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What You Need to Know About the Legal Process

  1. Being involved in a divorce, custody, support, protection-from-abuse or other family law case is stressful. Even if you are the person who wants a divorce, this will not be a happy time for you.
  2. If it is at all possible to save your marriage or relationship, you should try. I will recommend counseling if it appears that it may be helpful. If you try counseling and it doesn’t work, then you will at least know that you have made an effort to work things out. However, if both parties do not want counseling, then it is not likely to succeed.
  3. Even if you love your spouse, a divorce may be inevitable. As much as you want a marriage or partnership to work, if the other person doesn’t want it to work, you cannot make it work. If one person truly wants a divorce or separation, you cannot stop it from happening. You may be able to prolong the case, but eventually, you will be divorced.
  4. Real law is not like television law. Your case will not be over in one hour, even without commercial interruptions.
  5. The best approach to any family law situation is to try to reach as amicable a settlement as is possible. Going to court is stressful. You are giving up the power to make your own decisions to a Master or Judge who does not know you, and who doesn’t have the time to get to know you.
  6. You have to be totally honest with me. It is your responsibility to tell me the truth. Remember that the other person involved in your case probably knows more about you than you realize. There is nothing worse than being caught off guard or surprised in court with information that you have not disclosed to me. If I know what is coming ahead of time, we can develop a strategy for dealing with even the negative information.
  7. Do not base your expectations on other people’s cases. Just because your sister, brother or friend was divorced and was awarded a certain amount of money, or was awarded custody of the children, doesn’t mean that your case is the same. There are far too many variables. Sometimes, even if everything appears to be the same, a different judge may come to a different decision.
  8. In addition to the financial costs of divorce, there is also an emotional cost. Sometimes you have to decide whether something is worth fighting about. You should balance the financial cost and the emotional cost.
  9. The more you can keep your emotions under control and treat the dissolution as a business decision, the better off you will be.
  10. It may make sense to compromise. You may want to fight simply for “the principle,” just because you know that you are right and the other person is wrong. That may be a very expensive fight, with little chance of success. I have had people fighting over who gets the “good” iron. It’s cheaper to buy a new iron.
  11. The courts are not really concerned with morality. Even if the other person involved is a liar and a cheat, they will still receive an “equitable” portion of the marital assets. Under Pennsylvania law, fault is not an issue in the division of property.
  12. Although settlement is encouraged, some cases simply cannot be settled, particularly if the other party does not want to settle. If the case must go to court, be prepared for delays. The court process can take a lot longer than you think. Your case could go on for years.
  13. If your case is going to court, you must help me prepare for court by providing me with any information or documents that I request in a timely manner. If you do not provide me with information or documents, it will only cause delays and may have a negative impact on your case.
  14. If you are required by the court to participate in a custody evaluation or an appraisal of a business, you must cooperate fully.
  15. If the other party is proceeding without an attorney, I will have to charge you each time I write to them or speak with them. I am not permitted to charge them for my time. I will place limits on communication with the other person, so that the other person cannot unreasonably run up your legal fees.
  16. The degree of difficulty of your case may be determined by the attorney who is representing the other person. Some attorneys are easier to work with than others. Some attorneys will work diligently towards settlement. Some attorneys will not respond to requests for information, or would rather go to court than settle. Once I know who is representing the other party, I will have a better idea of how your case will go.
  17. You may be able to be reimbursed for a portion of your legal fees by the other person, but you are the one who is primarily responsible for paying your legal fees.
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