).

Rule 1920.32. Disposition of Child Custody Claim.

 (a) All pleadings under the Divorce Code asserting or responding to a claim for child custody, [partial custody or visitation,] shall comply with and be governed by the rules pertaining to child custody, including, but not limited to, the filing of an Order pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1915.3(b) at the time of the divorce filing so that the custody matter can be promptly scheduled.

 (b) Upon filing of a pleading under the Divorce Code containing a claim for child custody, [partial custody or visitation,] the prothonotary shall deliver a copy of said pleading to the Custody [Master] Office.

 (c) [Upon referral to the Custody Master as provided in subsection (b), the child custody, partial custody or visitation claim] The child custody claim shall proceed in accordance with the rules pertaining to child custody.

Rule 1920.42. Filing of Praecipe to Transmit Record.

 . . .

 (d) [The party filing the praecipe to transmit the record shall file therewith an original and two copies of the proposed decree and stamped envelopes addressed to each attorney of record and to any unrepresented party. The envelopes shall have the return address of the Prothonotary, Berks County Courthouse, Sixth and Court Streets, Reading, PA 19601, and shall be of adequate size and bear sufficient postage for any attachments to the proposed decree.] The party filing the praecipe to transmit the record shall also file a proposed divorce decree and a certificate of addresses.

 . . .

Rule 1920.51. Divorce Masters to be Appointed.

 A Divorce Master shall be appointed by the court to hear testimony and make a report and recommendation as to divorce and annulment actions under the Divorce Code (except claims for divorce under Section 3301(c) or Section 3301(d)(1)(i) of the Divorce Code), and as to related claims except claims for child custody [or visitation], child support or paternity.

Rule 1920.51.4. Motion and Order for Appointment of Divorce Master.

 (a) When the action is at issue any party may file a motion for the appointment of a Divorce Master substantially in the form provided by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1920.74.

(b) In addition to the requirement for grounds for divorce to be established by the filing of the proper 3301(c) or 3301(d) documents prior to the appointment of a Divorce Master, the court may delay the appointment of a Divorce Master if:

(1) The filing party did not file their inventory pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1920.33(a) or the motion for appointment was filed less than thirty (30) days following the filing of their inventory.

(2) The defendant has failed to appear in the action and the affidavit of non-military service pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1920.46 was not filed.

(3) A copy of the notice pursuant to B.R.C.P. 1920.51.4(c) is not attached to the motion to appoint or the motion was filed less than twenty (20) days after the date of the notice.

(4) The motion does not indicate that discovery is complete for the claims for which the Divorce Master is requested.

(5) Either party has raised a claim for alimony, counsel fees, or costs and expenses and the filing party failed to file their Income and Expense Statements as required by Pa.R.C.P. 1910.27(c)(2)(B), copies of their pay stubs for the preceding six months and copies of their most recent federal income tax return as required by Pa.R.C.P. 1920.31.

[(b)] (c)The court shall appoint a Divorce Master, in accordance with the claims to be determined as set forth in the motion.

[(c)] (d)At least twenty days prior to filing the motion for the appointment of a Divorce Master, the moving party shall serve all counsel of record and any unrepresented party with a copy of said motion and written notice of intention to file the motion. Written objections, if any, shall be filed and served on all counsel of record and any unrepresented party prior to the filing date. A copy of the notice shall be attached to the motion for appointment when it is filed.

Rule 1920.51.5. Deposit of Costs to Accompany Motion for Appointment of Divorce Master.

 Upon filing a motion for the appointment of a Divorce Master, the moving party shall pay an amount set by the President Judge through an Administrative Order. The Divorce Master has the discretion to apportion the fee paid by the filing party in their report as appropriate by law.

Rule 1920.53. Hearing by Divorce Master.

 (a) The Divorce Master shall have the same powers, in reference to hearing witnesses and admitting testimony, as a judge sitting without a jury, subject to the direction of the court from time to time, upon motion of either party. When objection is made to the competency or relevancy of testimony, the Divorce Master shall rule upon its admissibility. The testimony before a Divorce Master shall be recorded in the manner as from time to time approved by the court. The testimony shall be transcribed in the event a party files timely exceptions to the report of the Divorce Master, as set forth in B.R.C.P. [1920.55] 1920.55-2.

 . . .

Rule 1920.74. Form of Motion for Appointment of Divorce Master.

 The form of Motion for Appointment of Divorce Master shall be substantially as set forth in Pa.R.C.P. 1920.74 provided that the following shall be added:

 I certify that the notice required by B.R.C.P. [1920.51.8(b)] 1920.51.4(c) was mailed on ______ and a copy is attached hereto.

Rule 1930.5. Designating a Support Case as Complex.

A party or parties seeking to have a support case designated as complex shall first proceed to a hearing before the assigned support hearing officer and request that the case be so designated. If appropriate, the hearing officer shall prepare a recommended order for the court which designates the case as complex and sets forth a discovery schedule which identifies with specificity the discovery to be conducted (other than the documents identified in the regular order to appear at the hearing), and dates by which the discovery shall be completed. If the parties agree to such designation, they shall appear at the first scheduled hearing and present a proposed order containing the above information. Thereafter, the DRS shall schedule a hearing before the hearing officer after the date on which all discovery is to be completed.

VOLUNTARY MEDIATION IN CUSTODY ACTIONS

[Rule 1940.11. Certificate of Compliance.

A certificate of compliance shall be filed by the mediator with the Prothonotary's Office, confirming compliance. Such certificate shall reflect only that such party or parties have complied with these Rules without further detail (see 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5949).]

Rule 4014. Redaction of Confidential Information.

Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, court reporters and transcriptionists shall redact confidential information as defined by the Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of Appellate and Trial Courts from transcripts and orders.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 18-51. Filed for public inspection January 12, 2018, 9:00 a.m.]



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