By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands of Philadelphia families with child custody disputes are waiting as long as a year before getting their day in court.   And the backlog is leaving children in limbo.

Court statistics show the backlog in child custody cases has been growing for the last three years.

Meredith Brennan, chair of the family section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, dates the problem back to 2010 revisions to the state’s custody act, which require evaluations if a parent requesting custody, or anyone in the household, has a criminal record.

It was intended to keep children safe but, Brennan says, it has ironically created potential risks.

“That means that children can be in fairly dangerous situations while they’re awaiting that day in court,” she told KYW Newsradio today.

Other factors contribute to the backlog:  the city’s high poverty rate means most of the litigants don’t have lawyers to speed the process or pay court fees that might allow for services such as mediation.

But help is on the way. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reassigned three trial judges to Family Court to do nothing but hear custody cases, through the end of the year.