No jury trials for custody or divorce cases

Many people who are going through a divorce or custody case are unfamiliar with the court system and what to expect unless they have had friends or family who already went through the process. In most family law cases, there are several levels of proceedings. In Pennsylvania, custody, support and divorce issues are usually heard separately and all usually involve a lower level proceeding before a trial. One thing you do not see in family law cases is a trial by a jury. If you go to court for divorce, or custody or support, and you do not resolve your case at the lower level proceedings, you will have what is called a bench trial. This is very similar to the trials you see on television, as you will have witnesses testify under oath on the stand. The same rules of evidence and procedure also apply. As a party you will also testify under oath. Your case, however, will be decided by one person, the Judge. In criminal matters and even in civil cases, you can opt for a bench trial instead of a jury, but in family law cases, you do not have this choice. You will always have a bench trial. One person will decide the outcome of your case.