Family Law

The family law lawyers at F&E provide professionals and other high-net-worth individuals with knowledgeable, strategic advice and representation to:

  • Help them achieve their most personal life goals.
  • Guide them through difficult times and complicated decisions.
  • Preserve their hard-earned wealth and assets.

Our practice spans the full range of family law matters, including:

  • Adoption
  • Divorce
  • Spousal Abuse
  • LGBT Family Law
  • Premarital & Cohabitation Agreements
  • Grandparent Visitation

Adoption

Adoption issues arise in many situations. A married couple or single individual may be adopting a child from another country; one spouse may want to adopt the biological child of the other; or remarried spouses need to understand whether formal adoption makes sense for their new blended family.

F&E’s family lawyers know how to navigate the complex legal arena of modern adoption, including:

  • Domestic or international adoptions
  • Second parent adoptions
  • Surrogate adoption
  • Step-parent adoptions
  • Grandparent adoptions
  • Contested adoptions

We offer strategic, informed advocacy that is focused on respecting your rights, serving your needs, and achieving your desired results.

Divorce

F&E represents clients in areas such as traditional and non-traditional relationship dissolutions, property distributions and support matters, child custody and visitation, and premarital and separation agreements.

Our family lawyers understand that although many divorces can go smoothly with a mutual agreement of the parties, others become contentious and emotional, requiring sensitive handling and exceptional management skills.

At F&E, we will make every effort to resolve your divorce matters through negotiation, but if warranted, our attorneys can litigate to achieve our client’s desired result. We are the advocates you need to protect your custody, alimony, and assets.

Child Custody

Resolving custody disputes can be daunting. When it comes to negotiating custody, what is right for a parent is not necessarily the ideal outcome for the children. These issues need to be handled with sensitivity and an eye toward the legal rights of all parties.

Visitation goes hand-in-hand with custody and can affect a parent’s ability to see their own child on a regular basis. Our clients suddenly find themselves dealing with unfamiliar, emotionally-charged issues such as:

  • What kind of visitation schedule will I need to deal with?
  • What about holidays and birthdays?
  • What if I need to relocate with my child?
  • Can I fight for more time with my children?

F&E’s family lawyers will work with you to formulate a parenting plan that meets the needs of your family. Mediation and collaboration are often effective methods that can help parents reach customized custody and visitation provisions that successfully balance the needs of all the interested parties. And if an agreement cannot be reached, our team of experienced practitioners knows what it takes to obtain your desired results.

If you are negotiating the complexities of physical or legal custody or trying to work out visitation rights, our family lawyers will be by your side, explaining everything that takes place, and supporting you throughout the entire process.

Spousal Support

Spousal support payments are made by one spouse to the other prior to the entry of a divorce decree. In Pennsylvania, support may be awarded to the spouse who earns less money or has a lower earning capacity.

The amount payable is based upon a percentage of the difference between the after-tax monthly incomes or earning capacities of the two parties after a consideration of other support obligations each may have. There is no fixed length of time that spousal support is payable.

F&E’s family lawyers have represented numerous higher-earning and lower-earning spouses on both sides of various support issues. That experience enables us to effectively negotiate these issues collaboratively and act as your strong advocate when support issues become contentious.

Child Support

The purpose of child support law is to promote the best interests of children by providing the financial support they would have received if the children and their parents (or other married caretakers) lived together in the same household.

Before an order of child support can be entered, a court must determine the amount of support appropriate for a particular child and which parent should pay a portion of that amount to the other. To determine the amount of support and which party will pay, a court considers the incomes and earning abilities of both parents and the financial requirements of the child.

F&E’s family lawyers respect and understand the needs of you and your children and will help you obtain the financial arrangements necessary to maintain a sense of normalcy and a feeling of security when there is so much upheaval in your lives. Ideally child support obligations can be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by the divorcing spouses, but, if necessary, we have the experience to submit these disputes to a family court judge to arrive at a fair result for all parties involved.

