FAQ for Family Laws, Divorce Law, Accident law, In PA LaMonacalaw.com

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT FAMILY LAW ISSUES

Do you have questions about any of our services? Click here to read our frequently asked questions and get quick answers to your burning legal questions.

What is “Brutally Honest?”?
What is our “Legal Concierge” Service?
Is a divorce different when there is a business involved?
What are the benefits to a paid consultation versus free?
When going into a divorce, how should someone go about searching for the right attorney to represent him or her?
What types of payment does your office accept?
What are the costs to retain your firm to represent me?
How does an individual’s level the affluence affect a divorce or custody matter?
Describe how a divorce and/or custody matter is different within the medical profession?
Can both parties use the same lawyer to represent them in Pennsylvania family law matters?
Is there such a thing as a legal separation in Pennsylvania?
What are the residency requirements for obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania?
Does Pennsylvania have “no-fault” divorce?
Can both parties use the same lawyer in a Pennsylvania divorce and family court matter?
Can I make the other side pay my lawyers’ fees?
How long will my divorce take?
Is Pennsylvania an alimony state?
Is Pennsylvania a 50/50 divorce state?
How do we decide who gets what?
How does the court decide on custody?
How do you approach Custody matters?
When considering relocation issues, what do parents who share custody of a child need to know about changing child custody laws?
If the relocation issue goes to court, what does a parent have to prove to help the case?
What do I do if my child(ren) has/have been wrongfully removed or abducted?
Is there a standard custody order in Pennsylvania?
In my support case, will the court consider how my child or spousal support payments are being used?
Is there a relationship between custody and support?
How do I establish the paternity of my child?

What is “Brutally Honest”?

From the initial meeting with our client through the overall resolution of the case, we will work vigorously and tenaciously to assist our clients in developing their goals and to ensure their rights are protected. And even more importantly that their voices and concerns are heard. This system, created by Mr. LaMonaca, is called “Brutally Honest.” It is a three-phase comprehensive process designed to: first, assess the past; second determine what the client’s current objectives are; third, develop a proactive plan to guide clients forward toward their goals and beyond.

Mr. LaMonaca, along with former custody client and friend James Grim, wrote the Brutally Honest Life Management Journal. The Journal outlines the process of “Brutally Honest” and allows the reader to engage in a self-guided journey to reconnect to what matters most in their life. Once the connection is made, the client is equipped and empowered to move forward with the rest of their life.

It is always our approach to attempt to amicably resolve every matter in an expeditious and cost-effective manner. However, should the parties disagree; we stand committed to aggressively implement our “Team-Oriented,” litigation approach, within the sound ethical and professional boundaries of the law.

While all Family Law Attorneys should be equipped to prepare documents, answer client questions, and go to court; there are an infinite number of potential ways to do these things. “Brutally Honest” was designed to present the client with a radically different approach to navigating the world of family law. This world, which is often riddled with tension, anxiety, fear, concern, and a myriad of other problems; that needs to be approached much differently than other areas of the law. The “Brutally Honest” system is Mr. LaMonaca’s approach to doing just that. His team of professionals has also been personally trained in this system.

Through the “Brutally Honest” process, we work with the client to determine what is in his or her best interest, and the best interest their children. Often a client has been inundated with well-intentioned family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others all whom try to tell the client what is in his or her best interest. While these individuals surely are well intentioned –and in fact may have good advice–at the end of the day, the client must decide what is best for them and their children. The three step process of “Brutally Honest” assists the client in making that all important decision.

Mr. LaMonaca’s “Brutally Honest” system has been written about in many magazines, other articles, and is the focus of his book, the Brutally Honest Life Management Journal; as well as the future release of his next book, the Brutally Honest Guide to Sur “thriving” Generation Now, which is a guide to navigating hard times including divorce, custody, and other matters. As such, individuals call seeking a private consultation with Mr. LaMonaca, based on their wish to meet specifically with him to discuss their family law matter. Whether a client seeks a meeting with Mr. LaMonaca, or any one of the other highly skilled attorneys, the client will be given the option of meeting with the attorney of his or her choice.

