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Family Law

What do we mean by family law?

Family law includes divorce, alimony, alimony pendente lite, and also spouse and child support, custody, protection from abuse, the equitable distribution of marital assets and marital debt, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and more broadly, also includes guardianships and adoption.

Unfortunately, we are at a point in time when more than 50% of all marriages result in separation and divorce. Divorce is a time of uncertainty and change, which leads to anxiety and fear for the future. Lawyers are not specifically trained in psychology, but with the experience the lawyers of RSWM&L have in dealing with human nature, we will be empathetic with your emotional situation, but will steer you in a practical direction so as not to allow the economic consequences of divorce and separation ruin your life and the lives of your children.

In Pennsylvania, state and local rules of court impose various time restrictions on what documents must be filed in court, when, and in what order. It is very easy to become frustrated with the slow pace of the system. Many times hearings or conferences are established several weeks or months in the future.

Keep this in mind: the Judge, Special Master, or conference officer assigned to your case by the court system has very little if any opportunity to see you and meet with you in person before you walk into the courtroom or hearing room. Most of what the Judges and Special Divorce Masters know about you is derived from the voluminous paperwork which your attorneys prepare for you prior to various conferences, hearings and trials. We at RSWM&L have many decades of experience in the drafting of Divorce and Custody Complaints, Claims for alimony and equitable property distribution, Motions for Special Relief to preserve assets, and most importantly, the important document which in the best of all worlds will settle all issues relating to property, alimony and debt payment: the Postnuptial Agreement.

Another critical area of family law which cries out for attorney involvement relates to the question: What happens to the children?  The nastiest and ugliest aspect of most domestic cases is a dispute between separated parents concerning the future residence of the children. Which parent will have primary custody, and which parent will get to see them every so often (partial custody)? The primary goal of the Judge in a custody dispute is to decide the best interests of the children, and it is far from clear exactly what that means in a given case.

The Pennsylvania legislature has recently made a detailed list of the 16 separate considerations a Judge must follow in determining the best interests of children in custody disputes. You can be sure that the lawyers at RSWM&L are very familiar with the years of case law as well as these extensive new statutory provisions as they relate to child custody.

The law cannot right all wrongs and bring about perfect justice. A major purpose of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code is to do “economic justice” – to minimize the economic harm done to families as a result of separation and divorce. As a general proposition, the parties themselves have too much emotional involvement in their cases to be able to negotiate settlement agreements on their own. If you are facing an impending divorce, do not hesitate to request a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys today.