should I expect in my initial consultation?
should I expect in a divorce proceeding?
is Pennsylvania child support determined?
needs issues in family law
by Ilene Young
People approach their first meeting with a domestic relations
lawyer with uncertainty. The circumstances which bring them
seek legal advice are distressful. Added to that is the
additional stress which comes from not knowing what will happen
in a consultation. This brief overview offers an outline of
what to expect, based upon
the Initial Consultation process at my law office and many others.
initial contact with the office will be received by
the legal assistant or receptionist. In some firms, you will
appointment at once. In others, the procedure is for the
assistant to check with the attorney and return your call to
suggest a mutually convenient
time to meet. You will be asked to bring to your
documents you have received, and any paperwork from former attorneys
you may have employed, as well as any information you may consider
important and relevant.
you arrive at the office you will be greeted by the legal
assistant. You will be asked to fill out a general new client
information sheet. This is to provide the information
to open and track your file in the law office system. If you
know the answer to any questions, it is not necessary to respond to
them. The sheet is intended for everyone's convenience and is
of critical importance to your case. All information you give
confidential and private.
will then meet with your attorney in her private
office. The attorney will ask questions to obtain the fullest
possible understanding of your circumstances, your goals and wishes,
and your needs. There is no need to worry that you
remember to mention every concern. An experienced attorney
information to seek and anything you overlook can be supplied by a
later phone call or appointment. As statutory time limits are
importance in many legal matters, a timeline for your personal legal
matter will be explained to you and any critical deadlines clearly
communicated during this meeting should that information be available
to the attorney at that time.
The attorney will also fully explain to you the system by which fees
are charged and billing takes place in
advance of undertaking any representation.
be absolutely no uncertainty regarding this when you leave your
Should you have any questions, ask. The attorney expects you
be certain you fully understand all that has taken place during the
consultation and will ask you, before the conclusion and again when
walking you to the door, if you have any questions.
focus of the consultation should be to provide you with an
understanding of the legal process and your rights. The
concern should be to produce the best possible result for you and your
family at the least emotional and financial cost to you.
It is good practice, and also required by the
Rules of Legal Ethics, for the attorney to follow up in writing with a
detailed explanation of the method by which legal charges are
calculated and you are to be billed. This will be
form of a "retainer letter" which you will be asked to read thoroughly,
and return in an envelope provided.
the client. Your family law attorney is experienced in
matters and accustomed to the emotional turmoil such issues can
create. She will be sensitive to your situation and that of
children, and is ethically bound to hold all communications from you in
strict confidentiality. It is your choice whom you wish to
to help you with your family law matter. If you feel
uncomfortable with the attorney, seek further.
|Arrange to speak with an experienced family lawyer at our
office by calling:
348-5448 or click
on the email link above
What should I expect in a
proceeding? An overview.
by Ilene Young, Esquire
The law of divorce
in Pennsylvania is controlled by
Statute. Statutory language is linked to the relevant
text in the following article.
divorces are very simple
and can be handled with a minimum amount of red tape and delay, other
divorces are more complicated and can take many
different courses. The following is a basic outline of the
Husband or wife contacts a lawyer, who prepares a Complaint for
Divorce,stating grounds for
divorce, and including all other "claims" related to settlement and
dissolution of the legal marriage. Related matters may
Each related claim may be settled informally or formally, or may be
listed for hearing before the court.
- Custody: the legal
custody of any children of the marriage
- Support: support
for dependent spouse
and minor children of the marriage
- Alimony pendente
temporary support for a spouse during the course of the litigation;
division and distribution of the property of the marriage.
Pennsylvania, most divorces are No Fault, although 'fault grounds'
divorces are available. A party may also establish grounds
through proof of two year's separation.
The petition is filed with the court in the county in which the spouse
resides. A statutory filing fee is required.
the filing together with the Complaint are served on the other
spouse. The served spouse may file an Answer and/or Counterclaim.
Pennsylvania, a No Fault Divorce is available to couples who agree that
the marriage is 'irretrievably broken." If both parties are
settle outstanding issues of support, custody, alimony, and property
division, and consent to a divorce, it may be possible for a divorce to
be completed within less than six months.
parties agree to the entry of a No Fault Divorce decree, they may
Affidavits of Consent, consenting to a no fault divorce decree being
entered. This consent may be signed and filed after the
time known as the 'cooling off period' which is 90 days following the
date of service of the complaint.. This consent makes it unnecessary
for any party to establish
grounds for divorce.
there are no outstanding claims in a divorce case, and the affidavits
of consent have been filed, a party may issue a notice of his or her
intention to request that the court issue a divorce decree.
provides the party with the timeframe in which any remaining claims
must be filed or waived. After the passage of the notice
decree may be requested and issued, and the parties will be divorced.
woman currently using her married name may formally retake her maiden
name in conjunction with her divorce by following a specific filing
of property in a divorce matter requires
"full disclosure" of all relevant information by each party to the
divorce. The "discovery" phase of the
proceeding is meant to facilitate this. Through their
the plaintiff and defendant spouses will request all information
relevant to the divorce issues from one another. Information
disclosed informally or formally. If formal disclosure is
the parties' lawyers will
- request documents in a "Document Demand"
- request information through
- possibly in contested cases schedule
"depositions" to take
direct testimony on the facts in issue.
Once all relevant information has been disclosed to each party, the
spouses may engage in settlement negotiations. They may do
informally with one another, or through lawyers. The parties
may choose to employ a
"mediator". Mediators are specially trained domestic
If settlement is reached, the parties' attorneys will formalize
the agreement in writing. This document can be
the court and, if approved by the judge, made a court order along with
the entry of the "Divorce Decree."