What is our “Legal Concierge” Service?

Clients initially come to us for assistance in solving any one of a number of legal issues, problems or concerns that they may have. Through the representation process, we become very familiar with our clients’ needs, wishes, concerns, fears and goals. Like putting together a puzzle, we learn what particular “pieces” they strive to attain, in order to complete THEIR particular and unique “puzzle.” What each client needs to complete his or her puzzle is radically different than what another client may need. These puzzle pieces may be a referral to an expert, such as: a psychologist; accountant; forensic accountant; insurance agent; private investigator; or other professional, to assist in the legal matter. That puzzle piece might be a referral to a non-legal professional or individual who is not related to the case. Our attorneys and staff are members of many different trade organizations and groups that provide our clients countless business contacts locally, nationally and internationally. Over many years of practicing law and interacting with countless individuals, we have accumulated an incredible database of service providers in almost every industry. Accordingly, we make this vast wealth of knowledge and huge number of contacts available to all of our clients, their family, and friends. We pride ourselves on being able to provide “solutions” to all of our clients’ needs. We are typically only one call or email away from providing the recommendation, referral or answer to any one of our clients’ legal or non-legal needs, saving the client a lot of precious time, energy, and resources. This service is provided at no additional cost to the client.

Is a divorce different when there is a business involved?

Every divorce and/or custody matter is different. As such, we work through the “Brutally Honest” process with our client, to construct a highly tailored plan for each individual client so that we can meet his or her needs. That said, within each profession that the client or the opposing spouse may be in, there are unique attributes and common themes that need to be addressed in particular ways. Through our vast experience, we have represented countless clients who have either owned a business, multiple businesses, corporations, or any one of the various business entities. Likewise, we also have represented countless spouses in divorces where the opposing spouse is the business owner. Keep in mind that just because a spouse may not be a legal owner of the business does not mean that he or she is not entitled to an equitable share of the other spouse’s interest in the business. In Pennsylvania, when there is a business involved, there will need to be a determination of what, if any, portion of the business is considered “marital property,” and thus subject to equitable distribution.

For the business-owner spouse, time is often at a premium. With the demands of marriage and family, time can be extremely scarce. When a divorce and/or custody action arise(s), the spouse may now find him or herself in a mental duel, trying to allocate time between the business, the family, the divorce, custody concerns, and the countless other things that are burdening him or her and causing anxiety.

Regardless of the nature of the business involved, what is a common theme within these professions is that extra time is a luxury that is unavailable. Under the best of circumstances, these business owners may find themselves working around the clock, putting in long hours and having a difficult time finding ways to balance their obligations to their clients with their need to participate in the divorce and/or custody process. In this regard, we have designed tailor-made approaches to work within these stringent time parameters, so as to minimize the disruption in the business lives of our clients. If they cannot come to us, we will bring our team to them. In custody cases, we have worked with some of the busiest business owners in the tri-state area to design a tailor-made plan to allow them to seamlessly transform their lives, and to allow them to continue to tend to all of their client and business needs, while at the same time focusing their love and attention towards their children’s needs.

From the business end, we work hand-in-hand with the owner’s staff, accountants, and other professionals to ensure that they are fully compliant and prepared for the divorce process. Through the divorce process, the opposing spouse’s attorneys, and/or other professionals hired by the other spouse are entitled to review information about the business; and will often hire experts to review all of the books, records, and other details about the business(es), i.e., income etc. This is done for duel purposes: both to determine what the non-owner spouse may be entitled to as his or her equitable share of the business as a part of the divorce, as well as to determine what the business-owner-spouse’s income is for purposes of support, APL or alimony. Some of the information requested by the non-owner spouse may be otherwise privileged and confidential, and the owner-spouse will need vigorous representation to argue against its release.

Valuing the marital portion of a business can be extremely complicated, especially when there are land, buildings, and multiple entities owned by the spouse. When there are partners, this brings about many other levels of potential problems and sensitivities, as the other partners (and potentially their personal information) may become part of the divorce process.

