Pennsylvania law allows you the chance to resolve your custody dispute without having to enter a courtroom. As part of the custody process in Pennsylvania, you are required to attend a conciliation and potentially a mediation, all before you get to a custody trial.
Conciliation and mediation
A conciliation is a meeting between you, your co-parent and a conciliator, where you attempt to agree on a custody order. If you cannot reach an agreement, the conciliator will put a temporary custody order in place.
You will then be scheduled for a mediation, where you get another chance to come to an agreement. However, there are some situations where an agreement is simply not possible, which means you are headed for a custody trial.
What to expect at a custody trial
While conciliations and mediations are informal meetings, a custody trial is like any other courtroom proceeding. It is more formal, and you must follow the rules of evidence and prove your case.
The custody judge will make a custody order after weighing several custody factors and considering your evidence. There are many things you should to do prepare for your custody trial.
Custody factors and presenting evidence
Learn the custody factors. The factors are based on what is in the best interest of your child, so your focus should be on why your proposed custody order is best for your child’s well-being.
If you are using documents as evidence, make sure they are relevant to the case and organized.
For example, judges may want to see a few photos of your home, to show that you have a safe and healthy environment for you child, but they probably don’t need or want to see several pages of you and your co-parent bickering, as evidence of how “bad” your co-parent is.
Dress and behave appropriately
Do not underestimate the importance of the small things, such as dressing and behavior appropriately. Dress professionally and treat everyone in the courtroom with respect, including your co-parent.
Putting on a strong custody case takes effort. An attorney with knowledge of custody laws can help you prepare for your trial and be a strong advocate for you in the courtroom.