Family Law

Meet the Family Law Department of Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel:
  • We are experienced (serving many generations since 1954, over 60 years!).
  • We have 9 Attorneys and 3 Paralegals on our family law team.
  • We are smart and knowledgeable, but very practical.
  • We are up-to-date and on top of the latest rules and decisions.
  • We tell it like it is and do not give you unrealistic expectations of outcomes.
  • We are caring about the family as the important unit in our society and realize the human cost, as well as financial cost, of a separation or divorce.
  • We are ethical but protective of our clients.
  • We work closely with other departments here in our medium sized firm, since so many family law cases cut across departments; such as, real estate, personal injury, estate planning, taxes and business.

Astor weiss

Important Issues in Family Law

Below are some of the more prevalent issues that we deal with in Family Law. Please click on each issue to learn more.

 

Family Law Attorneys

Click on Name for more info

  • David Gutin
    David Gutin
    Partner
David Gutin
Partner

GACo_Gutin-David_FINALBackground

David Gutin is a partner in the firm, with his practice focused on Family Law and Commercial Litigation. He co-chairs the Firm’s Family Law/Domestic Relations group. He has worked extensively in many facets of family law, including divorce, child custody, support, adoption and prenuptial agreements. Mr. Gutin has been a leader in the Philadelphia and South Jersey Jewish communities for more than 30 years.

Education

  • Rutgers University, B.A., high honors, Phi Beta Kappa, 1969
  • Columbia University Law School, J.D., Stone Scholar, 1972

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U. S. District Court of New Jersey
  • Third Circuit Court of Appeals

Professional Affiliations

  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Philadelphia Bar Association
  • New Jersey Bar Association

Awards

  • Philadelphia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Community Service Award in 1982
  • Philadelphia Federation’s Young Leadership Award in 1977
  • Pennsylvania Super Lawyer® 2005-2015

Community Involvement

  • Served as the Chairman (2004 to 2007) of the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Serves on the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey
  • Serves as Vice President of Jewish Senior Housing and Healthcare Services, Voorhees, New Jersey
  • Served as President of Congregation Beth El, Voorhees, New Jersey (2003 to 2005)
  • Served on the boards of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Jewish Family and Children’s Agency of Greater Philadelphia

Contact

David Gutin, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.893.4963
215.790.0509 (fax)
dgutin@astorweiss.com

  • Julie A. Auerbach
    Julie A. Auerbach
    Partner
Julie A. Auerbach
Partner

GACo_Auerbach-JulieBackground

Julie A. Auerbach is a partner in the firm, with her practice focused in the area of Family Law. Ms. Auerbach practices in the counties of Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Bucks, and has written and lectured extensively on the subject of family law.

Education

  • University of Michigan, B.A., 1989
  • Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, J.D., 1992

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey

Professional Affiliations

  • Delaware County Bar Association
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association, Family Law Section

Community Involvement

  • Serves as a legal affiliate for the Women’s Resource Center
  • Serves on the Board of Directors of the Supportive Older Women’s Network (SOWN)
  • Chair of the Glenolden Shade Tree Commission

Presentations and Publications

  • Article: “Defending a Protection from Abuse case involving children” Click Here
  • She has been a regular contributor to the Legal Intelligencer, having written articles on a variety of topics across the spectrum of family law.
  • 4/25/2016 –  “Online Now or Tonight on CNN WFMZ-TV at 7pm: “Child Custody in High Tech: When Rules of Divorced Households Differ” Click here
  • Fall 2015 – “Dissecting a Business Valuation – Understanding Valuations in Client Representations Without a Business Background” – Originally published in the Fall 2015 of Philadelphia Lawyer, click here for the full article.
  • 9/24/15 – “Managing Clients’ Psychological Responses to Divorce and Child Custody Disputes” Family Lawyer Magazine, click here for the full article.
  • 8/04/15 – “When Does Family Law Become Criminal Law?” The Legal Intelligencer,  click here for the full article.
  • 6/23/15 – “Does Receipt of Disability Income Mean No Earning Capacity?” The Legal Intelligencer,  click here for the full article.
  • 5/21/15 – “50/50 Physical Custody: Does One Size Fit All?” The Legal Intelligencer,  click here for the full article
  • She has made several appearances on the television shows Law Journal and CN8 Money Matters, where she has discussed various family law issues.
  • She has been a speaker for many Pennsylvania Bar Institute Continuing Education family law seminars.
  • Speaker at 2015 PICPA (Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants) Divorce Conference. Click here to read more.

Contact

Julie A. Auerbach, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.893.4974
215.790.0509 (fax)
jauerbach@astorweiss.com

  • David I. Grunfeld
    David I. Grunfeld
    Of Counsel
David I. Grunfeld
Of Counsel

GACo_Grunfeld-DavidBackground

David Grunfeld is Of Counsel to the firm, with his practice focused on the areas of Family law, Commercial Litigation and Collections, Bankruptcy, Estate Planning and Administration and Professional Responsibility. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Grunfeld was a sole practitioner.

Mr. Grunfeld is well known in the legal community for his knowledge of legal ethics and has been asked to serve as an expert witness in litigation concerning this issue.

Education

  • Lehigh University, B.S.
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School, J.D., 1968

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U. S. Supreme Court

Professional Affiliations

  • Member and former Chair (1993) of the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association
  • Long-time member of the Professional Guidance Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association
  • Member of the Board of Family Services of Montgomery County

Awards

  • In 1995 and 2012, Mr. Grunfeld received the Philadelphia Bar Association Family Law Section Award

Presentations and Publications

  • Long-time speaker and writer for Continuing Legal Education classes for attorneys for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and other organizations
  • Author of a chapter in Bankruptcy Issues in Matrimonial Cases, published in 1992
  • Serves as an ethics columnist for Philadelphia Lawyer magazine and Philadelphia Bar Reporter newspaper
  • Previously served as editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia Bar magazine and newspaper

Contact

David I. Grunfeld, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.790.0100
215.790.0509 (fax)
dgrunfeld@astorweiss.com

  • Gerald J. Schorr
    Gerald J. Schorr
    Partner
Gerald J. Schorr
Partner

GACo_Schorr-Jerry1Background

Gerald Schorr is a partner in the firm and devotes his practice to family law, his exclusive area of practice since becoming a member of the Pennsylvania bar in 1984.  He co-chairs the Firm’s Family Law/Domestic Relations group.  His practice involves the negotiation and/or litigation of the full gamut of family law issues, including such complex areas as international custody disputes, interstate enforcement of support orders, same-sex property division, and valuation of businesses and professional practices in equitable distribution.