On the other side of the coin, we represent(ed) countless spouses who are NOT the business owner, but their spouse is the owner. In these cases, like those described above, we are equipped with our team of legal professionals, outside experts, etc., to vigorously look into all aspects of the other spouse’s business to determine what, if any, portion of the business is “marital property,” and hence part of what our client will be entitled to in the divorce. We also look into all aspects of the “cash flow” process to determine whether, in fact, the income that the other spouse has claimed is in fact accurate. Our team looks to determine if the owner spouse has been using business assets to pay for personal expenses, has failed to claim income, hidden income, cashed business checks without depositing them, or any of the limitless list of things that may have been done that would distort the true income of the business. If these matters are left unchallenged, the portion of the marital estate that the non-business owner spouse would be entitled to could be effected adversely. Likewise, the child/spousal support, alimony pendent lite, and/or alimony that the non-owner spouse may be entitled to might also be lessened, eliminated, or in some cases, it might actually be reversed. This could require the non-owner spouse to pay the business owner spouse, if the reduced amount that the owner is claiming is less than what the non-business owner spouse is earning.

Regardless of which side of the coin you are on, we put together members of our legal team, as well as bringing on board any other professionals and/or experts necessary, to proactively fight for our clients’ rights, protect their confidential information, and to ensure they are in the best possible situation going through all aspects of the case.

What are the benefits to a paid consultation versus free?

We are often asked, “Do you offer free initial consultations?”

Have you ever heard the phrase: “you get what you pay for?” Some local family law firms offer free consultations and you may be tempted to schedule an appointment with a family law attorney who offers free legal advice. Our attorneys receive calls from throughout the state of Pennsylvania, the country and internationally. These potential clients are seeking our advice to navigate the otherwise tumultuous waters that make up family law matters. In a given day, we may receive dozens of calls seeking our advice and representation. Our firm is sought-out by individuals throughout the globe for assistance. We often say that if we were to give free consultations, we would be scheduling initial meetings with clients many months down the road and would be spending the entire day with clients on initial consultations. By not offering free consultations, it allows the firm to work hand-in-hand with the clients who have retained us to assist them in the realization of their goals.

Mr. LaMonaca’s “Brutally Honest” system has been written about in many magazines, other articles, and is the focus of his book, the Brutally Honest Life Management Journal; as well as the future release of his next book, the Brutally Honest Guide to Sur “thriving” Generation Now, which is a guide to navigating hard times including divorce, custody, and other matters. As such, individuals call seeking a private consultation with Mr. LaMonaca, based on their wish to meet specifically with him to discuss their family law matter. Whether a client seeks a meeting with Mr. LaMonaca, or any one of the other highly skilled attorneys, the client will be given the option of meeting with the attorney of his or her choice.

We understand that not everyone is able to afford the family law process. In this regard, we offer many different price points to match up with a client’s needs and ability to afford his or her specific matter. Each attorney has different hourly rates, which our staff will gladly review with you when you call This will ensure that you are matched up with the right attorney for your needs.

During the initial meeting with your hand-selected counsel he or she will:

  • discuss the specific facts of your family law case,
  • the different strategies that may be appropriate for male and female clients,
    • the likely results in any
    • future divorce case,
    • equitable distribution,
    • child support,
    • spousal support,
    • child custody issues,
  • As well as other cases and situations, including:
    • the impact of certain situations, including adultery,
    • use of drugs or alcohol,
    • or other indiscretions on the part of either party to the family court litigation.

Your attorney will likewise explain the entire process to you. Including about how the county you will appear in will treat your matter and what you can expect from similar situations. Your attorney will work with you to design a tailor-made plan and present you with an assortment of options that you can choose from. We will likewise give you our opinion as to what path will best assist you in the realization of your particular goals.

