Going through the dissolution of a marriage is stressful, and the assistance of a thoughtful but aggressive advocate can make a huge difference. I offer my clients personal attention, customer service, and caring and compassionate legal assistance. I pride myself on always calling my clients back when they call me. My mission is to give each and every client their due importance and their fair day in court if needed. I promise that you will be heard.
Family law encompasses all legal matters related to divorce and domestic relations. Pennsylvania’s family law code sets forth guidelines and procedural requirements for legal actions such as divorce, the division of marital property, prenuptial agreements, petitions for child custody and child support, and adoptions. The rights and obligations established by the family law code assist courts in determining the outcomes of disputes that they review. Not every dispute needs to be resolved by a judge, though. In many cases, understanding the law and engaging in a productive discussion can help spouses and parents craft an agreement that is acceptable to each of them and enforceable by a court. A divorce attorney can help Philadelphia residents try to avoid the stress and uncertainty of litigation when possible.
Although most married people intend to stay together forever, circumstances can change, and many people who cannot sustain their marriage will choose to file for a divorce. Under Pennsylvania law, a person can file for a divorce if either the person or the person’s spouse has been a resident of the Commonwealth for at least six months. A party seeking a divorce can allege fault on behalf of their spouse, an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, or the institutionalization of their spouse. In cases in which the parties mutually consent to a divorce, the court may issue a final divorce decree within 90 days of when the divorce action is instituted.
Under Pennsylvania law, there is no formal status known as legal separation. In other words, even if the spouse live separate and apart from each other, they cannot obtain an order from a court deeming them separated. If the spouses no longer want to be together but do not wish to end their marriage legally, however, they may be able to enter into a contractual separation agreement that defines their rights and obligations and divides their property. Even though a Pennsylvania couple cannot obtain a legal separation, the date when a couple decides to separate still has legal ramifications. The date of separation is critical in determining spousal support and an equitable distribution of property.
Philadelphia divorce attorney Linda Walters has handled many sensitive cases in which a court is asked to determine parental rights and obligations. The court’s aim is to develop an arrangement that is in the best interest of the child involved. A court will consider numerous factors in crafting a plan that is beneficial to a child’s physical, mental, and emotional health, such as the health and resources of each parent, where each parent resides, and the child’s relationship with each parent. In Pennsylvania, if both parents are deemed suitable caregivers, there is a rebuttable presumption that a joint custody arrangement would be in the child’s best interest.
Raising a child can be costly, and when the parents of a child share joint custody, it is not uncommon for one parent to pay support to the other parent. In most instances, a support obligation will continue until a child reaches the age of 18, but there are exceptions to this general rule, such as cases in which the child is disabled. A court will determine the amount of child support based upon the Pennsylvania support guidelines. The guidelines consider the number of children who need support, the income of each parent, and the custody arrangement of the child, as well as other factors. A child support obligation can be amended if either party demonstrates that a modification is warranted, due to a substantial change in circumstances.
In many marriages, one spouse earns a much higher income than the other spouse. If the marriage ends, the lesser-earning spouse may be at a financial disadvantage. As a result, a Philadelphia divorce lawyer often will help a spouse seek spousal support, also known as alimony. Alimony may be granted on a temporary basis during the pendency of the divorce, or the court may impose an ongoing alimony obligation in cases in which it is deemed necessary. In evaluating whether alimony is necessary, a court will assess several elements, including the age and health of each party, the income and earning potential of each party, and the length of the marriage. Alimony may be granted for a defined term or indefinitely.
Many people who live in and around Philadelphia have significant assets that they wish to protect in the event that a marriage fails. Prenuptial agreements are contracts between soon-to-be spouses that become valid upon their marriage. They allow each party to define their right to property owned by either party, alimony, income earned during the marriage, and interests in businesses that either party owns. Prenuptial agreements are presumed to be valid unless a party can show by clear and convincing evidence that their spouse did not provide a fair or full disclosure of assets and liabilities prior to entering into the agreement.