Education

  • Rutgers College, B.A.,1972
  • Temple University, Department of Religion, Ph.D. candidate, college and university lecturer
  • University of Pennsylvania Law School, J.D., 1984

Professional Affiliations

  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Philadelphia Bar Association
  • Montgomery County Bar Association

Community Involvement

  • Served as a Tutor, English as a second language
  • Served on the Board of Directors of Pennsylvania Pro Musica
  • Served on the Board of Directors of Friends of Elkins Park Free Library
  • Serves on the Board of Directors of Cheltenham Township Library
  • Serves on the Board of Directors, Civil Rights Committee, and Intergroup Task Force of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Anti-Defamation League

Presentations and Publications

  • Mr. Schorr has served as chairperson of the Equitable Distribution Committee of the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, has chaired numerous programs on family law practice, has written numerous articles on family law issues, and has lectured on family law to, and authored materials for, the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He is currently writing a book on divorce.

Contact

Gerald J. Schorr, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.893.4957
215.790.0509 (fax)
gschorr@astorweiss.com

  • Barbara Oaks Silver
    Barbara Oaks Silver
    Partner
Barbara Oaks Silver
Partner

barbara-oaks-silverBackground

Barbara Oaks Silver is a partner in the firm, with her practice focused on the areas of Family Law and Estate and Financial Planning. Before joining the Firm in 1991, 23 years ago, Ms. Silver worked as a partner with her husband, Edward W. Silver, in their own Philadelphia Law Firm.

In 1999, Ms. Silver was one of the 154 attorneys chosen by her peers as a Best Lawyer in Philadelphia Magazine. She was also named as one of the Top 50 women lawyers in Pennsylvania. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, Ms. Silver was also named a Super Lawyer by her colleagues.

Education

  • University of Pennsylvania, undergraduate degree, Phi Beta Kappa
  • Temple University Law School , J.D., 1969, first in class

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania

Professional Affiliations

  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Philadelphia Bar Association

Community Involvement

  • Facilitator and teacher of the course titled “The Law, The Community and You” through Temple University Center City, TARP Division
  • Created and taught “Practical Law & Money” to over 1,400 women at the Gershman Y in Philadelphia
  • Past Chair of the Board of Friends of Curtis Institute of Music
  • Member of Executive Board of Stokowski Society
  • Creator and instructor of practical law and finance course designed especially for women at the Institute of Awareness in Philadelphia
  • Serves on the Board of Directors for several community organizations

Presentations and Publications

  • Ms. Silver has lectured and taught many courses throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, primarily focusing on Family Law and Estate Planning.
  • Former Professor of Corporate Law at the Institute for Paralegal Training in Philadelphia

Awards

Contact

Barbara Oaks Silver, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.790.0100
215.790.0509 (fax)
bsilver@astorweiss.com

  • Neil Hurowitz
    Neil Hurowitz
    Special Counsel
Neil Hurowitz
Special Counsel

GACo_Neil-Hurowitz-FINALBackground

Neil Hurowitz, P.C. is special counsel to the firm, with his practice focused on Family law. Mr. Hurowitz is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Law and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

In addition to his work in Pennsylvania, Mr. Hurowitz has tried spousal/child support and custody cases in California, New York, North Carolina and New Jersey. His family law practice includes both simple and complex divorce cases and financial issues, difficult custody and support situations, parental and grand-parental visitation rights, spousal abuse, and alimony, for which he has received record court awards.

Prior to his current family law practice, Mr. Hurowitz tried numerous cases before juries on criminal defense, corporate disputes, medical malpractice, computers, negligence, and unusual civil defense suits throughout Pennsylvania.

Mr. Hurowitz has maintained an AV Preeminent ® peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell ® for over 25 years; the highest rating in both legal ability and ethical standards.

Education

  • Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, B.S.
  • Dickinson School of Law, J. D.

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • District of Columbia

Professional Affiliations

  • Served on the Board of Governors of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Served as a Board of Governors member of the Pennsylvania Association of Trial Lawyers
  • American Bar Association
  • Montgomery County Bar Association
  • Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association
  • Doris Jonas Freed American Inns of Court
  • Fellow American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Fellow International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Served as Chair of the Professionalism Committee of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and also served as chairman of the Professionalism Committee of the Montgomery County Bar association
  • Served as the former President of the Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association
  • Served as the former President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Awards

  • Best Lawyers in America, since its inception in 1983
  • Philadelphia’s Best Lawyers’, 2009-2014
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers of Pennsylvania
  • Top 100 Philadelphia Super Lawyers
  • 10 Years Selected to Pennsylvania Super Lawyers
  • Philadelphia Top Rated Lawyers-Divorce
  • The Eric Turner Memorial Award July 2013
    In recognition of Neil’s valuable contribution to Pennsylvania Family Law, 
    Not only for the practice of Family Law , but the education of other attorneys in the practice of Family Law, and as a mentor and friend.

Presentations and Publications

  • Mr. Hurowitz has authored seven books on family law including two for the legal profession, and the popular book for the general public entitled, “Divorce: Your Fault, My Fault, No Fault”. He has also written numerous articles for the Practical Lawyer, The Barrister and for seminar presentations. He has been featured on many local and national radio and television programs, including The Phil Donahue Show, Montel Williams, CN8, NBC and CBS
  • Mr. Hurowitz has lectured at many venues, including the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Montgomery County Bar Association, Melvin Belli Seminars, Northeastern Christian College, Temple Law School, Widener Law School and at Inns of Court, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, PA Chapter.
  • He has lectured to more than 20,000 lawyers throughout the United States

Contact

Neil Hurowitz, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.893.4951
215.790.0509 (fax)
nhurowitz@astorweiss.com

  • Dina S. Ronsayro
    Dina S. Ronsayro
    Partner
Dina S. Ronsayro
Partner

GACo_Ronsayro-Dina-231Background

Dina Ronsayro is a partner in the firm, with her practice focused on the areas of Family law, Personal Injury Litigation, Commercial and Civil Litigation, Landlord-Tenant law, and non-profit organization formation (including obtaining federal tax exempt status).