When scheduling a consultation with a family law attorney, you should ask:

  • $ How long has the attorney that I will meet with been practicing family law? What percent of the attorney’s work is in the family law area?
  • $ If my case does not settle, does the attorney have trial experience in property distribution, support, child custody, and other areas?
  • $ How much time is allotted for my consultation?
  • $ Will I be allowed to fully explain my problems?
  • $ Will the attorney offer me specific legal advice on how to resolve my issues?
  • $ Will the attorney tell me if it is not best for me to file an action or to proceed in the manner that was my intention?
  • $ Will my consultation be attorney-client privileged if I do not hire the attorney?
  • $ When our law firm charges you for our initial consultation, you can be assured that you will leave the office with an understanding of Pennsylvania family laws, and how they apply to your specific set of facts?

You can also be assured that the advice you receive at the consultation is based upon your best interest. Should you decide to retain the firm, you will know that you have a strong advocate on your sideto fight for your rights and those of your children.

When scheduling a consultation, please inform our office if there are any pending hearings, deadlines for filing an appeal, or any other reason why you may need an immediate appointment. We will do our very best to accommodate your schedule in setting an appointment.

When going into a divorce, how should someone go about searching for the right attorney to represent him or her?

Family law is a very emotional type of law and it takes a unique mind-set to practice in this area of law. It is a given that you should hire an attorney who has a superior understanding of the law, but there should be more to that decision than that understanding; it is not a conveyor belt. Our personal goal is to have each of our clients move-on to the rest of their life [after a divorce], equipped with the resources necessary to accomplish that goal. It could just be giving the client the financial expertise, where they had never done the finances before and has no skills in that regard; we might recommend a financial planner or an accountant. It could also be putting the client in touch with a highly qualified counselor, psychologist, or doing whatever we can do to make the client whole. We put together a plan and give the client the self-confidence to get there, wherever “there” is, based on the client’s unique goals, circumstances and facts.

It is very important to have the right chemistry and rapport with an attorney if they are to represent you. It is understandable why some people choose to rely on a family friend or acquaintance, who may be an attorney. However, if that attorney does not understand or practice in this area of the law or is not willing to do what it takes to help you, then it most likely will be detrimental to your interests. The attorney is interviewing the client to ensure they have that chemistry and rapport, just like the client should be should be interviewing the attorney to ensure that the attorney is the right attorney for them.

What types of payment does your office accept?

Our office accepts payment by cash, check, money order, certified check, American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and debit card.

What are the costs to retain your firm to represent me?

A retainer is different from a paid consultation in that the paid consultation will only entitle the client to information on the date and time of the paid consultation. A retainer is a lump sum of money paid by a client for work that will be performed on an on-going basis after the initial consultation is conducted. The amount of the initial retainer may or may not cover the entire costs of a client’s legal fees. It is virtually impossible to determine in advance the total cost for lawyers’ fees in a family law case. However, factors that influence the total cost of legal fees include:

$ the issues involved,
$ complexity of the issues, and
$ whether the case can be resolved by agreement or if litigation is involved.

When we meet with a client at the initial consultation, we review their particular issues, concerns and goals. We thereafter prepare a comprehensive and tailored plan to assist the client in moving forward. This plan may include something simple performed by one attorney. In other cases, the matter may involve a comprehensive plan including multiple attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, investigators, other experts, etc. Whatever your needs, from a simple no fault divorce to an international child abduction matter, our team of professionals will put together your hand selected legal “Team” to fight for your rights.

In most cases, there is no legal requirement for the one party to pay the retainer fee for the opposing spouse’s attorney. However, if a divorce complaint has been filed, and there are liquid assets available to the parties, a judge may enter an award of temporary counsel fees, if a motion has been presented to the court for such. Another alternative may be to request an interim award of attorneys’ fees as part of an alimony pendente lite action.

How does an individual’s level the affluence affect a divorce or custody matter?

At the Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca, beginning with the initial call to our office, we provide a “buffet” of options to our clients to design a “tailor-made” team to address the client’s legal needs, within their individual budget. To this end, we have various price points for each of our attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and other office staff. Regardless of the team member(s) chosen, the client can count on a comprehensive plan being put together for him or her, whereby the selected legal team will zealously advocate in representing the client’s interests.