Alimony

In awarding alimony, the primary factors a court considers are:

  • Lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Length of the marriage.
  • Whether there are any dependent children that might restrict the supported spouse’s ability to work full-time.
  • Age, health and education of the parties at the time alimony is being set.
  • Each spouse’s earnings and earning capacities.
  • Each spouse’s reasonable living expenses.
  • Tax consequences of any alimony award.

A family court judge has wide discretion in setting alimony. Whether alimony is awarded (and in what amount) can vary greatly depending upon the judge hearing the case and how effectively the case is presented. An experienced family lawyer can play a large part in the court’s decision whether to order alimony in a given case, and if so, for how much.

F&E’s family lawyers understand the emotional and financial stress that can surround a divorce and know how to obtain the full amount of compensation you deserve. We will deal with any asset and payment disputes, and will make certain that your agreement is enforced once your divorce is finalized.

Property Division

When a marriage ends in divorce, courts are often called upon to make sure that the property or wealth obtained during the marriage is divided up in a way that is fair to both parties. Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that its courts divide marital property and debts based on what they determine is fair. The goal of equitable distribution is not to divide the marital property and debts equally between the spouses, but to achieve an equitable, or fair, distribution of property.

Retaining competent legal representation may be the most effective way to achieve an outcome that is fair. F&E’s family lawyers are experienced in gathering and analyzing information about the factors that may impact the amount of equitable distribution for your divorce. We have extensive experience with cases involving large marital estates, business ownerships, real estate holdings, investments, and other complex financial matters. We have an in-depth understanding of the calculations, legal nuances, and recent developments in the law, all of which will inform a court’s decision about the equitable distribution of property in your case.

As your strongest advocates, we will aggressively represent your interests throughout this complicated process, and make certain that you are kept involved and fully informed.

Counsel Fee Awards

Counsel fee awards in a divorce action are in a court’s discretion. The family court’s primary purpose is not to reward or punish a spouse, but to enable a needy person to carry on or defend an action or proceeding so that the parties are as close as possible to being economic equals in the divorce proceeding. The goal is to ensure that one spouse will not have greater leverage than the other during the litigation process.

Counsel fees may be awarded during the divorce, custody, or support litigation process. Generally, the award decision will be based on the conduct, need, and income disparity of the spouses. Counsel fees may be included in a final decree in divorce depending upon such factors as:

  • Size of the marital estate received by the person requesting counsel fees
  • Value of the services rendered by an attorney
  • Ability of the person to pay fees
  • Conduct of the parties.

Actual need for payment assistance must be shown before an award will be made.

F&E’s family lawyers are the experienced advocates you need to most effectively present your counsel fee case before the court.

Senior Divorce

The divorce rate for the “50 plus” demographic is estimated to have doubled in the past decade. With advances in health care, seniors expect to live into the 7th, 8th and 9th decade of life.

Couples divorce later in life for some of the same reasons younger couples split up—infidelity, financial pressures, regrets about earlier decisions, or a desire for greater independence. But when you’re over 50, these reasons are framed by aging and the realization that your working years are fewer and your peak earning ability may already be behind you. On the other hand, after working many years, you may find that you have accumulated substantial business assets, property, and personal possessions.

F&E’s family lawyers are experienced in all areas that are of special concern for older divorcing spouses, including: alimony, retirement income, asset protection and division, health care, social security, mental competency of a spouse, wills and trusts, beneficiary designations, and powers of attorney.

We work collaboratively—but aggressively if necessary–to develop a successful divorce strategy and secure the results that matter to you most. Post-divorce, we will create a personal financial plan and budget to enable you to ease into an independent lifestyle and secure retirement.

Spousal Abuse

If you are the victim of physical or emotional abuse from your spouse, you are at your most vulnerable. The abuser knows this, either consciously or subconsciously, and uses it to weaken you even further.

The victims of spousal abuse need outside representation more than anyone, and F&E’s family lawyers can provide the support, counseling and advice that you need.