Ms. Ronsayro began working for the firm as a law clerk while attending law school. While attending Temple University, Ms. Ronsayro was a member of the Political and Civil Rights Law Review and a participant in the Advanced Trial Advocacy Program.

As a mother of three young children, Ms. Ronsayro is sensitive to the needs of young families and the unique issues they face.

Education

  • Hamilton College, 1996
  • Temple University School of Law, J.D., 1999

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U. S. District Court for New Jersey
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey
  • The United States Tax Court

Professional Affiliations

  • Philadelphia Bar Association; Co-chair – Support and Alimony Committee, Family Law Section
  • Philadelphia Bar Association; Member of the Executive Committee, Family Law Section
  • Philadelphia Bar Association; Member of the Board of Governors
  • Philadelphia Bar Association; Member of the Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention
  • Volunteer Arbitrator for the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

Community Involvement

  • Active member of the region’s Filipino community and has provided all types of legal services to that community
  • Ms. Ronsayro has been appointed as the attorney of record for Congregation B’nai Tikvah-Beth Israel located in Gloucester County, N.J.
  • Ms. Ronsayro has recently been elected as a Vice President of Congregation B’nai Tikvah-Beth Israel located in Gloucester County, N.J.

Awards

  • Hamilton College, Levitt Scholar
  • Ms. Ronsayro received numerous awards while at Temple University Law School for participation and oral advocacy.
  • Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Rising Star® 2008, 2010-2012 (Note: There was no Rising Star Publication in 2009)
  • Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® 2013-2015

Presentations and Publications

  • Ms. Ronsayro has spoken at the Philadelphia Bench Bar Presentation on issues of Support in Family Law.
  • She has further spoken at various Bar Association Family Law Section meetings on issues of Support in Family Law

Contact

Dina S. Ronsayro, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.893.4966
215.790.0509 (fax)
dronsayro@astorweiss.com

  • Elizabeth L. Bennett
    Elizabeth L. Bennett
    Special Counsel
Elizabeth L. Bennett
Special Counsel

Elizabeth L. BennettBackground

Elizabeth L. Bennett is special counsel for the firm, having 35 years of practicing family law. Most of Ms. Bennett’s practice was as founder partner of Bennett & Associates which had an office in Wayne, PA. In addition to practicing family law, Elizabeth L. Bennett, was a founder of the Collaborative Family Law Affiliates, co-creator of the Annual Philadelphia Sandra Day O’Connor Award and advocate and organizer for one family/one judge family court reform.

Education

  • Swarthmoore College (Art History) 1969
  • Villanova University, J.D., 1977

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvannia

Professional Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • Philadelphia Bar Association
  • Pennsylvannia Bar Association
  • Delaware County Bar Association

Community Involvement

  • Collaborative Family Law Affiliates
  • Women’s Resource Center
  • Forum of Executive Women
  • American Association of Family Conciliation Courts
  • Business Women’s Network
  • Family Mediation Association of Delaware Valley
  • TIAAW
  • Women International Leaders of Greater Philadelphia

Awards

  • Pennsylvannia Honor Roll of Women
  • Who’s Who in America
  • Pheobe Novakovic Award
  • Main Line Today Top Lawyers
  • Suburban Life – Awesome Attorney Award