Affluence is defined in many ways and the definitions are constantly changing. One recently reviewed definition categorized and sub-divided the affluent population as follows:

$ The Masses: Household incomes less than $85,000 and net worth below $250,000;
$ Mass Affluent: Household incomes of $85,000 to $150,000 and/or net worth exceeding $250,000;
$ Affluent: Household incomes of $150,000 to $250,000 and/or net worth, including primary and additional residences’ equity, exceeding 1 million, in short, millionaires;
$ Ultra-Affluent: Household incomes of $250,000 and up and/or net worth of 3 million to 10 million.
$ Ultra-Ultra-Affluent: Household incomes of 1 Million and up and/or net worth starting above 10 million.

Regardless of where a client may fall into the above, there capacity to effectively participate, to remain pro-active, and to successfully navigate through the divorce and/or custody process will have parameters derived, at least in part, from what he or she is able to afford. The cost will dictate ultimately what options can be exercised throughout the representation. Based on the client’s ability, the client may have an individual attorney, multiple attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, investigators, a limitless list of outside experts, professionals, and other individuals who are hand selected to be part of the client’s “team.” We work hand-in-hand with our clients at each stage of the case to determine who may be best to meet the individual needs and requirements of the client. Likewise, the client is presented with a detailed and itemized statement each month, showing what work was done on their behalf. This ensures that the client will be able to assess where the matter stands, in light of his or her budget. We will likewise happily adjust the team and/or plan should a client’s budget warrant same.

Sometimes the most important concerns of our clients are that they are hard-pressed for time, and that they require efficient, competent and convenient service. Many of our clients are business owners, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, professionals, musicians and others who have little time to devote outside of their profession. With all of these clients, it gives us great pleasure to be able to put together a hand-selected team to address all of the above-mentioned concerns and to allow the clients to continue to be successful and to manage their time. We provide a road map to assist them in navigating the divorce and/or custody process, and most importantly to thrive as loving parents.

Describe how a divorce and/or custody matter is different within the medical profession?

Every divorce or custody matter is unique. As such, with each case, our “Brutally Honest” process works with the client to construct a highly tailored plan for each individual client to meet his or her needs. Nonetheless, within the medical profession, there exist unique attributes and common themes that need to be addressed in particular ways. Our firm is/has represented countless members of the medical profession including: general practitioners, pediatricians, optometrists, ophthalmologists, surgeons of all types, psychologists, counselors, chiropractors, radiologists, diagnosticians, nurses, etc. The common theme within these professions is that extra time is almost non-existent. Under the best of circumstances these professionals may find themselves working around the clock, putting in long hours, and having a difficult time finding ways to balance their obligations to their patients against their need to participate in the divorce/custody process. In this regard, we have designed tailor-made approaches to work within these stringent time parameters and to minimize the disruption in the client’s business and professional life. If these professionals cannot come to us, we will bring our team to them. In custody cases, we have worked with some of the busiest doctors in the tri-state area to design a tailor-made plan that allowed the doctors to seamlessly transform their lives while continuing to tend to all of their patients’ needs. In addition it allowed the medical professional to focus on their own business needs and focusing their love and attention toward their children’s needs.

From the business end, we work hand-in-hand with the doctor’s staff, accountants, and other professionals to ensure that they are fully compliant and prepared for the divorce process. Through the divorce process the opposing spouse’s attorneys, and/or other professionals that the opposing spouse may hire are entitled to review information about the doctor’s business. The other side will often hire experts to review all of the books, records, and other important details about the medical practice, i.e., income, etc. This is done both to determine what the non-doctor spouse may be entitled to as their martial share of the practice/business as part of the divorce. Other reasons can be as simple as determining what is the client’s income. Some of the information requested by the non-doctor spouse may be otherwise privileged and confidential and the doctor will need vigorous representation to argue against its release.

Valuing the marital portion of a medical practice can be extremely complicated. Especially, when there is land, buildings, and multiple entities owned by the doctor and/or the practice. When there are partners, this can bring about many other levels of potential problems and sensitivities. Such as, the other partners (and potentially their personal information) may find themselves in the middle of the divorce process.

