9 People to Know in Pennsylvania Child Custody Cases

You may work with a multitude of professionals during your Pennsylvania child custody case. Here's what each person does, in order of when you might come into contact with them.

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A prothonotary is an elected administrator who will file your custody paperwork for you in the court of common pleas. During trial, they administer oaths and keep track of exhibits. Either the prothonotary or one of their deputies is present at all court proceedings.


In Philadelphia and Delaware counties, the prothonotary appoints a clerk to receive all paperwork to file a case for custody, divorce or child support. In Philadelphia County, the clerk has an office within the family division of the court of common pleas. In Delaware County, the clerk is in the Office of Judicial Support.


A mediator is a neutral party who helps you reach a custody agreement. You'll work with one if your court requires mediation orientation or if you and the other parent choose to attend mediation. They either work independently or as part of the court's staff.

Conference officer

A conference officer (also called a conciliator, custody master or hearing officer) oversees conciliation, as well as child support conferences and pre-trial conferences. They also schedule hearings and review custody agreements. If parents don't reach an agreement, the conference officer drafts recommended orders that become temporary or final orders with a judge's approval.

Court reporter

Court reporters create transcripts of all court proceedings. You'll see them sitting at a desk in the courtroom during trial and deposition.

Guardian ad litem

The guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney appointed by the court to represent a child. They usually work on cases in which a parent has specifically requested a GAL or has made allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse.

Guardians ad litem attend every court appearance. They may present arguments, submit evidence on the child's behalf and question the parties. They must prioritize the child's well-being over the child's wants.

At the request of the court, the GAL interviews parents and others to determine what's best for the child. They then write a report recommending conditions for the final order. They do not testify.

In Westmoreland County, the court covers the GAL's fees. Elsewhere, judges determine how parents split the cost.

Child's attorney

A child's attorney represents the child's legal interests. Unlike guardians ad litem, they advocate for the child's wants, even when these are at odds with the child's best interests. They typically represent older children.

A child's attorney can present evidence and arguments at trial but do not make recommendations to the court. Parents are responsible for their fees.


An evaluator is a mental health professional who interviews and examines families during forensic custodial evaluations. They provide the court with a report on their investigation and a custody recommendation.

Custody probation officer

In Philadelphia County, custody probation officers conduct home investigations when a parent's home may be unsafe for the child. They inspect the home and may interview members of the household. To conclude their investigation, they write a report to aid the judge's final decision.

Professional technology

The professionals working on your case have many tools on hand. One of them is available to parents, too: Custody X Change.

With a parenting plan template, custody and visitation calendars, a digital parenting journal and beyond, the Custody X Change app makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to custody.

Take advantage of the technology the professionals use, and get what's best for your child.

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