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Family Law Masters

The utilization of permanent masters in family law matters began in Northampton County in 1978 when the first master was appointed to assist the Court in child custody and juvenile matters.

Juvenile Masters

Juvenile matters are concerned with delinquent and dependent youth under the age of 18. A delinquent child is one who has committed a crime and a dependent child is one without proper parental care and control. Since the position of Juvenile Master was established, the duties have evolved, necessitating the master to hear almost all dependency matters, half of all detention hearings, and a small number of minor misdemeanor delinquency hearings. All other Juvenile Court matters continue to be heard by a Common Pleas Judge.

Child Custody Masters

In child custody cases, the master holds settlement conferences for the purpose of encouraging and supervising the formulation of agreements between the parties. The Custody Master is authorized to enter an agreed Order of Court for later signature by a judge. These cases may involve legal custody of children, physical custody, partial custody, visitation, grandparents' visitation, shared custody, modification of custody and contempt proceedings. When the master cannot bring about a settlement, the case is placed upon the next available Court list to be heard by a Judge. The master settles the vast majority of such cases.

Standing Divorce Masters

With the appointment of two masters in 1988, the emphasis has remained upon achieving a settlement. The first stage before the divorce master is a conciliation stage.

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