Presentations

  • Collaborative Family Law Affiliates: “Collaborative Procedures”
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute: “The Second Season:Issues for Divorce Over Fifty”
  • Montgomery County Family Law Section: “Collaborative Divorce”
  • Rotary Club, Chesterbrook: “Collaborative Family Law”
  • Rotary Club, Admore: “Collaborative Family Law”
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute: “Ethical Consideration in Collaborative Family Law”
  • Annual Training of the Collaborative Family Law Affiliates
  • Women’s Resource Center: “Basics of Divorce and Support Law”
  • Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Collaborative Divorce”
  • Swarthmore College: “Law is Career”
  • American Bar Association Summit on Unified Family Court, Plenary Session: “A Day in The Life”
  • League of Woman Voters: “Welfare Reform”
  • Delaware County Bar Association: “Tax Tips: the 1997 Tax Relief Act”
  • Surgent & Associates, Continuing Professional Education for Accountants, Massachusetts and Philadelphia: “Divorce and Taxation”
  • Pennsylvania Senate, Domestic Relations Committee: Testimony
  • Forum of Executive Woman, Moderator: “Barriers to Women’s Self-Sufficiency”
  • Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Managed Care, Sixth Annual Colluquium
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute: “Fundamentals of Family Law”
  • Villanova Law School Family Law Class: Lecturer
  • Villanova Law School Law and Psychology Class: Lecturer
  • Philadelphia Bench Bar Unified Family Court
  • Northwestern Tax Institute, Nevada: Divorce Tax
  • Family Law Institute: “Sequestering Assets – Off Shore Trusts”
  • Delaware County Women’s Commission Conference: “Women and Managed Care”
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer Program: “Job Rights, Medical Insurance Options and Credit Opportunities”
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Divorce Conference: Conference Chair and Participant
  • Unified Family Courts, Separate presentations for the Family Law Committees: Delaware, Chester, Philadelphia, Bucks, and York County Bar Associations
  • Forensic Accounting Seminar – Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • Testimony before Joint State Government Task Force on Domestic Relations Law
  • WCAU-TV: “Cohabitation”
  • Delaware County Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Committee: QDROs and QMSCOs
  • WCAU-TV: “Domestic Violence and Insurance Underwriting”
  • Philadelphia Bar Association: “Practical Tips: Medical Insurance”
  • Women’s Resource Center: “Financial Planning for Women”
  • Forensic Accounting Seminar – Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • Fundamentals of Family Law – Pennsylvania Bar Institute
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association Winter Meeting: “Medical Benefits”
  • Women’s Resource Center: Single Mothers Group
  • Sandra Day O’Connor Award, Philadelphia Bar Association (responsible for its creation and donation)
  • WCAU-TV Sunday Focus: “Sexual Harassment and Women in the Legal Profession”
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section workshop: “Insurance Benefits”
  • Society for Human Resource Development workshop: “The Medical and Family Leave Act”
  • Conference of County Bar Leaders, Pennsylvania Bar Association: “Gender Bias”
  • Herron Cable Channel 2: “Health Insurance”
  • Women’s Resource Center: “Women and Health Insurance Coverage”
  • Unitarian Church of Delaware County, Women’s Services
  • Women’s Way Breakfast: Co-Sponsor and Presenter
  • Philadelphia Bar Association Family Law Section Health Insurance Workshop: Moderator
  • Mellon Bank: “Trusts & Divorce”
  • World Affairs Council, Philadelphia: “Women at the Crossroads” Panelist
  • Domestic Relations Association of Pennsylvania, Mock Support Conference
  • Marriage Council of Philadelphia, Inc: Presentation to staff on divorce practice
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants: Conference on Divorce
  • Interview with Darrell Sifford, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Lessons in Life From Eastern Europe”
  • Swarthmore League of Women Voters, “Divorce: the U.S. and Eastern Europe”
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section Workshop: “Insurance”
  • Adult School, Cheltenham High School, Instructor
  • Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, Speech: “Equitable Distribution”
  • Elkins Park Rotary Club: “Divorce Update”
  • Women’s Resource Center: “Divorce Overview”
  • WWDB Talk Radio: “Divorce”
  • Testimony in Opposition to Senate Bills Nos. 229, 419 & 1100, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute: “New Developments in Equitable Distribution”
  • Pennsylvania Council of Mediators: “Bridging Cultures” Panelist
  • Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution: “Mediating Domestic Violence”
  • Volunteers for the Indigent: Family Law Supervisor, pro bono project
  • WWDB Talk Radio: “Sexual Abuse Allegations”
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section Workshop: “Mediation Skills”
  • Consumer Watch, WCAU AM: “Choosing a Professional”
  • WDVT Talk Radio: “False Sexual Abuse Allegations”
  • What You Should Know, WYSP: “Sex with Clients”
  • Womens Conference of Delaware County “Women and the Bill of Rights”
  • Philadelphia Bar Association: “The Issue of Gender” Panelist
  • Pennsylvania Bar Institute: “Equitable Distribution”
  • Mary Mason Show, WWDB: “Pre-Marital Agreements”
  • Reggie Lavong Show, WHAT: “Pre-Marital Agreements”
  • We Can’t Stop Now, WIOQ: “Pre-Marital Agreements”
  • The Media Rose Tree Unitarian Church: “Women and the Constitution” Sermon
  • Womens Conference of Delaware County: “Women and the Constitution”
  • People Are Talking KYW/TV: “Divorce Mediation”
  • Philadelphia Bench Bar Conference, Family Law Section: Panelist, Mock Custody Trial
  • Womens Conference of Delaware County, Workshop: “Divorce Law in Pennsylvania”
  • Parents Without Partners: “The New Divorce Law” Speech
  • Delaware County Trial Seminar presentation: “Injunctive Relief under the New Divorce Code”
  • Women’s Conference of Delaware County,Workshop: “Women and the Law “
  • Delaware County Bar Association, Seminar: “Real Estate Transactions Under the Divorce Code of 1980”
  • The Media Rose Tree Unitarian Church: “Civil Liberties” Sermon
  • The Lions Club of Springfield: “Capital Punishment” Speech
  • Widener College Women and the Law Conference: Panelist
  • Melting Pot, KYW/TV: Panelist on the Criminal Justice System
  • The Rotary Club of Springfield: “Civil Liberties” Speech

Publications

  • “Factors to Consider in Divorces During Hard Economic Times,” The Legal Intelligencer
  • “Collaborative Divorce Comes To Pennsylvania,” The Philadelphia Lawyer
  • “Asset Sequestration in Divorce Cases,” Fair Share
  • “Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly
  • “Welfare and the Environment – A Single Bullet Solution,” Philadelphia Inquirer
  • “Court May Reverse Hostility Toward Children,” The Patriot-News
  • “Lost in the Legal Maze of Family Courts,” Commentary, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • “Divorce, Older Women and Alimony,” American Journal of Family Law and the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer
  • “Guaranteeing Medical Insurance Coverage After Separation or Divorce,” American Bar Association’s Family Law Quarterly
  • “Lost in the Shuffle: Ensuring Medical Care for Children After Divorce,A ACE Magazine
  • “Guaranteeing Medical Care for Women, Children: The Gaping Federal Loophole,” Legal Intelligencer
  • “Lost in Family Court,” MetroKid
  • “The Discovery Rule and Child Abuse,” Pennsylvania Family Lawyer
  • “Courting Disaster,” Swarthmore College Bulletin
  • “Determining the Real Cost of Supporting Children in Single Parent Homes,” Philadelphia Bar Association Family Law Section Newsletter
  • “The Indigent Spouse: Making Litigation Claims Affordable,” Philadelphia Bar Association Family Law Section Newsletter
  • “Sexual Abuse: Minimizing the Pain,” Legal Intelligencer
  • “Divorce Court: Not a Soap Opera,” Legal Intelligencer
  • “Child Support: Is Shared Custody a Threat?”Legal Intelligencer
  • “Divorce: Men May Lose Money Under Tax Reform Act of 1986,” Legal Intelligencer and Focus Magazine
  • “Pitfalls and Potential of Being a Woman,” Swarthmore College Bulletin

Contact

Elizabet L. Bennett, Esquire
Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP
The Bellevue
200 South Broad Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.790.0100
215.790.0509 (fax)
ebennett@astorweiss.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions in Family Law

Question: Is there legal separation in Pennsylvania?

There is no such thing as legal separation in Pennsylvania. Instead, separation is presumed when a couple no longer holds themselves out to as a married couple and they live separate lives. This includes separating themselves financially, socially and sexually. However it is possible for a separated couple to live in the same house and even sleep in the same bed, so long as they cease martial relations and again, lead separate lives.

Question: Is there still common law marriage in Pennsylvania?

No, common law marriage was abolished in Pennsylvania in 2005.

Question: Do the courts care if a spouse had an extra-marital affair?

The only time the courts will consider the extra-marital affairs of a spouse is when either spouse is seeking post-divorce alimony from the other. But the affair is only one of 17 factors the court will consider when deciding whether or not to award alimony.

Question: Is there a waiting period before a divorce can be granted?

