The custody process in Pennsylvania can be confusing and overwhelming. Learning how to effectively co-parent takes time, patience and compromise and sometimes you and your co-parent are just not there yet.
When that happens, you find yourself in custody court. The custody process begins when one parent files a custody petition.
After the other parent is served with the petition, a conciliator is appointed. The best way to describe a conciliator is a mix between a mediator and a judge.
You will attend a conciliation meeting between you, your co-parent and the conciliator. Your attorneys may be present, as well.
A conciliator offers guidance and advice, but can enter a custody order
At the meeting, the conciliator acts like a mediator in that they listen to you and your co-parent’s positions on custody and suggest potential solutions.
A conciliator does not take one parent’s side over the other. However, if you and your co-parent cannot agree even after hearing the conciliator’s suggestions, the conciliator has the power to enter a temporary custody order.
This order goes into effect that day. Although the terms are temporary, they generally provide both parents with a good idea of how a judge would rule.
Next steps after conciliation
The next step after conciliation is mediation, which gives you another chance to come to your own custody agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful, you will have a custody trial.
At any point in the process, even up until the day of your custody trial, you and your co-parent have the option to come to your own agreement on custody. If you do, your agreement can be written, signed and filed with the court and become an order.
However, your agreement will still need to be approved by a judge who will determine if it is fair and in the best interest of your child. Most agreements are approved unless there are terms that appear extremely unfavorable to one parent.