Regardless of the potential complications seen above, we will put together members of our legal team and we can bring on board any other professionals and/or experts necessary, to ensure a proactive approach in the fight for our clients’ rights. We will tirelessly protect their confidential information and ensure they are in the best possible situation going through all aspects of the case.

Can both parties use the same lawyer to represent them in Pennsylvania family law matters?

No. While there are certain exceptions ethically, where the parties can waive any potential conflicts of interest and allow this, our firm has not and will not represent two adverse parties in a family law matter. It is almost impossible not to have a conflict of interest in this situation and a party should avoid this at all costs. A Pennsylvania family law attorney can represent only one party or spouse in a contested family law case. Sometimes, the parties decide that only one of them will retain an attorney. In this situation, the Pennsylvania family law lawyer prepares any paperwork or agreements on behalf of the client who hired the attorney and will only give advice to the client who has retained the attorney’s services. The lawyer’s client is the only party represented in this situation and the opposing spouse is entitled (and may choose) to proceed pro se (or unrepresented by counsel).

Is there such a thing as a legal separation in Pennsylvania?

No. However, the “date of separation” is an important date. The date of separation is most often marked by filing a divorce complaint or moving out the martial residence. However, sometimes parties can be separated while still residing in the same household. The date of separation is important in determining when the divorce can be entered and which assets and debts are to be categorized as marital and subjected to equitable distribution.

What are the residency requirements for obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania?

Either spouse must be a resident of Pennsylvania for six (6) months prior to filing for a divorce. Residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers that it has no jurisdictional authority in the matter then the case will be dismissed.

Does Pennsylvania have “no-fault” divorce?

Yes. Generally, all Pennsylvania divorces are “no-fault,” based on one of two different grounds: either the mutual consent of the parties or a unilateral no-fault that requires a two (2) year separation period. Fault divorces (i.e., adultery) are also available but that option should be discussed with your attorney to ensure that is the correct option for you.

Can both parties use the same lawyer in a Pennsylvania divorce and family court matter?

Pennsylvania’s ethical rules allow a limited exception allowing one attorney to represent both parties in a divorce where waivers are signed by both authorizing same. While there may exist this potential and may be ethically permitted in this circumstance, our firm has not and will not represent two adverse parties in a family law matter. It would be very difficult for the attorney to provide complete confidentiality to one spouse while representing the others spouse’s interests as well. However, one attorney can handle an entire matter (custody, divorce, support etc.), so long as it is clear that the attorney represents only the one party. This is something our firm has often done and it can be a very efficient means of obtaining a consent custody order, amicable divorce, and other results. In this situation, we can prepare any paperwork or agreements on behalf of our client and do the necessary legwork to have everything properly signed, filed and served. We cannot give any advice to the other party, but we can assure him or her that we will uphold the highest ethical standards in our dealings with them.

Can I make the other side pay my lawyers’ fees?

It is possible. However, you should not count on it. The most common reasons for the court awarding counsel fees are a big disparity in income or bad conduct by the adverse party that convinces the court to award counsel fees. However, the court very rarely orders that all counsel fees be reimbursed and in many cases, no counsel fees are ordered at all. Moreover, the norm is that any possible counsel fee order is deferred until the end of the case.

If there are suitable liquid assets, a request can be made for the court to make an “advance” on a party’s equitable distribution award to help pay their counsel fees. Also, the parties can always negotiate a counsel fee arrangement themselves.

Absent misconduct that may generate counsel fees, there are limited rights to seek counsel fees in support matters and generally no method to do so in custody matters.

How long will my divorce take?

It depends. An amicable divorce (one based on mutual consent, not one based on a two [2] year separation – unilateral consent) can happen in five (5) or six (6) months. The law requires a three (3) month waiting period between filing certain court papers, even with a mutual consent divorce. Absent the mutual consent of the parties, however, generally neither party can begin to force the divorce forward until the parties have been separated for two (2) years. A contested divorce may take 2-3 years or longer. Every case is unique and has many different issues that determine how quickly it may go or how long it may take.