There are several waiting periods imposed by the legislature before a divorce will be granted. First, if both spouses will consent to a divorce, they need to wait 90 days from the date of filing and service of the divorce complaint before they can consent to the divorce. Once both spouses consent to a divorce, there is an additional 20 day waiting period that must lapse before either spouse can move for a divorce. This 20 day waiting period can be waived so long as both spouses agree to waive it. If one spouse will not consent to a divorce, that spouse can make the other spouse wait a period of time from the date of separation before the other spouse can move forward to secure a divorce. Due to a recent change in the law with regard to the length of this waiting period, if the parties separated prior to December 5, 2016, the waiting period is 2 years. If the parties separated on or after December 5, 2016, the waiting period is 1 year.

Question: Can I get a divorce and address the property issues later?

Getting a divorce first and addressing property issues later, is known as bifurcate the property issues from the divorce and therefore require very specific circumstances before they will allow a divorce to be bifurcated

Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody

Question: Does the mother automatically get custody of the children?

The mother does not automatically get custody.

Question: How do courts decide which parent gets custody of the children?

The courts are required to consider 16 factors when deciding which parent gets physical custody. The factors generally center on what are the best interests of the children.

Question: Does on parent’s use/abuse of drugs or alcohol prevent them from getting custody?

It depends. Courts are reluctant to prevent a parent from having any contact with their children. If the court has serious concerns about the safety of the children while in the care of a parent who allegedly uses/abuses drugs or alcohol, the court may put protective measures in place in a custody order, such as preventing a parent from driving with the children or requiring the parent to have surprised visits with the children.

Question: Can a parent still see their children even if they do not pay child support?

Yes, the courts will not prevent a parent from seeing their children, even if that parent fails to pay child support.

Question: If I want to relocate to a different county or state with the children, do I need permission from the other parent before I do so?

Yes, a parent cannot relocate with the children to a different location which will substantially interfere with other parent’s custody unless the other parent consents to the relocation or a court grants permission for the relocation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Assets

Question: Is Pennsylvania a community property state or an equitable distribution state?

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets are divided after a consideration of 11 different factors. In general, these factors look at the difference in the earnings of the parties, the ages of the parties, the total value of the marital estate and who the children will be residing with after the divorce.

Question: What is the percentage range of division assets?

While there is no set percentage range set forth in the law, generally, absent very unusual circumstance, assets are divided between the parties in the range of 50% to 60%.

Question: What assets are considered marital and what are not?

Generally speaking, marital assets are assets acquired during the marriage, including the increase in value of assets acquired prior to marriage. However, gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are not marital assets. Assets acquired prior to marriage are not marital assets.

Question: What if the value of an asset is not readily known?

Certain assets must be appraised to determine their value. Real Estate, business interests and pensions are just some of the types of assets that have to be appraised to determine their value. Parties may opt to divide an asset in kind, such as the monthly benefit of a pension, as opposed to appraising the total value of the asset.

Question: How do I secure financial information from my spouse?

Obtaining financial information from the other spouse in a divorce case is accomplished through the process known as discovery. Under Pennsylvania divorce law, each party has an obligation to disclose all of that party’s assets, liabilities and income. Requests for financial information made by one party to the other, are known as discovery requests and must be compiled with by both parties.

Frequently Asked Questions about Alimony

Question: Is there alimony in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania does provide for alimony for the dependent spouse.

Question: How does the court decide whether or not to grant alimony?

The decision whether or not to grant alimony to a dependent spouse is based upon a consideration of 17 different factors. Generally speaking, the amount of alimony is based upon the difference in the earnings of the parties and the duration of alimony is often based upon the length of the marriage.

Question: If my spouse had an extra-marital affair, can he/she still get alimony?

Marital misconduct is just one of the 17 factors the courts will consider when deciding whether or not to award alimony, so yes, a spouse that had an extra-marital affair can still potentially receive alimony.

Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support

Question: How is the amount of child support determined?

Child support is determined based upon statewide guidelines. The guidelines set the amount of child support based upon the combined net monthly incomes of both parents.

Question: Can I force the other parent to pay for private or parochial school?

If a dispute arises over the payment of private or parochial school expenses, the issue must be decided by the courts. The courts will look to whether or not the children were in private or parochial school at the time the parties separated, the ages of the children, the needs of the children, the relative incomes of the parties and the cost of the tuition.

Question: Can I force the other parent to pay for college?

No, in Pennsylvania, neither parent has a legal obligation to pay for college expenses of the children.

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Child Custody Explained by Child Custody Lawyers at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP

Pennsylvania child custody statutes focus on the best interest of the child. Custody rights are often triggered when one party moves out of the shared home. However, it is advisable to have a child custody agreement or court order in place prior to a separation. This can be accomplished in a number of ways whether it is through litigation, negotiation or collaboration.
If you anticipate a separation, it is important to speak with a family law or divorce attorney in order to determine what rights you have with respect to your child. Specifically, two aspects of custody should be established – legal custody and physical custody.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody is the right to make important decisions for your child such as where they attend school, what religion they will practice and decisions related to their health and medication. This is normally shared equally between parents except in extreme circumstances.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody refers to the schedule of time the parent has with the child. There are many variations of physical child custody and the focus should be on what schedule is in the best interest of the child.
For instance, one parent may have primary physical custody and the other parent may have partial physical custody. Another variation is equally shared physical custody. Child custody interplays with child support as well. It will be important to share with your attorney the current custody schedule so that the number of overnights is factored into the child support calculation.
It is important to note that child custody is always modifiable. Because the focus is on the best interest and needs of the child, it is logical that those needs may change over time. As a child gets older, it may be wise to revisit your child custody schedule and make modifications.
In addition, the area of child custody is constantly evolving. Most recently there have been changes in the law with regard to relocation of a parent and the child and in reporting certain crimes within the household. Requirements vary by county and local rules should be given close consideration. It is important to choose a child custody attorney who is familiar with local practice. Attorneys at Astor Weiss practice in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
If you are contemplating a separation or feel that the needs of your child have changed, consult with a qualified family law or divorce attorney to determine your child custody rights. Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel LLP has an experienced family law department available to assist you with child custody matters. Call today at (215) 790-0100.