Because the outcome of a domestic violence case can have lasting effects on you and your family, it’s crucial to retain trusted counsel who can relentlessly fight for your rights and assure your safety. F&E’s family lawyers are the fearless advocates you need and deserve.

We can guide you through the technical aspects of reporting abuse, obtaining the proper restraining orders and making sure they are enforced. Our practitioners will be vigilant, detail-oriented, and laser-focused on your family’s protection.

LGBT Family Law

Complex Issues Faced by Same-sex Couples

F&E’s family lawyers attorneys understand that same-sex couples and unmarried partners can face unique challenges. With the Obergefell decision in 2015, the US Supreme legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, but same-sex couples continue to face complicated legal issues given the patchwork of state laws that governed their relationships prior to 2015. It is often difficult to understand your rights in each situation and be certain of the best way to accomplish your goals.

Same-sex Divorce

Even with same-sex marriage now the law of the land, the family court systems of the states were designed to deal with heterosexual divorce. The issues unique to same-sex divorce have not been fully ironed out by state regulations and the courts. This is particularly true in states that were forced to confer legal status on same-sex marriage by Obergefell.

Couples Married in Multiple States

Unlike heterosexual couples who marry in only one state, prior to Obergefell same-sex couples sometimes married in several jurisdictions and often entered into civil unions and/or domestic partnerships, as well. When these couples wish to part ways, all of these legal relationships should be dissolved. If even one is left intact, the rights and responsibilities of the relationship will continue to exist in any jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as valid.

The ideal approach is to convince the court to dissolve all of your relationships in the same proceeding, however many of the complications involved in the dissolution of multiple relationships are relatively new–even to courts that regularly handle same-sex divorces.

One such complication arises from multiple marriages of different durations. The divorce law of the state in which you file may allow the court to consider the length of your marriage in its division of assets or the awarding of alimony, for example. If a couple has more than one relationship to dissolve and each is of a different duration, the court will need to determine which duration should apply.

Even with a nationally-recognized right to marry, the ability to obtain a same-sex divorce remains a difficult and complicated process with confusing residency requirements that need to be understood and sorted out. F&E’s family lawyers have the experience you need to navigate you through these legal technicalities.

Premarital and Cohabitation Agreements

Today, more people are entering into second and third marriages, and are bringing significant savings, property, and businesses with them to their new relationships. Despite the fact that these assets are not considered joint property in Pennsylvania, new property that is accumulated during the marriage (including increases in the value of the pre-marital assets) is considered the property of both spouses.

Premarital agreements are often required to keep both current and new assets separate and to make certain exactly what will happen to all financial holdings and possessions in case of divorce or the death of one spouse.

Cohabitation is a phenomenon that is becoming more popular each year. Two people meet, fall in love, and move in together. These couples often have children and function as a family unit. If marriage follows at all, it does not come until later. However, living together does not automatically entitle either party to the rights and protections afforded to officially married couples.

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that sets forth the rights and responsibilities of the parties if the relationship dissolves. The agreement allows the parties to ensure that their interests are protected based on their negotiated terms if a breakup occurs.

F&E’s family lawyers have extensive experience in the protection of financial assets and know how to prepare the kinds of agreements that can assure clients that their interests are protected.

Grandparent Visitation

There is no automatic grandparent right (or any other third party right) to visitation of children in your family. Although many judges are sympathetic to these issues, others hesitate to interfere with a parent’s wishes.

A court may grant grandparent visitation if at least one of the child’s parents is deceased, the parents are divorced or separated for more than six months, or the child has lived with the grandparent for more than 12 months. Determination of grandparent visitation must include consideration of the best interest of the child, potential interference with the parent-child relationship, and the contact between the grandparent and grandchild.

You may have grounds to petition for court-ordered visits, especially if an established relationship with your grandchild or grandchildren was suddenly cut off (e.g., the child’s parents divorced). An F&E family lawyer can be your most effective advocate in presenting your grandparent visitation request to the court.

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