Should I Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
When parents, children, and extended family members need assistance with a family law matter, the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. have the knowledge and insight to offer exceptional guidance and powerful advocacy. We provide personal attention to every case, along with the feedback that is needed for everyone’s peace of mind. We want our clients to feel confident as their cases progress.
When families are faced with divorce, life can suddenly seem like an emotional roller coaster. The world as everyone knew it may have changed dramatically, leaving parents and children unsure or anxious about the future. We strive to protect our clients’ best interests and the lifestyle parents and children cherish so that everyone can move forward with a sense of security and a hope for a brighter future.
Our team offers insight and fierce dedication to every family law case. We have extensive experience helping clients in all matters of family law, including divorce and separation, child support and custody matters, adoption, domestic violence cases, and more. We ensure that every client receives the vigorous representation they deserve.
Advantages of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
A divorce lawyer ensures that the divorce is filed properly. Divorcing couples that try to do everything on their own cannot know if they are doing things right. Divorcing couples could have their paperwork returned to them, and they may not know what to say when they go before a judge. We support our clients throughout the process and explain how each part of the divorce process works. The following discussion summarizes what occurs during a divorce, and we will walk our clients through these steps, which may also include mediation.
What are Grounds for Divorce?
When couples are willing to file for a no-fault divorce, they can submit their documentation mutually. A divorce lawyer will submit all the necessary paperwork, ensure that it has been completed properly, and work with the court. Although these divorces are simple, they must be handled properly. When one party wishes to file for divorce, they can file for fault divorce, which notes particular grounds for the divorce, including:
Adultery and bigamy: These two grounds may go together, depending on how the offending spouse behaved. A spouse who has been leading a secret life or married someone else immediately creates a condition in which their first spouse has the right to legally end the marriage.
Abuse: This can include physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, as well as humiliation and/or controlling behaviors that limit the victim’s quality of life. When abuse has been noted, it often includes police reports that may have been filed in the past. Even if the client has not filed a police report, they should present as much evidence as possible so that we can create a convincing case for the court.
Abandonment: This must occur for a full year with no contact. The court will hear these cases, even if the offending spouse does not appear or retain legal representation. We will file the paperwork on behalf of our client, and they can end the union so that they can move on with their life. This type of divorce can be amended if the other spouse reappears.
Imprisonment: This is an obvious and often forgotten reason to file for divorce. When one spouse is convicted of a crime, their partner can file for divorce. There is no need to wait for that person to get out of jail, and the divorce can be filed before a prison term begins. A conviction can trigger a divorce proceeding if the non-offending spouse knows their partner will go to jail.
Parts of a Divorce Proceeding
When our clients engage us for representation, we must work through every part of the divorce. Divorces can become complicated as additional factors must be considered, such as child support, parenting plans, asset division, alimony payments, as well as the documents that must be filed with the court. A divorce proceeding may include the following issues:
Child custody agreements: When a parent comes to us to file for a divorce, we will ensure that the parent knows how to create a parenting plan and child custody agreement. The court is willing to accept most agreements that a parent submits, and we will help write the agreement.
Asset division: We also help clients when they need to divide their assets. We can explain how alimony should be provided and how spousal support works when the divorce is pending. Spousal support may be offered freely by the opposing spouse or we may need to petition for spousal support. When the divorce is filed, we will send all documentation to the court. The other spouse will receive notice of a divorce filing. If that spouse does not respond, it is as if they agreed to the terms of the divorce.
Mediation: We can also help spouses respond to a divorce filing when they do not know what to do. We can review the filing and offer mediation if the partner who filed is willing to talk. We can go to court if needed and create a counteroffer that will be read by the other attorney.
The divorce is not final until one or both parties goes to a hearing before a judge who signs off on the filing. Therefore, having a lawyer helps. There could be separate alimony and child custody hearings, and we will continue to support our clients until a decree is signed. We also save all documentation for future use if our clients need modification.
How is Alimony Calculated?
Alimony is different in every case. When our clients petition for alimony, the court will use a range of factors to determine how alimony will be paid. We will investigate the case, look through these options, and help our clients understand the alimony they might receive. Alimony payments consider the following factors:
- Income for both parties
- The age of both parties
- The length of the marriage
- The physical and mental health of both spouses
- Earning potential for both spouses, including their relative educational backgrounds
- Contributions to the marriage, including putting one spouse through school or raising children
- The impact of housing children when one parents takes custody
- Any misconduct that occurred during the marriage
- The standard of living for both spouses
We will investigate each of these issues and show our clients how we plan to petition for alimony. There is no permanent alimony in Pennsylvania, but a divorce lawyer will ensure that a client receives the support they need throughout the process. Couples could be separated, have a pending divorce, or be divorced. That is why we may need to change the alimony and/or spousal support payments based on the following factors:
- Spousal support is offered when spouses are separated, and a divorce has not been filed. When we represent the lower-earning spouse, we will request spousal support be paid throughout the separation. Spousal support will end when the couple divorces or reconciles.
- Alimony pendente lite helps the lower-earning spouse establish their new life before the divorce decree is final.
- Alimony is paid to the lower earning spouse until they remarry or pass away. The death of the higher-earning spouse will also end alimony payments.
Alimony can be adjusted as a result of job loss, a recent move, or a change in life circumstances. We will help clients with modifications when they need to be made and argue for a modification when it appears that our client has not received a fair deal during the divorce proceeding. We also encourage anyone going through a divorce to reach out to us if their lawyer is not providing the level of service that they need.