 

Child Support Explained by Child Support Lawyers at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP

In Pennsylvania, once parties separate from the same household certain rights are triggered including the right to child support. The amount of child support is determined by the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines using the parents’ combined net monthly incomes. The right of the child to support shall continue until the child reaches age eighteen or graduates from high school whichever occurs later.
One caveat is that child support may continue beyond the normal termination dates if the child is disabled. There are many factors that are important to the calculation of child support including health insurance costs, the custody schedule, taxes, child care costs and other extra child related expenses.
You may also need the assistance of a child support lawyer when your spouse or the other parent has a complex income structure. Total income might not be as simple to determine from looking at a paycheck or even a tax return. This is especially the case where the parent owns his or her own business or is a manager at a publically traded company. In addition, there may be special circumstances in your case that may allow for an increase or decrease in guideline support. For example, you may be entitled to additional support if your spouse or the other parent has the child less than 30% of the time.
Consider meeting with a child support lawyer to get more information on your rights and responsibilities concerning supporting your children. It is also important to review your child support order periodically since child support is always modifiable based upon a change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in income, a change in the custody schedule, or a change in state law. Astor Weiss has a large Family Law Department with lawyers who are experienced in the area of child support to assist you.

 

Cohabitation Agreements for Unmarried Couples – Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP Family Lawyers

While serving clients who live in the greater Philadelphia area, which includes Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Philadelphia and Chester Counties,our family lawyers at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP have noted that more and more individuals are opting not to get married and instead choose to cohabitate with their significant other.While these individuals are not subject to the Pennsylvania divorce laws if their relationship ends, they may still need to protect their assets in the event the relationship ends. Often, individuals intertwine their finances by opening joint bank accounts or buying real estate together, without thinking through how these assets will be divided if the relationship ends.
A cohabitation agreement can be used to protect and define the rights and obligations of unmarried couples. Unlike prenuptial agreements, which are entered into in contemplation of marriage, and which can be enforced under the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, cohabitation agreements are treated as civil contracts and not entitled to the special considerations given to married couples under the law. However, without these agreements, unmarried couples have limited relief available to them in the courts when trying to untangle their assets.
Cohabitation agreements can be an effective tool for those individuals who are not ready, willing, or interested in marriage, but still want to protect their assets. Cohabitation agreements can address what happens to the residence where the parties live in the event the relationship ends. They can also address how joint bank accounts and other jointly held assets will be divided at the end of the relationship.
If you are interested in learning more about cohabitation agreements and how they may be of benefit to you, please contact Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP family lawyers. Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia County residents can rely on Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP to handle any of their family law needs including cohabitation agreements. To learn more about our full range of services, please request a consultation or call us directly at 215-790-0100.

 

Divorce

The divorce lawyers at Astor Weiss focus their practice in all aspects of family law that may arise from a divorce, child custody or a child support dispute. As experienced divorce lawyers, they understand that each case is complex and unique. Your divorce lawyer should tailor their strategy and apply their expertise to your particular needs.
While some cases may require litigation especially, in highly contentious situations, other parties may be open to other methods of conflict resolution. For instance, you and your spouse may be interested in handling your divorce outside of court through mediation or collaborative divorce.
Divorce lawyers at Astor Weiss are trained in many methods of conflict resolution such as litigation, mediation, negotiation and collaborative divorce. Of course, when divorcing, it is always advisable to meet with a divorce attorney to discuss your rights and responsibilities that will be triggered when you separate. It is important to know what the marital assets and liabilities are and how they will be divided. You may also need information on paying or receiving support from your spouse. Finally, children are always a primary consideration and you should consult with a divorce attorney regarding custody. At Astor Weiss, we have a large department focused on helping families resolve their conflict in the best way possible.
As divorce lawyers, it is our goal to guide the client through a difficult time and lead them to financial and emotional stability. Astor Weiss divorce lawyers are familiar with local procedure and practice in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
If you have questions for a divorce lawyer, please give us a call and set up a consultation at 215-790-0100.

 

Obtaining Legal Protection from Domestic Abuse with our Family Law Attorneys

At Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP, our family law attorneys can guide you through the process of obtaining a protection order when faced with domestic abuse. An individual who has been subjected to domestic abuse can file for a protection from abuse order, with the requirement that the abuse must occur between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.

What Constitutes Abuse?

In situations of domestic abuse, the abuse need not be physical, but if it is not physical, it needs to place the individual in fear of immediate serious bodily injury. The infliction of emotional abuse is not sufficient to obtain a protection from abuse order. Having our experienced family law attorneys at your side during these situations will help you understand what types of abuse are considered by the courts and the legal process to obtain protection against domestic abuse.

Court Proceedings

An individual who has been abused should go to the county court where the abuse occurred and file a petition for a protection from abuse order. County courts usually provide form petitions and often have staff available to assist individuals in filling out the petition. Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule an emergency hearing to determine if a temporary protection from abuse order should be entered. That hearing is usually held the same day as the petition is filed.
The court will review the contents of the petition and a Judge may speak with the individual filing the petition. The court will not speak with the individual against whom the allegations are made at this time. The Judge will then decide whether or not to grant a temporary protection from abuse order. At the same time, the Court will schedule a hearing on the petition to determine whether a final protection from abuse order should be entered. The hearing must be scheduled within 10 business days of the filing of the petition.

Relief available under the Protections from Abuse Statute

The Protection from Abuse statute gives the Court the authority to order several things. First and foremost, the Court will order that the offender shall not abuse, stalk, harass or come near the individual. The order can also evict the offender from the residence of the petitioner. Furthermore, the order can temporarily address issues regarding children, such as child support and child custody, as well as require the offender to surrender any weapons and ammunition that were used in the abuse incident.
For legal assistance, contact our family law attorneys at any of our locations in Wayne, Bala Cynwyd, Haddonfield, and Philadelphia. We also have other family law services that may be relevant to your needs.

 

Learn About Grandparents Rights from our Family Law Attorneys

Grandparents holding a babyChild custody laws in Pennsylvania give grandparents and great grandparents custody rights over their grandchildren. In certain circumstances, grandparents can ask the court for the right to visit with their grandchildren. In still other circumstances, a grandparent or great-grandparent can seek custody of their grandchildren. Our family law attorneys at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP understand how this process works and can guide you through it with fair and effective legal representation.

Changes in the law

In 2010, the laws regarding grandparent rights were expanded to allow grandparents or great-grandparents to seek partial physical custody of their grandchildren if one of the child’s parents was deceased or if the children’s parents have been separated for at least six months. These changes were enacted in order to give grandparents greater leeway in situations where surviving parents or separated parents refused to allow the grandparents to see their grandchildren.

