The divorce and equitable distribution trial procedure in Chester County is a multi-level process. If the parties are not able to resolve their divorce and property division privately or with the help of a mediator or their lawyers, either party may file a Motion for the appointment of a Master. The Master will first schedule a preliminary conference with the lawyers for both parties. Clients do not attend the preliminary conference unless they do not have an attorney. After gathering information at the preliminary conference, the Master will schedule a half-day settlement conference.
At the settlement conference, the parties and their lawyers discuss the issues and negotiate toward a settlement. If they reach a settlement, the Court Reporter will record that agreement for the court and the Master will issue a written report and recommendation. If the parties do not reach a settlement, both parties and their lawyers will sign a Certificate of Trial Readiness and the case will be placed on the Master’s trial list.
The trial before the Master is a full evidentiary hearing, with sworn testimony by both parties that is recorded by a Court Reporter. The Master will listen to the testimony of both parties and any witnesses, rule on evidence and make a decision within 30 days after the hearing. If either party is not satisfied with the outcome, the next step is for that party to file exceptions (an appeal) to the Master’s report. The review by the Court of Common Pleas Judge is on the record that was made in front of the Master at trial. There is no additional evidence heard by the Court. Either party may request oral argument. The Judge will enter an Order deciding the issues raised on exceptions to the trial record.