Divorce and custody battles can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. At Lyons Law, we understand the difficulties you face during this sensitive time. Our mission is to provide you with personalized guidance and support, helping you navigate the legal aspects while prioritizing your well-being and the best interests of your children.
While divorce and custody are often commingled, they are two (2) separate actions. One can be a bad partner, but a good parent, so parents need to remember this. Starting with divorce, there can be consensual divorces where both parties agree they are ready to move on with their life, and they can come to agreements regarding the distribution of their marital estate. Of course, there can also be divorces that are non-consensual, which then must be litigated by the Divorce Master (in Washington County). An experienced practice like Lyons Law will be able to guide you every step of the way to try to come to an amicable resolution, but will be able to represent you in Court if litigation ends up being necessary.
With custody, the parties may come up with their own consensual custody schedule. If the parents cannot agree, then the parties proceed through the custody process. In Washington County, you first go in front of a Custody Conference Officer for a conciliation to see if the parties can agree. If the parties cannot, then a 3-hour custody conference/hearing is scheduled where evidence will be submitted and testimony taken.
Divorce and custody battles don't always have to escalate into courtroom battles. Lyons Law is a firm believer in the power of mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods to reach amicable solutions. We'll explore the benefits of mediation, its cost-effectiveness, and its potential to preserve relationships, especially when children are involved.
One of the most crucial aspects of any custody agreement is the parenting plan/schedule. We'll delve into the key elements of a parenting plan, including scheduling, decision-making authority, and communication guidelines. Lyons Law will assist you in developing a customized plan that reflects your family's unique dynamics and promotes a healthy co-parenting relationship. Because in the long run, this is the best scenario for you and your child(ren).
Even after a divorce is finalized, circumstances may change, necessitating modifications to custody or support arrangements. Lyons Law will be there for you when these situations arise, helping you navigate the legal process to modify or enforce existing agreements, ensuring that your children's best interests remain the priority.
At Lyons Law, we understand the emotional and legal complexities involved in divorce and custody matters. Our dedicated team is committed to providing you with compassionate support, personalized solutions, and zealous advocacy. Trust us to guide you through these challenging times, always striving for a resolution that preserves your well-being and safeguards the future of your family.
In Pennsylvania, child support may be owed from one parent (or caretaker) to the other depending on their incomes. The parent with primary custody of the child/children is entitled to child support. If parents share joint custody 50-50, the parent making less money may also be entitled to some child support as well.
There is a formula that Domestic Relations will use, using the incomes of both parents, and the number of children in the household. Other factors are considered such as other children the parents may be required to support, who provides the children's' health insurance, etc.
Recently, there was a change in the support law that took effect on January 1, 2022 relating to the statewide guidelines for calculating child and spousal support. The new guidelines provide for an average increase at all income levels of 15% for one child, 16% for two children, and 18% for additional children. The guidelines also include changes to the calculation of net income, including the treatment of overtime pay, bonuses, and other forms of income. The new guidelines are intended to ensure that child and spousal support payments are fair and equitable for all parties involved. These changes may significantly affect the amount of support paid or received by parents in Pennsylvania.
If you are interested in filing for child or spousal support, or have an upcoming hearing and would like representation, please call us at 412-709-1625 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a family law attorney licensed in Pennsylvania, I often counsel clients on the benefits of a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a legal contract that couples can enter into before they get married, which sets out how their assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce or separation.
Many people view prenuptial agreements as unromantic or unnecessary, but the truth is that they can be incredibly important. Here are just a few reasons why I advise everyone to sign a prenuptial agreement before marriage:
If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can help ensure that the agreement meets all legal requirements and is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.
In short, a prenuptial agreement can be an important tool for protecting your assets, clarifying financial expectations, reducing conflict, and planning for the unexpected. If you are getting married and have assets to protect or other concerns, consider discussing a prenuptial agreement with your partner and consulting with a family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
Feel free to call us at 412-709-1625 to schedule your consultation.
A power of attorney in Pennsylvania is a document that allows the "principal" to appoint the "agent" to act on their behalf in financial and legal matters. The principal can give the agent broad authority to handle all of their affairs, or they can limit the agent's authority to specific tasks or transactions.
Don't put your loved ones in an impossible position of trying to guess your health care wishes. Draft your living will and your exact and specific health care wishes will be known by your health care agents, and in turn, followed by any health care providers. In Pennsylvania, a living will can be updated by creating a new document that revokes any previous living wills. You may also destroy the previous living will if you wish.
In Pennsylvania, adoptions can be completed through the state's Department of Human Services or through licensed private agencies, including attorneys. Adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old and capable of providing a safe and stable home for a child. The birth parents' rights must be terminated before the adoption can be finalized. A home study and background checks are required for all adoptive parents. Adoptive parents may also be required to complete parenting classes or other educational requirements. The adoption process can be complex, and it is recommended that prospective adoptive parents work with an attorney who specializes in adoption law.