If the parties cannot agree, or the judge does not approve an
"agreement", the suit, or any claim within the divorce suit, will go to
court. The first level of litigation in any area of claim
before a master, who, depending upon local practice and
issue a recommendation or temporary order on the issue before the
master. If there is no resolution at master's level, the
recommendation will be presented to the court for consideration during
the hearing. During this phase each
side will present witnesses and testimony.
At the conclusion of the testimony, the judge will isue an
order on the issue presented at the hearing.
If either party has grounds to object to the order, he or she
appeal the decision to a higher court.
Family Law and the Family with
By Ilene Young
Separated families of every kind deal
with the difficult issues of custody, support and relocations. For
families with children with special needs, the challenges can involve
more than maintaining family relationships and financial status quo.
Most courts are unfamiliar with the unique needs of our children. It
is important for these issues to be clearly raised at the time that
custody and support are being considered. Some special
1. Location of the Primary Custodian:
The parent with whom the child spends most of his time is the primary
physical custodian. The residence of this parent will generally be
the child’s residence for purposes of school enrollment and medical
and other services. When parents live in different locations, the
quality of services may differ and the welfare of the child may be
impaired. States differ widely on their eligibility requirements for
medical assistance and behavioral supports, for example. School
districts vary widely in the quality of their special education
programs. In cases where each parent may be equally qualified for
primary custodian status, the quality of services available at each
proposed legal residence may be a decisive factor in the custody
determination of the court.
2. Decision-making: The right to make
decisions concerning the child is known as “legal custody.”
Shared legal custody, the most common form of legal custody for
divorced parents, contemplates each parent having an equal say in the
therapeutic, social and medical decision-making for their child. In
the case of children with special needs, this may cause problems.
Example 1: A child with AS may be on a gluten free diet while living
with mother, who is primary custodian. During partial custody
weekends and vacations with father may mother impose this same diet
in father’s household, where he is equally legal custodian and
does not believe the diet is worth the trouble?
2: May mother choose a better residential placement for a severely
disabled child where father objects that there is one closer and
more convenient for him to maintain the parent child relationship?
What if one costs more than another? What if the parents have
agreed to split such costs –and one argues for a state run facility
of much poorer quality? Who manages the complex advocacy problems
of obtaining funding and services from different streams? Who pays
the attorney or advocate?
Legal custody orders or agreements
must be carefully drafted to deal with possible conflicts and
difficulties, and to maintain the child’s best interests.
Contact our office for a consultation to discuss the special needs issues in your family law case.
Support: In the case of special
needs children, child rearing expenses may far exceed those
anticipated by the support guidelines used to calculate support
payments. The needs of a child may require one parent to be
unemployed or underemployed in order to be available to care for the
child. Standard marital separation agreements and support agreements
frequently provide for estates, annuities, pensions or life
insurance to be held with the child named as beneficiary. In the
case of children with special needs who need to maintain their
eligibility for medical assistance, social security, and other
entitlements in adulthood, the sudden receipt of an inheritance or
insurance payment in their name may cause them to lose their
services. All life planning for any disabled individual must be
carefully done with an eye toward preserving necessary benefits.
Where there are two families involved, this planning must be
content in this web site is
provided for informational purposes only. Legal services
in this web site are personally provided by Ilene Young,
Esquire and associates. Ilene Young is
Pennsylvania, ED PA Federal Court , and the United
States Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs in Washington,
Associate attorneys at the firm are licensed to practice in New Jersey
and Maryland. Nothing in this site may be relied upon as
How is Child Support Determined in Pennsylvania?
by Ilene Young
amount of a child support payment is calculated through
statutory guidelines in Pennsylvania. The guidelines
based upon a
percentage of income per child per parent. The first
link below will take you to the sections of the PA Code by
support is calculated:
Pennsylvania Guidelines: Graphic Schedule
schedule references the combined incomes of the parents and the support
amount owed to a child of a family with that combined income.
Each parent is responsible for his or her own proportionate
of the support figure. With one child in
full custody of mother, for example, if father's income is $3,000 a
month and mother's income is $1,000, Father would
responsible for 3/4 of the total support cost. Mother, as
custodian, would be contributing her share through providing primary
home and care.
The following link provides information regarding calculation
income percentages and use of the guideline schedule:
Pennsylvania Guidelines for Child Support
Considered Income for
Child Support Purposes?:
The following language from the statute
details what is included
as "income" for purposes of calculating support obligations:
"(1) wages, salaries, bonuses, fees
income from business or
dealings in property;
and all forms of
from an interest in an
estate or trust;
benefits, social security retirement benefits, temporary and permanent
disability benefits, workers’ compensation and unemployment
if, in the discretion
of the trier of fact, inclusion of part or all of it is appropriate
entitlements to money or
lump sum awards, without regard to source, including lottery winnings,
income tax refunds, insurance compensation or settlements; awards and
verdicts; and any form of payment due to and collectible by an
individual regardless of source."
For further information, the following link will
take you to
the relevant section of the Pa. Code:
Pennsylvania Guidelines for Calculating Net Income
Child support is not tax deductible. The right to take the
dependent tax credit for the supported child is a matter to be
addressed in the divorce settlement agreement.
Legal claims for custody and separate and
claims for child support. Both claims can be included in a
divorce action; or, absent divorce, both can be filed simultaneously
but they remain separate and distinct actions to be adjudicated
A child's right to support is of paramount public interest
the laws of all states. While the guidelines are fairly
inflexible, in many situations the discovery, designation and
calculation of relative income can be complex and requires the services
of an experienced family and support law attorney.