FAQ

How Quickly Can I Schedule An Appointment With Your Office?

Our Pennsylvania family law office conducts initial consultations on a daily basis.  An option to have 30 minute telephone or in person appointments at a reduced fee from our regular consultation rates.  The abbreviated 30 minute consultations can be scheduled provided that the applicable fees can be paid by a credit card.  Our normal initial appointments last 1 1/2 hours and are a comprehensive overview of your family law issue, Pennsylvania laws, and the legal issues.

When scheduling a consultation, please inform the secretary if there are any pending hearings, deadlines for filing an appeal, or other reason why you may need an immediate appointment.  We will do our very best to accommodate your schedule in setting an appointment.  To schedule an appointment, for the same day please call our office at 610.434.9890.  To schedule an appointment for a future date, click here.

What Types Of Payment Does Your Office Accept?

Our office accepts payment by cash, check, money order, certified check, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, debit card and wire transfer.  Payments of any method are due at the time of in office consultation. Telephone consultations must be paid by credit card only in advance at the time of scheduling.

What Are The Benefits To Scheduling A Paid Consultation On PA Family Law Topics?

When attending a paid consultation, the individual should bring with them the following paperwork:

  • Any papers that have previously been filed with the court which might include a divorce complaint, protection from abuse, complaint, support complaint, custody complaint, or otherwise;
  • Any prior orders of court or written agreements that have been entered in the family law case;
  • Federal and state tax returns for the previous year if divorce or support is at issue;
  • The most recent pay stub or other current proof of income for each party if divorce or support is at issue;
  • If married, a summary of the assets and debt acquired by either spouse from date of marriage through date of separation;
  • Any executed prenuptial, postnuptial, or other agreements;
  • Any proposal for settlement that has been or that you wish to be made;
  • A list of any specific questions you wish to have answered at the appointment.

Is There Such A Thing As A Legal Separation In Pennsylvania?

Technically, there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Pennsylvania. Separation for legal purposes means that one spouse conveys the intent to the other that he or she no longer desires to remain married. That intent may be conveyed in a number of ways including by filing a divorce complaint, by one spouse vacating the marital residence without an intent to return, or by informing the other spouse of the end of the marriage verbally, in writing, or by actions including cessation of marital relations and inhabiting a separate portion of the marital residence. As stated, in some circumstances parties can be separated while residing in the same household. The date of separation in a marriage impacts what constitutes the marital assets and debts as well as the timing of when a divorce decree can be finalized without the other spouse’s consent.

How Can A Spouse Or Minor Child Have Their Name Changed?

In Pennsylvania, a woman who has assumed the last name of her husband upon marriage can have her last name changed back to her maiden name once a divorce complaint has been filed and a written request is made to the court. A hearing or other court appearance is not required to complete the wife’s change of name. On the other hand, changing the name of a minor child may be more challenging. Issues involving the last name of a minor child often arise when the mother and father are not married and the mother chooses the child’s last name without input from the biological father. If both parents are named on the child’s birth certificate and both parents agree to change the minor child’s name, the parents can do so by submitting a request to the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics. If one parent desires to change a child’s name as listed on the minor child’s birth certificate and the other parent objects, a legal action must be filed and a hearing conducted to determine if it is appropriate to change the last name of a minor child.

What Should I Do If Served With A Pennsylvania Divorce Complaint?

Generally speaking, divorce complaints are served upon the defendant in a divorce action by the post office delivering a certified mail letter and requesting the defendant to sign the green certificate of service or by regular mail accompanied by an Acceptance of Service form to be signed and returned to the attorney for the plaintiff.  In either case, signing the certified mail form or completing the Affidavit of Service generally only signifies that the defendant has received a copy of the Divorce Complaint, not that the defendant agrees with the statements in the Divorce Complaint or wishes to be divorced.  If the defendant is represented by an attorney, the defendant’s attorney can accept service of the Divorce Complaint on behalf of the defendant.

If you are served with a Pennsylvania divorce complaint, you should immediately contact a Pennsylvania divorce attorney. If you do not respond to the Pennsylvania divorce complaint, a divorce decree may be entered even without your consent and your legal rights including the right to support or division of marital assets and debts may be waived.

What Should I Do If I Am The Victim Of Domestic Violence?

If you are the victim of spousal abuse, you should immediately contact your local police department and file a police report. The police will be able to provide you with instructions on how to obtain an Emergency Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. You may also wish to consult with a domestic abuse shelter or crisis hotline. Their numbers can be found in the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory or as listed below:

What Should I Do Prior To Separating From My Spouse Or Parent Of My Children?

Prior to any separation, a party should copy important documents and consult with an attorney.   A separation can negatively impact child custody, spousal support, child support and other family law matters so it is highly advised to seek the professional advice of a family law attorney before making final arrangements to separate from your spouse or parent of your children.

Can The Person Receiving Child Or Spousal Support Be Compelled To Produce Receipts Providing How The Support Was Utilized?

No. The defendant in a support action cannot as part of Pennsylvania support proceedings ask to see receipts of how child or spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL),or alimony was utilized by the plaintiff.  Pennsylvania law presumes that the child or spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL), or alimony is used to help financially provide all things the spouse and/or child needs, including a home, food, clothing and social activities.

Can The Pennsylvania Family Court Require Marriage Or Other Counseling?

Yes. The Pennsylvania family court judge may require up to three marriage counseling sessions with a qualified marriage counselor within a three to four month period in the following cases:

  • the Pennsylvania fault-based ground of indignities is used as grounds for the divorce and marriage counseling is requested by either spouse;
  • the Pennsylvania no-fault ground for divorce is used and marriage counseling is requested by either spouse; and
  • in certain cases where there are children of the marriage under sixteen years old.

In cases involving child custody, the court has the power to require both parents and any children over a certain age to attend counseling, educational seminars, or other sessions dealing with child custody issues.

Can Both Parties Use The Same Attorney In Pennsylvania Divorce And Family Court Matters?

No.  A Pennsylvania family law and divorce attorney can represent only one party or spouse in a contested family law  or divorce case. Sometimes, the parties decide that only one of them will retain an attorney. In this situation, the Pennsylvania family law lawyer prepares any paperwork or agreements on behalf of the client who hired the lawyer and any only gives advice to that client that has retained the attorney’s services. The lawyer’s client is the only party represented in this situation.

Can A Spouse Be Prevented from Entering The Marital Home Before The Divorce Is Final?

In Pennsylvania, both spouses have a right to be in and on property that is owned or rented jointly by the parties unless a PA family court judge enters an order which prohibits one of the spouses from entering the marital residence.  There is only two types of orders through family court that can compel a person to vacate a jointly owned or occupied residence – a Protection from Abuse order or an order for exclusive possession.  If there has been actual or threatened domestic violence, a protection from abuse (PFA) order may be entered by the court which can remove the defendant from the residence for up to eighteen months.  If a divorce complaint is filed (whether or not a divorce decree has been issued) and both spouses continue to occupy the same residence, either spouse can request an exclusive possession order if they can prove that the conditions in the household are intolerable for the spouse or children.  If either spouse is locked out of the house without an appropriate order from the local Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland or other county family court judge that has the authority to hear the dispute, the spouse locked out can take action to regain entry to the marital property.  Generally speaking, it is advisable to speak with a Pennsylvania divorce attorney and negotiate with the other spouse and/or his or her lawyer which spouse will continue to occupy the residence during the separation or divorce process rather than face the potential for eviction from the residence through a court order.  However, vacating the residence prior to consulting with your Pennsylvania family law lawyer is not advisable as vacating the residence may have an impact upon child custody, child or spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL) and alimony as well as other issues.