Collaborative Family Law FAQ

In many cases collaborative law is very desirable for all parties involved. You might not have even realized that you could settle legal matters outside of a litigious court room, but it can be.

The Basic Collaborative Law Process
You and your attorney agree to meet with your spouse’s party out side of the court, to resolve conflicts you have. In fact, there may not be any conflicts at all; it may simply be a matter of settling the matters at hand and finalizing the agreement.

Collaborative family law differs from divorce litigation in the parties involved have more control of the outcome. In family law litigation, your side argues your case and their side argues theirs and the court decides the outcome.

Collaborate law also differs from mediation, in that you have an attorney present advising you as to what to accept. In mediation, the two parties involved meet with a third party who merely facilitates open communication between the opposing parties so that they may reach an agreement.

What Are The Benefits?
First and foremost, both parties have more control of what happens. A court may not find in your favor, even if your spouse might have been willing to negotiate some of the points imposed by the court. Furthermore, entering into the court often times create an “adversarial” situation that might not have existed prior to litigation.

Do I Need A Special Attorney?
Yes, you should to be represented by an attorney with specific training in collaborative family law. The communication skills, problem solving strategies and conflict resolution techniques demonstrated and taught by the attorneys in collaborative family law are a result of specific training and enable successful results.

Does The Collaborative Law Process Cost Less Than Litigation?
Not necessarily is the short answer to this. Obviously there are fixed costs, like filing fees are the same regardless of how a divorce is handled. Generally speaking, most family law attorneys charge a retainer fee and charge hourly for their services, regardless whether they represent you in a courtroom or a negotiation room, so those charges are the same as well. That being said, a collaborative law proceeding generally takes less time and that is where there could be a financial savings.

What If We Can’t Reach An Agreement?
While this is a real possibility, your attorney and your spouses attorney will try everything to prevent this from happening, after all, it’s not in your best interest and that’s why you’ve got an attorney; too look after your best interest. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, you and your spouse can try mediation to facilitate better communication or you have the option of instructing your family law attorney to proceed with litigation through the court system.

Why Do I Need A Child Support Lawyer in PA?

Child support in Pennsylvania is rarely as cut and dry as one might think. It can become very complicated; particularly if the parent you’re seeking the support from is a reluctant participant in the process. This is why you need a child support attorney, to insure adequate child support is provided.

Pennsylvania provides specific guidelines with regards to what is included in “net income”. Based on the following:

• Wages
• Salaries
• Overtime pay
• Commissions
• Bonuses
• Interest
• Rental income
• Retirement income
• Social Security retirement or disability payments
• Workers’ compensation
• Unemployment compensation
• Income from an interest in a business
• Entitlements to lump sum awards such as lottery winnings

These are pretty straightforward types of income, however, there are other things that maybe considered as well. For instance:

• Unreported income such as “tips” or “under the table” incomes. These types of wages can be difficult to get included without having a child support attorney.
• Assets also can be included. Typically this is associated with high-income situations. This type of “income” inclusion can also be difficult, but certainly should be included.
• Potential earnings are also considered when there is no “net income”. For example if the parents are unemployed, but capable of working. Said parent may be assessed with an earning capacity that is equivalent to what that person could earn given their education, skills and prior employment history.

These are all types of income that are typically difficult for inclusion in the “net income” of the parents, especially without a child support attorney.

In addition to what you might think of as “classic child support” there are other considerations, such as:

• Medical expenses. This often gets ugly and complicated. Who carries the coverage? Who pays the deductibles and co-pays? What if there is no coverage available? All of these considerations are decided upon by the courts. Without a family law attorney in PA, you may be solely responsible for this additional financial burden.
• Birth related expenses can also be included, both for the mother and the child. This is of particular concern for those who are not married and can be complicated when paternity must be established.

In some cases, a child support order may be combined in an order with an amount payable for spousal support, APL, or alimony and may also include provisions regarding payment of the mortgage on a marital home and/or health insurance. If a combined order for child and spousal support, APL, or alimony is entered, there may be significant federal tax consequences if an unallocated order is entered by the court. For this purpose you will want an family law attorney to fight against an unallocated order.