West Chester Family Lawyers
Family difficulties may lead to a variety of legal problems. No matter what your family law issue, we can help. Our attorneys provide legal services across a wide spectrum of areas, including:
Many find it helpful to make agreements in contemplation of marriage, during marriage, or after a marriage has ended. Marital contracts, including pre-nuptial agreements, separation agreements, and property settlement agreements, are ruled by contract principles. These types of agreements are generally enforced in Pennsylvania. A marital contract may be voidable in certain circumstances. Where a party entered into the agreement under duress, rendering the contract involuntary, a Court may refuse to enforce its terms. Similarly, if one party perpetrated fraud in making the agreement and the other party had inadequate knowledge of that party’s assets, the agreement may be invalid. Finally, the Court will not enforce an unconscionable agreement. Marital contracts are generally non-modifiable; however, provisions regarding children can always be altered. Our attorneys can assist in all aspects of marital agreements, including drafting, enforcing, and challenging these contracts.
Divorce & Annulment
The dissolution of a marriage is an emotional and stressful event. We help ease the legal strain of divorce so you can concentrate on the health and well-being of your family.
In Pennsylvania, a person may obtain a divorce based on fault or no-fault grounds. Pennsylvania has 6 fault grounds for divorce. Fault grounds include:
- Adultery: voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than a spouse
- Bigamy: where one party marries another person during the marriage
- Cruel and barbarous treatment
- Desertion: absence from the home for more than one year
- Imprisonment: where one person is incarcerated for more than two years
- Indignities: mental cruelty; a continuous course of conduct that renders the party’s life burdensome
- Insanity: where one person is institutionalized
A person may raise 6 defenses to a fault divorce: insanity, condonation (knowledge of conduct and resumption of marital relations), connivance (entrapment), collusion (fraud on the Court), provocation, and recrimination (dirty hands).
In a no-fault divorce, a person seeks divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. A no-fault divorce may proceed in two ways. First, both parties may consent to a divorce after 90 days. Alternatively, one spouse may unilaterally request a divorce after the parties are separated for 2 years. No-fault divorces are less expensive and time-consuming than fault divorces, and the parties may be able to proceed solely on paper filings. Most divorces in Pennsylvania are no-fault.
A Court may annul a marriage found void or voidable. A void marriage is a nullity; i.e., the marriage never existed. Void marriages include bigamous marriages, where one party was already married to another at the time of the marriage; marriages where one party was insane and lacked capacity to contract the marriage; and, incestuous marriages, where the persons married are related within a certain degree of consanguinity. A voidable marriage, on the other hand, is valid until annulled. Five grounds exist to void a marriage: 1) where one party committed fraud that goes to an essential aspect of the marriage (for example, lied about religion or ability to procreate); 2) where one party married under duress, such as a physical threat; 3) where one party was underage at the time of the marriage; 4) where a person was intoxicated at the time of the marriage; and, 5) where one person is unable to consummate the marriage.
At Levy & Hoskins Law Group, we work with you throughout the divorce process to ensure you understand all of your options. We provide the support and information you need to make the decisions that will be best for you and your family.
Parties seeking divorce may have joint property to divide. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning marital assets are distributed based on fairness rather than equality. There are 2 steps in the equitable distribution analysis. First, assets must be classified as marital or non-marital. Marital property generally includes all property acquired during the marriage, as well as the increase in value of pre-marital property. Property may be separate if the property: was owned before marriage; inherited or gifted to one spouse only; acquired after separation; or, excluded by agreement of the parties. Once assets are categorized, the Court divides the property according to a percentage distribution. This percentage is based on statutory factors such as the length of the marriage, contributions spouses made to the marriage, the age and health of the parties, and the parties’ standard of living during the marriage. Marital misconduct is not a factor in the equitable distribution analysis. Our attorneys will advocate your position to make sure you get the most advantageous distribution possible under the law.
Support of Spouse
Divorce is difficult, but it should not lead to a financial crisis. The attorneys at Levy & Hoskins help you establish fair and equitable spousal support so that you can continue to live as comfortably as you did before your marriage ended.
Three types of support for a spouse exist. First, spousal support may be awarded during a marriage. Second, alimony pendente lite may be awarded during the pendency of the dissolution proceedings. Third, alimony may be awarded once a final decree in divorce is entered.
Pennsylvania guidelines provide for the amount of spousal support to be awarded. The presumptive award is 40% of the difference in income between the spouses. Importantly, courts may consider marital misconduct in the spousal support analysis.
Alimony pendente lite is awarded to a spouse to preserve the status quo during the divorce process. Alimony may be provided to a spouse after the entry of the divorce. Courts will only award alimony if one party has need and the other has the ability to pay.
Support and alimony may be modified where the party requesting the change is able to prove a change in circumstances. Support terminates upon the death of either party, or the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient spouse. Support orders may be enforced through wage reduction orders, the seizure and sale of assets, or the court’s contempt power.
Both parents share the responsibility of raising a child. At Levy & Hoskins, our attorneys help ensure that your child receives the financial support required for a healthy, happy upbringing.
Biological parents have the duty to support their children through age 18. This obligation may continue indefinitely if a child is disabled and unable to support him- or herself. Generally, parties seek a support order if a child is non-marital or if previously married parents separate.
To establish a duty of support, a party may need to prove parenthood. When parents are married, the wife’s husband is presumed to be the father of any marital children. This presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. If a child is non-marital, the father may admit paternity. A DNA test is nearly conclusive evidence of paternity.
Child support in Pennsylvania allows children to share in their parent’s income. Parents contribute to the support of their children in proportion to their share of the combined net monthly income. The Pennsylvania guidelines employ standard tables which set the amount of support based on the parent’s combined income and the number of children. A court may deviate from the guideline amount of support, through making certain adjustments or deviations. Child support payments remain the same unless and until the court modifies the child support order.
Our attorneys guide you through the proper legal procedures to establish, modify, or end your child support payments.
For every parent, child custody is the most heart-wrenching aspect of family law. Our attorneys advocate for your parental rights so that you can raise your children in an appropriate and healthy home.
Two types of child custody exist: legal (the right to make major decisions) and physical (the right to actual physical possession). Courts resolve custody disputes based on a determination of the child’s best interests. A strong presumption exists in favor of frequent, continuing contact with both parents.
Pennsylvania law requires the courts to consider whether a parent poses a threat of harm to their child if the parent has committed certain crimes. Additionally, courts must consider 16 factors in determining a child’s best interests. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following: the party’s respective abilities to provide stability in the child’s life; which party provides for the child’s daily needs; the health of all parties; the child’s preference; and, the child’s relationships with siblings and extended family members. No change in circumstances is required to modify a custody order; the modification simply must be in the child’s best interest.
We understand your concerns for your child’s well being in a custody case and work diligently to ensure your child’s best interests prevail in court.
Adopting a child brings happiness to families, but when something goes wrong, there is a chance of substantial heartache. Levy & Hoskins helps families with the complex legal process of adoption so that you can feel secure about your child’s future well-being.
Protection From Abuse
Protection From Abuse Violence in the family may lead one person to apply for protection through the courts. In a Protection from Abuse action, a person may apply for an Order requiring another person to refrain from contacting them. To be entitled to relief, a person must establish an intimate relationship with the person against whom the order is sought, as well as a threat of harm. Emergency relief under the PFA statute may be available. Ancillary relief, including support, child custody, and possession of a marital home may also be awarded in a PFA suit. A person may be imprisoned for the violation of a PFA Order. We can help protect your family through the filing of a PFA action, or defend you against baseless filings.