General Questions

Do I have to attend the Mediation Orientation session?

Yes. Mediation Orientation is mandatory. The Orientation takes about 30 minutes and is scheduled on a date mutually convenient to the parties. If you don’t attend mediation orientation, there may be serious consequences for you or your case. The only exception to this rule is if you or the child has been abused by the other party within the past 24 months. If that is true, you should notify the mediator of this fact and the mediator will decide whether or not to hold the mediation session.

Who else must attend the Mediation Orientation?

The other party.

Am I required to continue with mediation after the orientation session?

No. Each party pays $75 for up to a two hour session with the mediator including the orientation. If one party decides not to stay for mediation after the orientation, there is no mediation. However, if both parties decide to continue, the mediation will take place for no additional fee. If it ends before the two hours, there is no refund.

What is a custody mediator?

A custody mediator is a trained professional and a neutral third party who has been approved by the Court to conduct custody mediations.

What happens at mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity for you and the other party to meet with a neutral trained professional who will help you attempt to resolve your custody issues.

Can we have additional mediation sessions?

Yes. If you both agree. The parties share any additional mediation costs at the mediator’s hourly rate which the mediator will explain to you at the mediation orientation.

Can the mediator provide legal advice?

No. The mediator CANNOT and WILL NOT provide legal advice to either party. You may hire an attorney to represent you and to get advice about the legal issues in your case.

Can we reach an agreement at the mediation?

Yes. If you do, the mediator will assist you in preparing a proposed custody Order with the terms of your agreement. If you choose, you can review the custody Order with an attorney before you sign it

If we sign an agreement at mediation, do I still have to go to the Custody Conciliation Conference?

No. The mediator will submit your signed custody agreement to the court and the conference will be canceled.

If we don't sign an agreement at mediation, can we still agree before the Custody Conference?

Yes. You must submit the signed custody agreement to the Court Administrator at least five business days before the Conference or it will go on as scheduled.

If we want more time to mediate to reach an agreement, can we push back the date of the Custody Conference?

Yes. If it is the first Custody Conference, but you must notify the Court Administrator that you want to continue to mediate at least five business days before the Conference or it will go on as scheduled.

If we don't sign an agreement, do I have to attend the Custody Conference?

Yes.

Lawyers

Should I look into obtaining a lawyer for my custody case?

Yes. If you obtain a lawyer, you should hire a lawyer who is familiar with custody matters. He or she can help guide you through the process which might otherwise be overwhelming.

Parenting Classes

Will I have to attend a Parenting Class?

Yes. Parenting Class is required and designed by the Court to provide you with basic information related to how to best help you and your children through the difficulties encountered in separation and divorce. You must attend the Parenting Class on the date for which you are scheduled.

Can I change the date for the Parenting Class?

Yes. Call Family Court Administration at 610-344-6405 to reschedule your appointment before the date of your custody conference.

Where and when is the Parenting Class held?

The Parenting class is held at the Chester County Justice Center, 201 West Market Street, West Chester, PA 19380 in Room 4112 on Wednesday evenings. The class starts at 4:30 P.M. and lasts about 1+ hour(s).

Should I bring my child(ren) to Parenting Class?

No. You should not bring your children to the parenting class.

Concilliation

Will I have to attend a Conciliation Conference?

Yes, unless the Court receives a signed stipulation for the entry of a custody Order at least five business days in advance of the Conciliation Conference.

What happens at Conciliation Conference?

At the Conciliation Conference, you and your attorney will have the opportunity to speak with and present information to the Custody Conciliator, who is an attorney assigned to handle your custody case. The Custody Conciliator will make a recommendation as to legal custody, physical custody and any other issues concerning the children that need to be addressed. In the absence of an agreement on these issues, the Conciliator’s recommendation will become a Temporary Order which will remain in effect until further proceedings in the case.

Will my child or children be permitted to attend the Conciliation Conference?

Perhaps. Generally children should not be present at the Conciliation Conference unless they are specifically ordered to appear. Children under the age of 10 are generally not permitted to attend the Conference. Children ages 10 and older might attend the Conference if a notice and order is filed and notice is given to the other party.

What is the difference between mediation and the Conciliation Conference?

Mediation is an informal meeting with a mediator who may or may not be an attorney and who will help you and the other party attempt to resolve your custody issues. A Conciliation Conference is a conference with a Court appointed official who is an attorney with the authority to make a recommendation regarding the custody issues, if the parties are unable to agree.

Custody Trials

If I am not satisfied by the outcome at the Conciliation Conference, can I get a trial in front of a Judge?

Yes. But you are required to file documents to ask for the trial and file a pretrial statement within certain time limits imposed by the Court. You should expect that this trial will not be scheduled for several months after it is requested. In the meantime, the Temporary Custody Order will remain in effect. You will be required to follow the rules of evidence at the trial. A lawyer can help guide you through the process.

Modifications

Can a Custody Order be modified?

Yes. You must file proper pleadings. The Court will decide the issue based on the best interest of the child.

Contacting the Court

Can I just write a letter to the Judge asking for a change in custody?

No. Judges only act on properly filed Petitions or Motions and you must send a copy to the other side to get a hearing.