Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to do to prepare for my consultation?
It's a good idea to come to your consultation with the pertinent information regarding what you and your spouse own, whether jointly or individually, as well as an idea of when it was acquired and an approximate value. The same kind of information regarding debts and liabilities will also be useful for this meeting. If anything has already been filed, bring that as well. The more details you can provide, the more information and potential strategies we can discuss.
Can't I just get a cheap divorce through materials I found on the internet?
Sure you can… but beware. Pennsylvania and most counties have rules of procedure that require specific documents, wording, and timing of filing. Filing a divorce in a distant county, or buying a packet from the internet to "fill in the blank" for your county, often leads to a mess which is then costly to fix. Worse, if your divorce is finalized without addressing support or property issues, you may have no recourse. We take over many cases each year that were incorrectly started. Lots of these kinds of headaches can be avoided by talking to a local, knowledgeable attorney first. Before you DIY, come talk to me.
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What if we agree about how to share custody? Do we have to go to court?
No! Reaching a custody agreement privately has so many benefits for you and your child(ren)... and being able to stay out of court is one of them. However, you should still make sure an attorney helps you draft the agreement so that it includes everything that it should and so that it conforms with your county's local rules. Give me a call so we can discuss how we can put an enforceable Order in place without having to appear before a judge or master.
How is child custody determined by the court?
There are 16 factors that Pennsylvania courts consider when awarding custody. Pennsylvania’s custody law also clarifies who has standing to bring a custody action — in other words, who is legally able to file a complaint for custody. The statute is relatively new law and is still being interpreted by Pennsylvania's courts, but it will have a direct impact on your custody case. Contact me today for a consultation regarding the ramifications of the law and your case.
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How does the custody arrangement affect child support?
The parent who has primary physical custody is entitled to child support from the other parent. Depending on the income of the parties, support may also be owed when the parents have shared physical custody. Even if a parent does not see the child, unless their rights have been legally terminated (keep in mind this must be done by a court and only in specific circumstances, it is not as simple as saying "I give up my rights") they still have a duty of support. I will gladly run the numbers for you during our meeting to determine what a support obligation looks like for your particular case.
How is support calculated in Pennsylvania?
Both child support and spousal support in PA will be calculated according to state guidelines, which outline formulas for the court to use in determining the amount of support. The action is started by filing a support complaint through the Domestic Relations Section, and then the parties will attend a support conference, where a conference officer will run the support guidelines. Even parties with straightforward incomes can benefit from having an attorney present at the conference level to ensure they receive the most favorable recommendation.
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Estate Planning FAQs
Why do I need a will?
If you die without a will, the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will determine how your property is distributed. You may lose the opportunity to distribute the assets you worked hard to gain in the manner you think is best. A will can also direct who becomes guardian of minor children, and how a minor's assets should be managed until they are old enough to manage them on their own. These are not decisions to be made lightly, or leave to chance. Retain control over your assets and protect your loved ones with a will, and make sure to review the document periodically to ensure it continues to represent your wishes.
What is a living will?
A living will helps you retain control over medical decisions in the event you are not able to make a decision for yourself. A living will can help direct your treatment providers and family members regarding whether you wish to receive certain life-sustaining measures, surgeries, or whether you simply want medical intervention to keep you pain free. This document can greatly reduce the stress of an already painful time for your loved ones in the event you are in a terminal condition.
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