Best Interests of the child

Courts will look to see if custodial time with the grandparents is in the best interests of the child.When deciding on the best interests of the child, courts will look at various factors, including the emotional ties between the child and the grandparents, the ability of the grandparents to enhance the emotional needs of the child, and the child’s preference.

Why Choose Us?

At Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP, our family law attorneys understand the court system and how to present the various factors the courts consider when awarding custody. If you are a grandparent seeking custody rights – whether partial or primary – contact our experienced family law attorneys at our Wayne, Haddonfield, Bala Cynwyd, or Philadelphia offices. To learn more about child custody, please call or request a consultation with one of of experts.

 

Mediation and Family Law: Advice from Our Lawyers in Philadelphia

Dealing with a divorce can be extremely trying from a legal standpoint, and when emotions are factored into the mix, things can get even more complicated. From division of assets to the custody of your child, divorces can be both emotional and very difficult to resolve. Mediation is a process whereby a third party facilitates conversation between you and your spouse to aid you in reaching a resolution. At Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel, our lawyers in Philadelphia have compiled the following article to ensure that you know everything there is to know before agreeing to the mediation process.

Always Consult Your Attorney First

Although mediation can be an effective method of conflict resolution, other methods such as litigation may be more suitable for you depending on your current situation. It is always best to consult with an attorney first to ensure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania law. Ideally, each party should have independent counsel throughout the process so that your decisions are informed and fair. Mediation can only begin when both you and your spouse agree to the mediation, so make sure you have adequate legal counsel before making your decision.

Mediators are Neutral Parties

Mediators are neutral parties whose sole purpose is to aid two people in coming to an understanding. They are not there to give either party legal advice or take the side of one person over the other, rather they are there to ensure that emotions do not get out of control and an agreement is reached in a calm and respectful manner. At Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel, our family lawyers in Philadelphia should be consulted first before negotiating with your spouse.

Compromise is Essential

The mediation process will only work if each party is willing to compromise and temporarily set aside their emotions. If you do not think that the both of you can reach an understanding, mediation may not be an effective process for you. Having a lawyer represent you in court may be a more practical option. However, finding a resolution in court will likely lead to more costs and more stress.
For those considering entering the mediation process, our lawyers in Philadelphia are able to provide you with all of the legal advice that you need to guide you through the process. Furthermore, some of our lawyers are also trained mediators, so if you do decide to go with mediation we can help you and your spouse reach a resolution. During your initial consultation, we can help you determine which conflict resolution method is best for you. Learn about our Family Law practice and the legal services we provide by making an appointment for an initial consultation, please call 215-790-0100.

 

Prenuptial Agreements – Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP Divorce Lawyers in Philadelphia

With the rise in divorce rates, divorce lawyers in Philadelphia and across the country are frequently asked to draw up prenuptial agreements prior to a marriage. A prenuptial agreement provides couples with a road map for how assets will be divided in the event of divorce or death. These agreements can also address the payment of alimony and spousal support. Prenuptial agreements are particularly sought out by individuals with significant assets and income.
One of the goals of a prenuptial agreement is to exclude assets from the marital estate that Pennsylvania law treats as marital. Under Pennsylvania law, the increase in value of premarital propertyduring the marriage is considered marital property. By way of illustration, if an individual’s pre-marital stock account is worth $200,000 at the date of marriage and during the marriage it increases in value to $100,000 through market fluctuations, the $100,000 increase in value during the marriage is considered a marital asset.The original $200,000 is treated as a pre-marital asset. A prenuptial agreement could provide that any increases in value of premarital assets are not to be considered marital assets, regardless of what Pennsylvania law provides. Therefore, the $100,000 increase in value of the premarital stock account mentioned above would be excluded from the marital estate.
Another goal is often to eliminate or limit the alimony and spousal support obligation of the financially superior spouse. Prenuptial agreements can provide that both parties waive the right to receive support from the other. They can also provide restrictions on the amount and the duration of any spousal support and alimony obligations.
Still another goal is to determine what happens with the marital residence upon divorce or death of a party. The agreement can provide that the marital residence gets sold or it can provide that one party can keep the residence and pay to the other party his or her share of the equity in the residence.
Prenuptial agreements are often advisable for individuals entering into a second marriage. For these individuals, they are often looking to protect assets for children from prior marriages or relationships.Prenuptial agreements are also recommended for individuals who want to protect family businesses and trust income.
It is always best for both parties to the agreement to be represented by separate and independent counsel. Prenuptial agreements can be somewhat complicated. To insure that your rights and obligations are fully protected and understood, you should obtain independent counsel.
Whether you are seeking legal counsel to create a prenuptial agreement or you need to review an agreement presented to you, contact Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel family and divorce lawyers in Philadelphia. For more information regarding divorce or mediation services call 215-790-0100 to set up a consultation.

 

Family Law Attorneys Insights into Custody and Relocation

Many individuals are unsure of their rights and obligations when they want to relocate to a different location with their children and they are separated from the other parent. Do you have to get permission from the other parent? What happens if the other parent does not agree to the relocation? The family law attorneys at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP can assist individuals in determining whether their proposed move could be considered a relocation and in seeking permission from the court to relocate.
In 2010, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted laws setting forth the procedure which must be followed and the legal standard courts must consider before a parent is permitted to relocate with a child.

What is Considered a Relocation?

The statute defines a relocation as “a change in residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a non relocating party to exercise custodial rights.” The definition does not specify a minimum distance. For example, if an individual wishes to move to the other end of the same county, that move could be treated as a relocation if it impairs the ability of the non-relocating parent to exercise custodial rights.

Notice of Relocation

Before a parent relocates with his or her child, the parent must first provide the other parent with written notice of the intended relocation. The other parent is then given 30 days to object in writing to the relocation. If no objection is received, the relocating parent must file a petition with the court to confirm the relocation. If an objection to the relocation is received, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether relocation should be permitted.

Factors Considered in Permitting Relocation

Once the court determines that a change in residence amounts to a relocation as defined under the statute, the court then has to determine whether to permit the relocation. The statute sets forth 10 factors, which courts must consider when ruling on relocation requests. The factors include the ages of the children, the relationship of the children to each parent, and whether the relocation will enhance the children’s quality of life and the parent’s quality of life.
The family law attorneys at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP are experienced in the relocation requirements and relocation litigation. If you need assistance with any part of the relocation process, our lawyers can help. For further information, please contact us at (215) 790-0100. In some instances, child custody may be a factor in the relocation of you and your child.

