Chester County Custody Mediation Rules

Custody Mediation

Rule 1940.3.A.  Order for Orientation Session and Mediation.  Selection of Mediator.


(a)     All Complaints for Custody or Petitions to Modify Custody shall be referred to mediation. The mediator shall be assigned to the case at the time the custody conciliation conference and the parenting classes are scheduled. All parties shall call the assigned mediator within three (3) days of receiving the Complaint for Custody or Petition to Modify.

(b)     All parties shall attend a custody mediation orientation, unless otherwise excused under this rule.

(c)     An orientation session shall not be required if a party or a party’s child is or has been the subject of a Protection from Abuse Order within 24 months preceding the filing of the action.

(d)     The Family Court Administrative Office shall maintain a list of custody mediators who have satisfied the requirements of C.C.R.C.P. 1940.4.A. The list of custody mediators shall be made available, upon request, to all parties and counsel.

(e)     In the event the parties agree to additional mediation at the conclusion of the orientation session, 42 Pa.C.S.A. §5949 shall govern confidentiality and admissibility issues.

Rule 1940.4.A.  Minimum Qualifications of the Mediator.

(a)     A mediator must meet the following minimum requirements:

(1)     hold a post-graduate level degree in law, or a mental health field such as psychiatry, psychology, counseling or family therapy;

(2)     have successfully completed a 40-hour basic mediation training consistent with Pa.R.C.P. 1940.4;

(3)     provide annual, written proof to the Court’s designee that the mediator maintains a current policy of Professional Liability Insurance which includes mediation as a covered practice area;

(4)     complete twenty (20) hours of additional mediation training every two (2) years, effective January 1, 2002. For the purposes of this rule, additional training shall include advanced mediation training, ongoing supervision by or consultation with an Advanced Practitioner level member of ACR or substantial equivalent, or by a professional mediation trainer.

(b)     Mediators shall submit an application and an application fee in the amount of $150.00 (or such sum as the Court directs to the Court’s designee).  Mediators shall be required to renew their registration every two years and to pay a bi-annual renewal fee of $70.00 or such sum as the Court directs.
(c)     The Court, upon its own motion or the motion of its designee, shall have the authority to decertify any Chester County custody mediator who has not complied with any provision of these Rules.

Rule 1940.5.A. Duties of the Mediator.  

(a)     At the orientation session, the mediator must inform the parties in writing of the following:

(1)     the costs of mediation;

(2)     the process of mediation;

(3)     that the mediator does not provide legal advice, therapy or counseling to either or both parties;

(b)     The primary focus of all custody mediation shall be the best interests of the children.
(c)     The parties may mutually agree that the mediator include the parties’ children or other persons to participate in the mediation process.
(d)     At the conclusion of the mediation session, the mediator shall submit a written report to the Family Court Administrative Office.

Rule 1940.6.A.  Termination of Mediation.

(a)     Mediation, if undertaken after the initial orientation session, shall terminate upon the earliest of the following:

(1)     a written agreement between the parties on all custody issues;

(2)     a written agreement between the parties that mediation can be terminated;

(3)     a partial written agreement between the parties concerning custody issues and a determination by the mediator that further mediation will not resolve the remaining issues;

(4)     a written determination by the mediator that the parties are unable to reach an agreement through mediation or that the proceeding is inappropriate for mediation; or

(5)     a refusal of one of the parties to continue with the mediation.

(b)     If the parties reach a complete or partial agreement regarding custody at the mediation, the mediator shall promptly prepare and transmit to the parties and their attorneys, if any, a Temporary Custody Order, setting forth the terms of the parties’ agreement.  In no event shall any such Temporary Custody Order be binding on the parties unless and until it is incorporated into a written agreement signed by the parties.

(c)     If the parties reach an agreement regarding custody at mediation, the mediator shall advise them that they may review the Temporary Custody Order with an attorney. If the parties wish to review the Temporary Custody Order with their attorneys, the order shall not be signed, by the parties, at mediation.  The mediator shall provide the parties with a copy of the Temporary Custody Order. The attorneys must finalize and submit the signed Temporary Custody Order to the Family Court at least five (5) days prior to the scheduled custody conciliation conference in order for the conference to be cancelled.

(d)     The parties may agree to waive review by their attorneys and to sign the Temporary Custody Order at the mediation. If the parties sign the Temporary Custody Order at mediation, the mediator shall submit the signed Temporary Custody Order to the Family Court at least five (5) days prior to the scheduled custody conciliation conference in order for the conference to be cancelled.

            Note:  Rule 1940.7 has been subsumed by C.C.R.C.P. 1940.3.A.

Rule 1940.7.A.  Mediator Compensation.

Mediators shall be compensated for their orientation services at the rate of $90.00 per hour or such sum as the Court directs.  Unless otherwise ordered, the rate established for the custody mediation orientation session shall be divided between the parties.

Note: Rule 1940.7. has been subsumed by C.C.R.C.P. 1940.5.A.

Note:  Rule 1940.8. has been moved in its entirety to C.C.R.C.P. 1940.7.A. to coincide with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 1940.8.A.  Sanctions.


On its own motion or the motion of a party, the Court may impose sanctions against any party or attorney who fails to comply or causes a party not to comply with these mediation rules. Sanctions may include an award of mediation costs and attorney’s fees, including those incurred in the filing and presentation of the motion for sanctions, as well as a finding of contempt. The Custody Conciliation shall not be delayed, however, by a party’s refusal or failure to attend the mediation orientation sessions.

Note:  Rule 1940.8. has been subsumed b C.C.R.C.P. 1940.3.A.

Note:  Rule 1940.9. has been moved in its entirety to C.C.R.C.P. 1940.8.A. to coincide with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 1940.10.A.  Evaluation of Custody Mediation Orientation Program.

(a)     The Court (or its designee) may evaluate the mediation orientation program annually.
(b)     The President Judge may appoint a designee to oversee and implement the program consistent with the Chester County Rules of Civil Procedure, including, but not limited to, implementing and monitoring the program consistent with Paragraph (a) above.
            Note:  Rule 1940.12 has been subsumed by C.C.R.C.P. 1940.3.A.

Rule 1940.11.A.  Ex Parte Communications

Counsel and/or the parties shall not engage in or participate in ex parte communications with the mediator regarding substantive issues which relate to the mediation.  Communications regarding scheduling are not subject to this rule.

Rule 1940.12.A.  Removal of Mediator from Court List.


(a)     A mediator is an at will service provider and may be removed from the court list for the following reasons:

(1)     failure to maintain current mediation qualifications as set forth in C.C.R.C.P. 1940.4.A.

(2)     failure to file mediator’s reports with the court in a timely manner;

(3)     multiple negative reports about the mediator; or

(4)     other just cause.

(b)     Procedure for Removing a Mediator from the Court List

(1)

(i)      Complaints regarding a mediator shall be in writing and be sent to the Family Court Administrator for submission to the Court.

(ii)     All complaints shall be considered confidential in nature.

(2)     The Court, in its discretion, may decide whether to remove a mediator or recommend additional training or other remedial steps.

(3)     If remedial steps are recommended, the mediator may be suspended during the time needed for additional training but shall not be removed from the list unless the mediator fails to amend the situation to the satisfaction of the Court.