Montgomery County Child Custody: Mediation and the Conciliation Conference

Posted by Joseph Lento | Nov 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

How do I file for child custody in Montgomery County, PA?

All complaints for child custody, whether included with a divorce complaint or filed as a separate complaint, must include the information required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.  231 Pa. Code Rule 1915.15  The following documents must be attached to a Custody Complaint or Divorce Complaint containing a custody county filed in Montgomery County.  These forms included the:

  • Montgomery County Family Court Cover Sheet
  • Notice to Defend (Custody)
  • Meditation Order
  • Our Children First Seminar Order

If a petitioner is including custody as a count in the Divorce Complaint but do not wish to initiate proceedings on it at the time of the filing of the Divorce Complaint, the petitioners should not include the Notice to Defend (Custody), Mediation Order, or the "Our Children First Seminar" Order.  A Motion for a Custody Conciliation Conference can be filed at a later date to commence custody proceedings in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Where do I file for child custody in Montgomery County, PA?

Custody Complaints are filed with the Prothonotary Office in the Montgomery County Courthouse located in Norristown, PA.  The Montgomery County Prothonotary Office's phone number is 610-278-3000, and the office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM - 4:15 PM.  There is a  fee for including a count for custody in a Divorce Complaint.  A separate Complaint in Custody has its own fee.

What happens prior to the child custody Conciliation Conference in Montgomery County, PA?

Montgomery County Local Rules require the petitioner and respondent in a child custody case to attend Mediation Orientation and the Our Children First Seminar prior to the child custody Conciliation Conference.  Child custody Mediation is required each time a child custody pleading is filed.  Mediation must take place before the scheduled Conciliation Conference.  Montgomery County Family Court can and will impose sanctions for failure to comply with these Montgomery County Local Rules.  Sanctions can include financial penalties against the party at fault and also dismissal of the child custody pleading.  The petitioner and respondent can apply for sanctions against the other party for failure to complete the child custody Mediation requirement.

Why is child custody Mediation necessary in Montgomery County, PA?

The Mediation Rules were developed to provide a non-adversarial forum in which parents would have the opportunity to consider what is best for the child and to communicate about and plan for the child or children.  If custody in Montgomery County can be decided in an agreeable manner between the parties, that is often the best outcome not just for the parties, but especially for the child or children.

How does child custody Mediation work in Montgomery County, PA?

Montgomery County Local Rules require that upon filing of a Custody Complaint or Petition, within ten (10) days of the filing, the petitioner and respondent must contact the assigned child custody Mediator and then attend child custody Mediation Orientation.  If both the petitioner and respondent decide to select a different Mediator for geographic convenience or for another reason, a list of approved Mediators can be provided to the parties.  Child custody Mediation Orientation is not ordered or required if a party or a party's child is or has been the subject of abuse either during the pendency of the child custody action or within 24 months preceding the filing of the child custody action in Montgomery County, or if an active Protection from Abuse order (PFA order) exists.   If a PFA has been dismissed or withdrawn, the parties must follow through with the child custody Mediation requirement.  Each party must pay a fee before the child custody Mediation Orientation may take place  If either party does not pay, the Mediation Orientation will not proceed.

What is the Our Children First Seminar in Montgomery County, PA?

The Our Children First Seminar is a four hour course which helps parties in a child custody case learn about how children experience parental conflict and the separation and/or divorce of parents.  There is a fee that each parent must pay to have the Our Children First Seminar scheduled.  Once the fee is paid, the parties are assigned a date and time to attend the Our Children First Seminar.  The petitioner and respondent do not need to attend the same seminar and can specifically request to attend separate seminars.  The Our Children First Seminar can be rescheduled if necessary.  

What is the child custody Conciliator Procedure in Montgomery County, PA?

Montgomery County Family Court has Conciliators dedicated to handling child custody cases.  Child custody Conciliation in Montgomery County is a non-adversarial process and is intended to promote parental cooperation ad resolution.   Often inter-parental conflict and adult issues sidetrack effective discussion about child custody.  The focus is on the child or children at Conciliation in Montgomery County, and specifically, what is in the best interest of the child or children.  The objective of child custody Conciliation is to try to mitigate any polarization of, and adversity between, the parents.

Each Conciliator at Montgomery Family Court has their own preferences as to how Conciliation takes place.  One shared theme among the Conciliators is that courtesy and respect between the parties and the parties' attorney is very important.  As to some procedural differences regarding how child custody Conciliations in Montgomery County take place, one Conciliator, for example, meets in their private office with the parties, and if the parties are represented by child custody attorneys, with the respective parties' attorney.  If both parties are represented by attorneys, and the attorneys request to meet together with this Conciliator without the parties before the each party's Conciliation, the Conciliator will grant this request.

Another Montgomery County Family Court Conciliator conducts Conciliations in the courtroom.  This child custody Conciliator will, if applicable, meet with the parties' attorneys in the Conciliator's private office to review and narrow the child custody issues prior to meeting with the parties and the parties' attorneys in the courtroom.

What happens if the child custody case settles at the Conciliation Conference in Montgomery County, PA?

If the child custody case settles at the Conciliation Conference, the Conciliator will issue a "Per Curiam" Order, which is an enforceable Order from Montgomery County Family Court, and no further action is necessary.  Also, to facilitate resolution of the child custody case, the Conciliators and the Montgomery County Family Court "custody secretary" have "Agreed Order" forms which may be completed, signed by the parties and the parties' attorneys, and entered as an "Agreed Order." 

What happens if the child custody case does not settles at the Conciliation Conference?

If the child custody case does not settle at the Conciliation Conference, the Conciliator may issue a "Temporary/Without Prejudice" Oder by agreement of the parties (and the parties' attorneys) which may last until a "date certain (a specified date), a specific event (for example, the end of the school year), or a later hearing at Montgomery County Family Court.  If there are no agreements reached at the Conciliation Conference, the unresolved matter(s) will be "shortlisted" for a "Short List" hearing before a Montgomery County Family Court judge.  A "shortlist" hearing is scheduled in approximately six weeks after the Conciliation Conference.  A shortlist hearing in Montgomery County is not the proceeding where all child custody will be addressed and resolved.  It is a limited (formal) proceeding, and what is addressed at the shortlist hearing (and what is not) will depend on which child custody judge the case is assigned to after Conciliation Conference.

Montgomery County Child Custody Attorney | Norristown Child Custody Lawyer

The stakes can be high when Montgomery County Family Court decides the custody of a child or children.  Whether the petitioner or respondent in a child custody case in Norristown, a Montgomery County child custody attorney can help you navigate the steps required, and can help you achieve your goals related to the custody of your child or children.  Contact attorney the LLF Law Firm today to learn how he can help.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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