 

Adoption Services from Family Law Attorneys in the Greater Philadelphia Area

The family law attorneys at Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP can assist a step-parent or a same-sex partner in the greater Philadelphia area who is seeking to adopt a child.

The Adoption Process

Adoption for step-parents or same-sex partners is a two-step process. First, one of the natural parent’s parental rights must be terminated. The termination of parental rights of the natural parent can be obtained if he or she voluntarily consents to the termination and adoption. For cases in which the natural parent is unwilling to consent to termination of parental rights, the step-parent must obtain an Order from the court which involuntarily terminates the parent’s parental rights. There must be compelling reasons to seek an involuntary termination, such as abuse or neglect.
Once the termination of the natural parent’s rights is obtained, the adoption can proceed. The individual intending to adopt must file a petition with the court and provide a number of documents to the court, such as criminal record clearances, child abuse clearances, and FBI clearances. The FBI clearance requires the individual intending to adopt to be fingerprinted. Medical histories of the parties involved may also be required.
The Court takes the termination of a parent’s rights and the adoption of a child by a step-parent or same-sex partner very seriously. Each county court sets forth its own specific requirements and procedures, which must be followed before the adoption can proceed.

Why Choose Us?

Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP family law attorneys can assist you with the adoption process to make sure that all of the proper documentation is submitted to the court. Our family law attorneys are aware of the procedures of the local county courts. With 10 attorneys and 150 years of combined experience, our Family Law department is one of the largest and most qualified in the area to help an individual navigate through the adoption process.
For greater Philadelphia residents who are step-parents or same-sex partners planning to adopt a child, call our family law attorneys in Philadelphia: 215-790-0100. Our services extend to the surrounding areas of the city of Philadelphia. Our other offices are located in Wayne, Haddonfield, and Bala Cynwyd.

 

Shortening the waiting period for divorce: A step backwards?

By Gerald J. Schorr

This article was first published on the Op-Ed page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 13, 2016.  The proposed change to the Pennsylvania Divorce Code was enacted, but the article remains timely for its analysis of the potential ramifications of the new legislation.

A bill to shorten the waiting period to establish no-fault grounds for divorce for certain Pennsylvania litigants has passed the General Assembly and been voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration by the Pennsylvania Senate (Bill 380).  Parties who agree that the marriage is over (“irretrievably broken”) may still establish grounds for no-fault divorce once ninety days have passed from service of a Complaint in Divorce.  But parties who do not agree that the marriage is over will have a one-year waiting period to establish no-fault grounds for divorce rather than the current two-year waiting period in effect since 1988. All things being equal, Pennsylvanians proceeding on no-fault grounds who do not agree that their marriage is broken may expect to save nine months, the difference between the ninety-day period for parties who agree the marriage is over and the proposed one-year waiting period for those who do not.  The proposed amendment retains the requirement that the parties live apart during the waiting period.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association and family law attorneys in general have welcomed the proposed amendment. Assuming that a shorter waiting period actually shortens the time it takes to finalize the divorce, by no means a foregone conclusion, the potential benefits are many. There is the emotional turmoil and stigma of divorce on children, which cannot end soon enough. The prolonged, financial uncertainty of how the assets will be divided and whether there will be any continuing, post-divorce financial obligations such as alimony will be resolved sooner, restoring parties’ control over their financial future.  Quicker divorces will allow each side the opportunity to explore new commitments sooner, with the possibility of creating new families. The prospect of post-divorce healing between the parties and cooperative resolution of ongoing, post-divorce issues, such as changes in custody and child support, will be expedited. And then there are the legal fees: they end sooner, and should be less than with a two-year waiting period.  What can be wrong with this picture?      

The proposed amendment overlooks a critically important dimension of the divorce process: the impact on the economically weaker spouse. In most divorces, financial earning power is unequal, and the separation is invariably harder on the spouse with the lesser or non-existent earning power (almost always a “she” in a gender-traditional marriage, even in this day and age).  In addition to cash shortfalls and uncertainty about long-term finances, the financially weaker spouse usually has custody and, with it, the heightened emotional demands of children navigating a new schedule and new emotional terrain. Acute depression and other mental health issues are also no strangers to marital break-ups, often requiring prolonged treatment. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the financially weaker spouses face the challenge of re-tooling for an ever-changing, 21st century economy. A tall order under the best of circumstances, re-entering the job market in one’s 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s while divorcing is an altogether daunting task.  Just ask many of the highly educated, highly skilled, middle-aged women that our practice has had the privilege to represent these past thirty years.   

Like many jurisdictions, Pennsylvania provides interim remedies during the divorce intended to blunt the financial impact of the separation on the dependent spouse. These remedies include spousal support, continuation of health insurance coverage, and, depending on the circumstances, exclusive occupancy of the marital residence and continued life insurance coverage.  The longer these remedies are in place, the more likely that these parties will recover from the shock of the separation, provide much-needed extra nurture for children, and develop ways to contribute to their own support.  From this perspective, the two-year waiting period affords many dependent litigants invaluable breathing room: financial, psychological, and parental.  Faced with the other side’s request to agree that the marriage has ended under the ninety-day no-fault option – a mere three months after a divorce has been filed and well within the “after-shock” period –  it is no wonder that many dependent spouses say “no thanks”.  Even if psychologically “ready”, the lack of meaningful employment or assurances of a reasonable financial settlement render dependent spouses ill-equipped to risk a two-year safety net of  support, health insurance and other interim remedies for an uncertain, post-divorce future. They need more time.    

When enacted in 1980, the Pennsylvania Divorce Code provided for a three-year waiting period for no-fault grounds for parties who did not agree that the marriage was over. In 1988, the waiting period was reduced to two years.  If passed, the proposed new amendment’s one-year waiting period will further reduce support, health benefits and other interim remedies, and leave dependent spouses less time in general to acclimate financially and emotionally to the divorce.  Perhaps the proposed, one-year waiting period is a way station toward the elimination of the waiting period altogether and, with it, the evisceration of interim remedies? All legislation involves balancing competing interests, but Bill 380 as drafted clearly tilts precariously against the more vulnerable party.

Gerald J. Schorr is a partner in the Center-City based law firm of Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel LLP, and is co-chair of the firm’s Family Law Department.

 

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