Family Law – Support, Divorce, Custody, Adoption

The term “Family Law” or “Domestic Relations” encompasses issues involving divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support/alimony, adoption, and pre-nuptial agreements.

Divorce & Separation

iStock_000006814377XSmallDivorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. The process also legally divides marital assets and debts and determines the care and custody of the children. Generally, the primary issues to be decided are division of property, child custody, child support, visitation and alimony or spousal support, visitation. If spouses agree on how to resolve these issues, they can usually obtain a divorce quickly. However, more often than not the divorcing parties have disputes regarding their marital financial arrangements and the care and custody of their children that cannot be resolved without court intervention.

Grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania can be either NO-FAULT or FAULT. Before you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania, you and/or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months. Then you must prove that there are grounds, or lawfully acceptable reasons, for a divorce.

If a divorce is by MUTUAL CONSENT and both parties sign Affidavits of Consent to it, the matter will be ripe for the court to grant a divorce three months after the service of the complaint on the other party. If only one spouse wants a divorce and the parties have been living separate and apart for at least two years, a divorce may be granted if the court determines that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Both of these are NO-FAULT grounds for divorce.

Before someone can obtain a FAULT divorce, two things must be proven. First, that he or she is “innocent and injured”, or not at fault, and second, that misconduct by the other spouse has caused a breakdown of the marriage. Allowable grounds for FAULT divorce are specified by law, such as violence, bigamy, adultery, desertion, conviction of a crime or insanity.

Child Custody

Parents swear, and children suffer 2The care and upbringing of children following divorce is often an ongoing source of conflict for divorcing parents. Custody must address both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody typically involves allocating parental rights and responsibilities regarding the day-to-day care and activities of the children. Legal custody typically involves allocating the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the child’s upbringing.

Sometimes the parents agree to an arrangement; sometimes the court determines one for them. In the past, courts routinely gave mothers physical custody and gave fathers visitation rights. Today, the courts have begun to realize that sometimes it is in the best interests of the children to reside with the father and reverse the roles of the parents. In general, the courts favor joint ongoing child rearing responsibilities with the children residing where it is most practical and where they will flourish. The advice and assistance of a family law attorney can help parents to establish child custody and visitation agreements that focus on the interests of the children.

Child Support

iStock_000008359112XSmallAn unfortunate fact of economic life is that a family cannot live as cheaply divided as it can together. Thus, after a divorce, the living standard of the entire family is often lowered and the court often finds itself in the unenviable position of having to divide a scarcity of resources. Then too, there is the problem of changing the child support order to meet changing needs of children and enforcing court orders against fathers and mothers who either refuse to make court ordered child support payments or who cannot do so due to circumstances beyond their control. These problems, when added to the issue of custody, visitation and the division of property in a divorce , keep the family law courts of the country packed to capacity.

Both parents have a legal duty to support their child according to their ability to do so. Since 1990, Pennsylvania has had child support guidelines in effect, which provide a formula for calculating child support based on a proportion of each parent’s gross income. These guidelines are applied unless a party can show that application of the guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case. This section discusses the issue of child support when viewed in the context of a divorce or paternity action. Just as courts must often make the crucial decision as to child custody and visitation, so too must it often determine how much child support the noncustodial parent will be ordered to pay. This section will describe the considerations that a court will take into account when deciding the issue of child support, whether in a divorce or a paternity case. It will also describe the methods by which child support orders are enforced by courts and how to modify an order for support.

Establishing Child Support Payments

During a marriage or committed relationship, such issues are rarely a concern for the court. But when parents divorce or cease to live together with their children as a family, the courts are usually required to establish by decree the amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay. Like the issue of custody, this can be reached by agreement or by fighting it out in front of a judge. Child support payments, like alimony, may be incorporated into the divorce judgment or may be provided for in a marital separation agreement. You can avoid making child support a contested issue, and the legal expense of litigating this issue before a Master or a Judge by both parents agreeing to the appropriate amount of child support and making this agreement part of a marital separation agreement.

Adoption

iStock_000008209985XSmallEvery adoption, whether foreign or domestic, requires the action and approval of a court to become final, and each state has its own adoption policies and procedures. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children, and parents owe adopted children the same legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage.

Each state has its own policies and procedures controlling child adoption. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Upon adoption, adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children and parents owe adopted children all the legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage. A family law attorney at our firm who offers adoption-related services can help both adoptive and birth parents throughout all phases of the adoption process.

Protection From Abuse

If you have been threatened or assaulted, contact your local police department. If you need to file for a protection order and the courthouse is closed or a judge is not available, papers may be filed before a Magisterial District Judge or Municipal Court Judge.

To contact FIORE & BARBER, LLC via email, visit contact us. To reach FIORE & BARBER, LLC via telephone, call 215-256-0205. Your initial consultation is free of charge. Reasonable fees for all legal matters.

Disclaimer: The material contained on this website is afforded for information purposes only. The materials do not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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