Is Pennsylvania an alimony state?

YES. However, this does not mean that alimony will be granted in your case. An award of alimony is based on seventeen (17) separate factors. Among the factors are: the duration of the marriage, the ages of the parties, and the ability of each to support themselve(s) through employment. Alimony is support awarded to an ex-spouse to support them after the divorce decree is entered. Note that court ordered support during the marriage is either spousal support or alimony pendente lite (“APL”). Spousal support and APL are handled differently than alimony.

Is Pennsylvania a 50/50 divorce state?

No. Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that the marital estate (assets and debts) will be divided as the court finds “equitable,” that is to say, as the court decides the “fairest” option. This could be 50/50, but it may be 55%-45% or 61%-39% etc. In practice, divisions more “skewed” than 65-35 rarely occur, although there are circumstances where such is warranted. Also, not each individual asset or debt is necessarily divided. For example, in a very simple 50/50 case with just one pension, worth 300K and one house worth 300K, the entire house may go to one party while the entire pension goes to the other party.

How do we decide who gets what?

The parties and counsel have tremendous leeway in negotiating terms of their agreement. If no agreement is forthcoming, however, the court will issue a decision in equitable distribution, and that decision is based on eleven (11) separate factors, many that contain several “sub-factors.” Among these factors are the length of the marriage, the health of the parties, the incomes of the parties, and the presence of minor children. Marital misconduct (including affairs) is NOT a factor in equitable distribution, although it is one of the factors for alimony.

How does the court decide on custody?

The court is required to enter an order promoting the “best interest” of the child or children. “Best interest” is a broad term and many factors may apply. Among the many factors a court may consider are parental involvement, the child’s age, grade and grades in school, proximity to schools and so forth. The court will not, however, judge either party as a human being. The court (for custody) is only concerned with the best interest of the child(ren). In January of 2011, the custody statute was radically changed for the first time in many years. The changes were many and varied, encompassing all areas of the child custody process.

How do you approach Custody matters?

Mr. LaMonaca has been often quoted as saying “there is perhaps no greater thing to fight for (the custody of children), other than perhaps defending a capital murder charge where the determination may mean a client’s life.” As a husband and father, there is no greater value or higher priority in his life than his family. Unlike many aspects of a divorce case, children are not property and cannot be equitably distributed. When we meet a client for the first time, if there are children involved, it is always our primary focus to ensure that we immediately and proactively address this most crucial area. We have fought for parent’s rights throughout the state of Pennsylvania, the country, and even internationally. Our representation has dealt with relocation and abduction matters throughout the country and have battled internationally on many occasions, either to fight for children to remain here in the United States with our client, or to fight to bring back children who have been wrongfully abducted or retained in a foreign country.

When considering relocation issues, what do parents who share custody of a child need to know about changing child custody laws?

In January 2011, Pennsylvania’s child-custody statute was revised. It is now mandatory, before you relocate to another county, another state, or another country, to give the other side very specific notice, and it must be by the letter of the law. After receiving notice, if the other party agrees, then the moving party may relocate. If not, the matter must go through the courts over whether the moving party may relocate with the child(ren). Right now, in this economy, people are traveling the globe to find work and to support their families, so the increase in relocation cases has been dramatic. Our firm handles all of these matters, within the county, across the country, and internationally as well.

If the relocation issue goes to court, what does a parent have to prove to help the case?

In general, it must be shown that the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking relocation. This includes but not limited to the benefits and opportunities that will enhance the financial, emotional, and educational position of the child(ren). Additionally, the potential opportunities of the moving party and showing that the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child(ren). If it goes to court, the outcome is based on many things: the age of the child(ren), the developmental stage of the child(ren), the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent, and many other factors. If you are seeking to move, you must also show there will be no detrimental effect on the parent remaining here. Additionally, there may be provisions needed to balance the parents’ interests, such as extended time with the child during the summer for the remaining parent.