Tensions can run high in family law disputes, and in some instances, people unfortunately lose control and become violent. Although many acts of domestic violence involve physical attacks, threatening a family or household member or an intimate partner, or placing them in fear of imminent harm, may also constitute domestic violence. A divorce lawyer in Philadelphia can help a person who is a victim of domestic violence seek a protection from abuse order from the court, which may prevent the person’s assailant from contacting or coming within a certain range of the person. Notably, accusations of domestic violence also can affect a parent’s right to child custody and visitation.
Simply because a couple no longer wishes to remain married does not mean that there must be contention. Instead, in many cases in which a couple’s relationship is amicable, they may be able to decide issues such as child custody and support, alimony, and the division of property via mediation. Mediation is a process during which the parties meet with a neutral third party who can assess the merits of each party’s position objectively and provide insights regarding appropriate solutions. If the parties are ultimately able to come to an agreement, the terms of the agreement will be reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval. Although mediation is generally an amicable process, it is prudent for both parties in a family law mediation to be represented by counsel to protect their interests.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, a real estate transaction can have an enormous impact on your finances and your future. Each side of the transaction should have legal representation at the closing, even though this is not technically required. The closing is the final step of the process when title is transferred from the current owner to the new owner. We can guide you through a closing with sensitivity to detail, making sure that no unexpected problems arise down the road. With so much at stake, paying a modest fee for an attorney is an investment that you will not regret.
The estate planning process is essential if you wish to control who will receive your assets upon your death. Otherwise, your property will be distributed according to the default intestacy rules in Pennsylvania, which may not necessarily reflect your preferences. Probably the most common estate planning tools are wills and trusts. Property distributed in wills must go through the probate process upon an individual’s death, which can be costly and time-consuming. Many people prefer to transfer their property to a trust before their death so that they can avoid the complications and costs of probate.
In some unfortunate cases, an individual may lose the ability to express their wishes regarding the medical treatment that they should receive in an end-of-life situation. Rather than leaving this decision to someone else, they can craft a living will. This document will provide their preferences for medical treatment in the event that they cannot provide informed consent. A living will is sometimes known as an advance health care directive. It should not be confused with an ordinary will, since it serves a separate purpose. We can help you craft both types of documents so that your wishes are articulated.
A power of attorney allows another party to act for the individual who created the power of attorney in situations specified by the instrument. The scope of the instrument may be general or limited. A power of attorney may be durable, which means that it lasts indefinitely unless you rescind it, or it may take effect only when you are incapacitated. Some individuals draft a health care power of attorney, which gives someone else the authority to make medical decisions for them. Other people draft a financial power of attorney, and still others use both instruments.
Due to a physical or mental impairment, some people lose the ability to manage their own affairs. This may lead to the creation of a guardianship. There are two kinds of guardianships: guardianships of the estate and guardianships of the person. A guardianship of the estate is limited to managing the incapacitated person’s finances, while a guardianship of the person protects their health and well-being overall. Linda Walters can assist you with setting up a guardianship for a loved one. This requires filing a petition and showing that the guardianship is appropriate.
We provide compassionate representation in child abuse cases, which can be highly emotional. We represent both parents and children in these situations. While allegations of child abuse should be taken very seriously, many parents who are accused of child abuse do not deserve to lose their children permanently. We can guide you through the DHS / CYS checklist of factors that must be met to show that a parent has the necessary skills to be a parent. In our experience, cooperating with authorities and complying with legal requirements make it easier to get your child back.
If you are confronted with a family law issue, Linda Walters is a dedicated attorney who will protect your rights and help you seek the best possible outcome under the facts of your case. Ms. Walters has an office in Oreland, and she regularly assists people in Philadelphia and throughout Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware Counties. You can contact Ms. Walters at (215) 836-1142 or via the form online to schedule an appointment.