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I went to a custody conciliation conference in PA courthouse today. No court reporter or tape recorder. Legal?

Pittsburgh, PA |

The conference was held within the Westmoreland County Courthouse. I am representing pro se, and my ex-husband and his counsel were in attendance as was the hearing officer. I was told by the hearing officer that representing pro se was (a) one strike against me in gaining custody of my daughter and that (b) pro se litigants "have fools for clients". I was shocked! I'd like to launch a complaint with the proper authority, but without a court reporter or recording of today's events, it's my word against three. Was this legal? I can't afford an attorney and make too much money for pro bono, so I have to represent pro se to do what's right for my autistic daughter. I've been stonewalled at every turn. I just want fair and equal treatment under the law, pro se or not.

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Attorney answers 2


Westmoreland County apparently utilizes an initial non-record proceeding such as a conciliation conference which is in keeping with the Rules of Procedure. If you did not reach an agreement at that conciliation conference, the conciliator is to notify the court that the matter should be listed for trial pursuant to Rule 1915.4-3. You may want to look at the local rules applicable to Westmoreland County to determine if you are required to take any other steps to get it so listed.


Custody concilation conferences are a non-record proceeding, meaning there is no court reporter or other record made of the proceedings. Thus, it was legal to proceed in that manner. I would try contacting your local bar association to ask whether they have a low cost program available through the bar association (this is NOT Legal Aid -- many bar associations have these types of programs). Also, many attorneys accept credit card payments and/or offer payment plans to clients.

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