After this recent change in the custody law, it is critical to make sure the relocation process is done correctly. If the proposed relocation is contested, the judge will weigh all the factors in making the determination. However, before a relocation trial is started there are numerous pitfalls to avoid. It takes careful and skillful preparation to navigate the paperwork and procedural steps, if you are to have any hope of success in seeking to relocate with your children.

What do I do if my child(ren) has/have been wrongfully removed or abducted?

When a child is wrongfully removed, taken, or abducted from one parent by the other parent, there may be no greater emotional time in the life of the left-behind parent. These cases are extremely complex. The attorneys at the Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca have fought for parent’s rights throughout the state of Pennsylvania, the country, and even internationally. Our representation has dealt with relocation and abduction matters throughout the country and have even dealt with international abductions for children to remain here in the United States with our client, or to fight to bring back children who have been wrongfully abducted or retained in a foreign country. In issues between states, there are specific laws written to assist in determining which state should have jurisdiction (or conduct whatever litigation is necessary, how that should be done, and what process is due). When Children are taken out of the country, there are likewise laws and treaties which were put in place for subscribing countries to follow. In either of these scenarios, time truly is of the essence, and you should consult an attorney qualified in these matters as soon as possible. The qualified attorneys at The Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca can evaluate your specific facts and circumstances, so that the appropriate action can be taken.

Is there a standard custody order in Pennsylvania?

No. There is no standard custody order. However, certain patterns occur more frequently, such as “every other weekend,” in partial physical custody cases. Also, there has been a general, but strictly unofficial, trend towards shared (or 50/50) physical custody. The chances of shared custody depend on the judicial process and the circumstances of the case. An experienced attorney will insert a number of important “boilerplate” provisions into your custody order that may help you in the future. In general, the difficulties encountered by the parties in their co-parenting relationship are directly related to how specific the custody order between them will need to be.

In my support case, will the court consider how my child or spousal support payments are being used?

No. The support law presumes that the payee party (the one receiving the support) is encountering expenses for the child(ren), and that the support payments defray that expense. The court will not inquire or seek proof of basic expenses, and the payee will not be required to produce such. However, with regards to re-imbursement for medical expenses and for the cost of such things as extra-curricular activities: after school sports, camps, music lessons, and even day care, the court will look for, and the payee must be prepared to justify and produce records, for such expenditures on behalf of the child(ren).

Is there a relationship between custody and support?

Generally, no. Custody is not modified at a support hearing and support is not modified at a custody trial.

Also, in Pennsylvania, the support payer must comply with the support order, even if the custodial parent is not complying with the custody order. If there is a problem with custody, the proper avenue is for your attorney to file a custody complaint, petition to modify, or petition for contempt.

Similarly, the custodian cannot withhold custody to protest non-payment of support.
Non-payment of support can be a peripheral issue in a custody action. However, the primary reasons to pay support remain avoiding support enforcement mechanisms, and more so, the fact that your children need and deserve your financial support.

How do I establish the paternity of my child?

When a child is born to an unmarried woman in Pennsylvania, there is no legal relationship between the child and the father, unless an Acknowledgment of Paternity form has been signed by both parents, or the paternity has been established by a court order.


Notice

This website is intended to be used as an introduction to some family law concepts. You should always consult with an attorney before undertaking any action. Almost every principle of family law has an exception and many of those exceptions have exceptions. Moreover, the family law landscape changes all the time (through statutory law, court rule, and case-law). Finally, the individual facts, personalities, courts and counsel in each case mean that each case should (if handled properly) be handled in its own unique fashion.

So, use this site as a good first step towards becoming an effective client. The rest of your journey will be lead by your attorney. And take the advice of your attorney over the information here. If you have followed the precepts in our “Choosing an Attorney” section, then you should have trust in your legal counsel.

The statements in this section are based on Pennsylvania law and have been issued to inform and not advise. The statements are general in nature and individual facts in a given case may alter their application or involve other laws not referred to here.

For more information about your family law matter, contact The Law Office Of Gregory P. LaMonaca, P.C. today.

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