When a family breaks up, confusion about your legal rights can make the situation worse. With more than 25 years of legal experience, Catherine H. Voit has a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of Pennsylvania family law. She is pleased to answer your questions and walk you through the legal process. For your benefit, she has assembled the following list of frequently asked questions and answers:
Catherine H. Voit is committed to finding a solution to your family crisis. You can count on her to listen to your concerns and provide candid advice. Call Catherine today at 484-881-3185 or contact her online. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and early morning appointments are available on request.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses reach an agreement on all major issues, including property division, alimony, child custody and child support. Because the involvement of the court is minimal, an uncontested divorce is generally faster, simpler and less costly. In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to reach an agreement on at least one key issue and must ask the court to resolve the dispute.
In divorce mediation, a neutral third party, called a mediator, help the couple reach an agreement about the terms of their divorce. The primary benefit of mediation over court action is that the parties are able to maintain control of issues such as property division and come up with a solution that meets their needs.
Collaborative divorce is a process in which spouses negotiate the terms of their divorce agreement outside court. Collaborative divorce allows the spouses to communicate openly in a non-adversarial environment with their attorneys present to provide advice. It is generally a less costly and time-consuming alternative to litigation.
While Pennsylvania does not technically recognize legal separation, it still plays a role in the divorce process. Separation generally involves one spouse conveying an intent to end the marriage, either by leaving the marital home, terminating marital relations, informing the other spouse orally or in writing, or filing a divorce complaint. The date of separation is important for calculating procedural deadlines and dividing asset and liabilities.
The term “best interests of the child” is a guiding principle when determining child custody issues. It generally refers to the welfare of the child. Pennsylvania lists several factors that courts must consider when evaluating what would be in a child’s best interests, including the parental duties performed by each party, the preferences of the child, any history of abuse and the need to maintain stability in the child’s life.
Victims of domestic violence can pursue both civil and criminal remedies. A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects victims of domestic violence from abuse committed by an intimate partner, close relative or household member. A restraining order is a criminal court order that is appropriate when the abuser has committed a crime. For maximum protection, you may pursue both.