What is a Conciliation Conference?

In Westmoreland County, the first time that you come to Court in a custody case will not be a trial. Normally, the first time that you come to Court it is for a Custody Conciliation Conference before a Custody/Hearing Officer.

A Custody Conciliation Conference is held before a hearing officer, an attorney appointed by the Court to handle your custody case. The only persons who appear at the Custody Conciliation Conference are you, the other party(ies), the child(ren) and attorneys, if any. The purpose of the Custody Conciliation Conference is to make the Hearing Officer familiar with your case and to determine whether everyone can agree to a custody order without a trial before a Judge.

If the parties are able to agree, the Hearing Officer will prepare the agreed order which will be signed by the appropriate Judge and filed in the Prothonotary’s Office. Copies will be mailed to all parties or their attorneys, if any.

If the parties do not agree, the Hearing Officer will prepare a recommended order for the Judge to sign. The parties, or their attorneys, if any, will be mailed a copy of the recommended order and a notice that they have 30 days within which to request a Pre-Trial Conference before the Judge assigned to their case, at which time an agreement may be reached, or the case will be scheduled for trial. The Request for Custody Pre-Trial Conference and Narrative found on the Westmoreland County Custody Forms web page, should be completed and presented to the Judge assigned to your case. In accordance with Westmoreland County Rule of Civil Procedure W1915.10 (c), a Pre-Trial Narrative, should be filed at the Prothonotary’s Office, with copies provided to the Judge assigned to your case and opposing parties.

In addition other items which may be included in the Recommended Order are: that the parties participate in drug testing, that the parties and/or child participate in counseling, etc.

If the parties fail to file for a Request for Custody Pre-Trial Conference, the recommended order will become final.

WARNING: If you are not able to resolve your custody case at the Custody Conciliation Conference and a trial is scheduled, you may do a great disservice to yourself and your child if you do not consult with and hire a lawyer. If you have a trial before the Judge and do not have a lawyer representing you, you will be held to the same standards in presenting your case as a represented party.