Bookspan Family Law, LLC (BFL) is dedicated solely to helping families build better transitions. Our mission is to educate, support, and advocate for our clients, and empower you to make the wise and healthy decisions that foster an enhanced future. When you seek our services, we understand that it is because a momentous change may be occurring in your life. Whether you are contemplating a divorce, need security with your child custody arrangement, or require spousal support, we are ready to assist you.
Any of these matters can be complex and involve difficult and often emotional decisions involving children, finances, property, and lifestyle. Numerous overwhelming questions may arise. Even a happy event such as marriage can be stressful and come with issues such as how to protect and share assets, and whether to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. At Bookspan Family Law, LLC, we will use our years of experience and expertise to help you navigate these legal uncharted waters.Family Law
There are numerous legal matters that fall under the umbrella of family law, such as divorce, child custody, support, and prenuptial agreements. Family law cases differ from some civil disputes in that the parties are not only contending with the legal aspects of their issues but also dealing with the emotional ramifications of the outcomes of their cases. Pennsylvania’s family law code establishes the requirements with which parties must comply, defines the rights and obligations of each party, and sets forth guidelines that courts must follow to promote fair outcomes. Pennsylvania also permits parties to resolve family law issues among themselves via mediation and other non-confrontational means, which is often done with the assistance of a divorce attorney certified in the Philadelphia area who also practices and is certified as a mediator.
Marriage is intended to last forever, but many marriages end in divorce. A person can file for divorce in Pennsylvania if either the person or his or her spouse has been a resident of the Commonwealth for six or more months. Pennsylvania allows for fault-based divorces, but parties seeking a divorce typically plead that the marriage is irretrievably broken, essentially alleging that no one is at fault. A person can also seek a divorce based on the institutionalization of either spouse. Even if the divorce action is not contested, the parties must wait a minimum of 90 days before a final divorce decree is issued. If the parties cannot agree on issues such as property division or custody, it may take several months or years for the matter to be resolved.Child Custody
When the parents of a child decide to divorce or end their relationship, their primary concern is often how custody of the child should be divided. Parents can come to a custody agreement and then seek court approval of the agreement, or they may seek court intervention to determine an appropriate custody arrangement with the assistance of a Philadelphia divorce attorney. Regardless of how a custody arrangement is established, the foremost concern is developing an arrangement that is in the child's best interest. When assessing whether a custody arrangement will benefit a child's emotional, mental, and physical health, a court will consider many factors, including the overall health of the child and parents, whether the child has any special needs, and each parent's ability to care for the child. Under Pennsylvania law, there is a presumption that it is in the child’s best interest for both parents to share custody, but the presumption can be rebutted if either party has compelling evidence that a joint custody arrangement will not benefit the child. Mediation is an excellent resource for keeping custody matters out of court, and is encouraged by our practice for even with all the considerations a court is obliged to do, parents usually know the needs and preferences of their children best.
In many instances in which the parents of a child divorce, the court will impose an obligation on one parent to pay his or her co-parent child support. Generally, a child support obligation continues only until the child reaches the age of majority, but if the child is disabled, the court may impose the obligation indefinitely. The Pennsylvania child support guidelines dictate the manner in which courts should calculate the appropriate amount of child support. The guidelines consider the income of both parents, the child custody arrangement, the number of children whom each parent supports, and other elements in determining a parent’s obligation. Once a child support obligation is imposed, either party can seek a modification by showing that it is necessary due to a significant change in circumstances. A divorce lawyer in Philadelphia can help you pursue a modification if needed.Spousal Support
It is not uncommon for one spouse to rely on the other spouse for financial support, and if they decide to divorce, the lesser earning spouse may be left at a disadvantage financially. In many cases, therefore, one spouse will seek spousal support (alimony) from the other spouse during a divorce. Under Pennsylvania law, alimony may be temporarily awarded while a divorce is pending, which is known as alimony pendente lite, or it may be awarded following the dissolution of the marriage. Additionally, alimony may be awarded for a limited term or for an indefinite duration. To determine whether alimony is warranted and, if so, the amount of alimony that is appropriate, a court will assess numerous factors, such as each party’s age, health, and earning potential, the income and assets of each party, and the duration of the marriage.Prenuptial Agreements
Many people have substantial assets that they have earned or acquired that they wish to protect prior to getting married, in the event that their marriage ends in divorce. Thus, they may seek the assistance of a Philadelphia divorce lawyer in developing a prenuptial agreement, which is essentially a contract that defines each spouse's rights and obligations regarding marital and separate property, including homes, business interests, and income earned during the marriage. Under Pennsylvania law, a prenuptial agreement is presumed to be valid unless the party contesting the agreement produces evidence that is clear and convincing that the party seeking to enforce the agreement did not fully or fairly disclose his or her liabilities or assets prior to making the agreement.Property Division
Most property acquired during a marriage is considered marital property unless it is specifically deemed separate property. Under Pennsylvania law, marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. In other words, a court will divide any marital property in a manner that it deems fair and just, which sometimes does not translate to an equal division. Courts will assess numerous factors in determining what constitutes a fair division of marital property, such as each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, their earning potential, the separate property of each spouse, and any outstanding liabilities. In some cases, a couple may be able to delineate the terms of the division of their property without court intervention by developing a marital property settlement agreement.High Net Worth Divorce
When a couple with a high net worth decides to divorce, the process of dividing assets can be intricate and convoluted. The parties may dispute what constitutes marital as opposed to separate property, and each spouse may not be fully aware of the extent of the assets owned by his or her spouse. Additionally, separate and marital property are frequently intermingled, causing a dispute over what is divisible. In many cases, a divorce attorney in the Philadelphia area will need to hire a forensic accountant to determine the extent of the assets owned by a spouse and the nature of the assets.Collaborative Divorce
A divorce does not always need to involve contentious and protracted litigation. Instead, in many cases, a couple can dissolve their marriage efficiently through a collaborative divorce. Generally, in a collaborative divorce, each party will be represented by an attorney, and the couple and their attorneys will work together to determine the terms of any property division, custody, and support without court intervention. The parties may also engage specialists, such as child behavioral experts or accountants, to assist with the process of developing an appropriate arrangement. If the parties come to an agreement, it will be reduced to writing. The agreement then becomes part of the final divorce decree.Mediation
Many couples who wish to end their marriage seek to do so amicably. Thus, they may turn to mediation. Mediation is a process during which a couple and a mediator discuss and negotiate issues such as child and spousal support, child custody, and the division of assets. The mediator acts as a neutral third party who assesses the strengths and detriments of each party's position and assists them in coming to a mutually acceptable agreement. Each spouse should be represented by a divorce attorney in the Philadelphia area. The attorney can explain any legal questions and protect their interests. If the mediation is successful, the mediator will draft an agreement that will be submitted to the court, allowing the parties to avoid the stress and expense of litigation.Contact a Trusted Family Law Attorney Today
The decision to change a family relationship often presents both emotional and legal challenges. If you are faced with a family law issue, such as a divorce or a custody dispute, it is prudent to meet with a trusted attorney to discuss the steps that you can take to protect your future. Attorney Phyllis T. Bookspan has ample experience aiding parties in resolving disputes in an efficient and amicable manner and is ready to assist you with your needs. She has an office in Media and is available by appointment at her second office in Philadelphia. She regularly represents people in family law matters in Philadelphia, as well as in other cities throughout Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware Counties. You can contact her via the form online or at 610.565.6200 to schedule a confidential consultation with a divorce lawyer in the Philadelphia area.