In Pennsylvania, a step-parent may adopt a child that is the legal child of their spouse. The process for a step-parent adoption is similar to that of a traditional adoption, but with some additional requirements. However, a step-parent adoption usually takes less time and costs less money as a home study is not required. The birth parent who is not the spouse of the step-parent must consent to the adoption or have their rights terminated by a court. It is important to note that the adoption will sever any legal relationship the child has with the non-custodial birth parent.
Adoptions do take time though, so if you are interested, please make sure you allow yourself enough time for the process. If you are interested in a step-parent adoption please do not hesitate to reach out to us here at Lyons Law.
Child custody evaluations are used in *some* custody cases, but seem to be less and less present in recent years. Child custody evaluations are done by a licensed psychologist usually in the county in which the custody hearing is being heard (or a nearby county). Most counties have a list of custody evaluators that they have commonly used. This process, although lengthy and usually costly, is usually a very good way to have a non-biased third party professional take a deep-dive into the custody matter, including interviewing both parents (or all parties involved), the children, and other professionals and important people in the children's' lives. They often get input from collateral sources, other mental health professionals, doctors, teachers, etc.
Some counties REQUIRE a custody evaluation and others will Order one if the parties agree or if one party presents a motion to require one. The evaluation timeline can take anywhere from weeks to months and the custody evaluator eventually is tasked with the job if giving his/her recommendation on custody for the child. This is just one factor that the Judge will eventually consider, but being a custody evaluator professional carries great weight in some counties.
One reason for the decline in use of custody evaluators could possibly be the cost. Here in Washington County and nearby Allegheny County, the total cost (which can be shared by both parties, or split proportionate to their income) is anywhere from $3,000-$6,000. That is a high cost for most parties in this area. One way the Court has side-stepped requiring custody evaluations has been to appoint Guardian Ad Litems (GAL) through the Court. GAL's are court-appointed attorneys who are appointed to interview and meet with the parties and children and also give a recommendation on their opinion as to how custody shall be shared. Their sole focus is what they believe is the best interest of the child.
Another reason for the decline could be that there is a rise in equal shared custody agreements/orders. Years ago, it is no secret that courts gave preference of custody to the mother. More recently (the past 20 years), the courts have moved away from giving preference automatically to mothers and have put both parents on equal footing. The courts WANT both parents to play an equal role in their child's life as long as both parents are safe and appropriate, but that is not always the case.
Another reason for the move away from custody evaluators, which partially ties in with cost mentioned above, is hearsay. The custody evaluator will provide a detailed custody report, detailing all of their findings, interviews, and their recommendation. However, if the custody evaluator is not present the day of the hearing, technically, the report is all hearsay. That means the parties would have to pay for the custody evaluator's professional fee for time in the court hearing as well adding to the already expensive evaluation.
Finally, another reason for the sharp decline in use of custody evaluators may be that they are limiting their practices to therapy/consulting only. Many times, parties want to subpoena the children's therapists or mental health professionals, but many have contracts signed by the parents before beginning treatment that they will not participate in court. The professionals believe this limits their interaction and ability for the child to really open up to them if the child knows eventually that the professional will be called on to testify in court.
While custody evaluators are still being used, I can attest to that personally, there has been a decline in recent years.
The United States, like most of the world, is in a state of flux. Courts are closed, except for emergency hearings. Attorneys are mostly working from home. Meetings are being held by phone and video conferencing. The main goal is for everyone to stay HEALTHY. However, life still goes on. What happens when the world around you is shutting down, but your family is still dealing with custody issues?
The shutting down of the economy, courts included, came swiftly. Governors ordered stay-at-home orders for residents and Supreme Courts entered Orders for all courts to effectively close to the public. Here in Washington County, the Court of Common Pleas was (and remains) closed to the public, with only minimal staff allowed inside the courthouse. Attorneys have a drop box and have been advised to email certain judges' staffs with question/motions/emergencies/etc. The Prothonotary has utilized online filing, which was previously not active in Washington County. But what if you have a custody schedule and the other parent is refusing to allow your child to come to you during your custodial time? That is the million dollar question.
Normally, parents will have a written custody Order signed by the Judge. The parents must follow that Order, and if they do not, then the parent who has been denied custody may file a Petition for Contempt with the Court. But what if the Court is closed, as it is now? Each county has been dealing with this issue independently. In Washington County, family law judge, Judge Brandon Nueman, was closed for nearly a month for regular motions. Judge Neuman would review emergency motions prepared by parties/counsel and decide if he believed they were a true emergency. If it was deemed a true emergency, Judge Neuman would schedule a telephone hearing regarding the emergency situation. If it was not deemed an emergency, then the parties were out of luck. This left many parents in a state of limbo, with attorneys running out of options.
However, after the first week of courts being closed except for emergencies, many counties made a public statement that custody exchanges were considered "Essential" and children should be following their normal custody schedule from one parent to another as long as no one in the household was sick of exhibiting symptoms.
UPDATE: As of Monday, April 6, 2020, Judge Neuman (family law judge in Washington County) will begin to accept regular family law motions via email and attorneys should be available from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. on motions court days by telephone to present their argument.