Can Clients Write Their Own Custody Agreement?
Clients are encouraged to write their own custody agreement because the court will decide for them if they cannot agree on certain terms. Judges can only do so much, and they will do their best to make appropriate choices for a family. Because every family has nuances that are not obvious to the court, this is not the best option for the family. We can help mediate the situation if there are any issues. Clients should consider the following:
- Who will be the custodial parent? This parent is the one who will primarily house, feed, and clothe the child.
- How will the child be picked up for visitation?
- Which holidays will the child spend with each parent?
- Will the parents use a nesting strategy for custody?
When clients write their own custody agreement, they should consider these questions. We can help parents write these agreements if they need assistance and ensure that the agreement makes sense in the eyes of the court. Child custody can be challenging, and we know that both parties can become emotional over the issue. A divorce lawyer will ensure that clients are given the highest level of service and support. We will also listen to older children who have input about custody.
How Does a Parenting Plan Impact Child Support?
A parenting plan includes more than just child custody. Clients may wonder why they need both a parenting plan and a custody plan. The custody plan determines visitation and holidays the children will spend with each parent. This is a simple calendar that is easy to use and adjust when needed. Parents who are parting amicably can adjust their schedule as needed. Even so, they need to know who will pay for expenses, how decisions will be made, and how to work together on certain aspects of child-rearing. A parenting plan might include the following questions:
- Who will pay for school expenses?
- Who will choose schools for the children?
- Who will pick up the children from school?
- Who will pay for extra expenses, such as sports and summer camp?
- Who will make medical decisions for the children?
- Are there any relatives who are not allowed to see the children?
- How will parents handle matters such as screen time and discipline?
- Will the children attend religious services?
A parenting plan is essentially a list of rules for the parents to follow. Agreeing on a parenting plan should be simple for some parents, but there can be disagreements along the way. When a parenting plan is put before the court, a judge may create a list of rules that might not make sense for either party. We want to give the judge something to approve, and we can help mediate any issues that arise. When we add a custody agreement to a parenting plan, divorcing parents can easily raise their children with minimal issues.
How are Assets Divided?
Assets are divided so that the two parties can manage debts, vehicles, homes, investments, retirement accounts, and property. When divorcing spouses want to divide assets, mistakes can be made. There are two things to keep in mind:
- The state of Pennsylvania does not split property 50/50.
- The state does not automatically give the lower earning party the most favorable arrangement.
We recommend that clients create their asset division documents before we file.
Clients will need to divide credit cards; consider high-priced items, such as jewelry, paintings, and family heirlooms; and review retirement accounts. When a couple splits items, such as cars or homes, one or both parties might need to remove the other’s name from the account in lieu of refinancing. When we add this information to the divorce decree, it becomes a matter of public record. We will not hesitate to go to court to force the other spouse to hold up their end of the agreement.
Is Divorce Mediation Necessary?
Divorce mediation is necessary when divorcing couples cannot agree to the terms of their divorce. Mediation may also be necessary when the couple has reached a stalemate over certain issues. Mediation is not a scenario in which one party gets what they want and the other loses out. We use mediation to discuss the terms of the divorce. We understand that some couples cannot help but argue because they are upset by the situation. Mediation allows us to achieve the following:
- Guide the conversation
- Explain the legalities of certain aspects of the divorce
- Intervene when arguments begin
- Write up any agreements that have been reached
- Add those agreements to the divorce documentation
Mediation is often the best solution for partners who are divorcing, and it might also be needed when children feel very strongly about where they should live. We can help all parties discuss matters before an agreement is finalized.
How Does Domestic Violence Impact Divorce Cases?
In 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed a law that ensured abuse victims could file for divorce without the consent of their partner. Victims are often abused or even killed by their partners when they seek a divorce. When a divorce lawyer works with an abuse victim, we move as quickly as possible. We can help dissolve the marriage and file against the abuser without forcing our client to face their spouse again. This is especially important if our clients need to take refuge in a shelter.
Can Divorce Decrees be Modified?
A divorce decree can be modified at any time when alimony, child support, child custody, and other arrangements must change. We can help clients modify divorce decrees when they believe that they do not need to pay alimony or they need to reduce their alimony or child support payments. We can help our clients recalculate their payments and move to cancel payments when an ex-spouse has remarried. This may be especially important if the ex-spouse attempts to hide a remarriage from the ex-spouse who is paying alimony. If the ex-spouse gets married in another state, it would be difficult for that state to know that alimony is due. We will move to have the alimony payments stopped and request reimbursement for our client’s inappropriate alimony payments.
We can also have the decree modified when children turn 18 and no longer qualify for child support payments. This can be confusing for some parents because the child may still be in high school, but we want to follow the letter of the law. If a divorced parent wishes to end child support payments before the child graduates, they can do so. We must note, however, that most of these payments are extended until the child graduates from college.
Divorce decrees must also be modified when the child custody arrangement needs to change. An older child might choose to live with the other parent, or one of the parents might move out of state. We can mediate these arrangements and work with parents who want to stop their spouse from moving out of state with their children. We also ask that our clients modify their divorce decrees when minor changes are needed. We know that some of our clients are concerned that their ex-spouse will not follow the new rules, and we will put everything in writing so that we have legal recourse in the event that an agreement is violated.
Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Those Seeking Divorce
Talk to the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. when you need help navigating the emotional and complex steps of divorce. We will ensure that our clients receive the care they need as their lives change. Call us today at 888-999-1962 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.