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Divorce and Custody

Navigating the Complexities of Divorce and Custody Matters in Venango County and Northwestern Pennsylvania

At the Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm in Franklin, Pennsylvania, we are committed to guiding our clients through divorce and custody matters. We provide representation in Clarion, Crawford, Forest, Jefferson, Mercer, Venango and Warren Counties. We venture to other counties in our region under some circumstances. Divorce and custody disputes are fraught with emotion, but you can count on our experienced and distinguished attorneys to provide you with expert, objective guidance in a professional and compassionate manner. Learn more below about how our firm’s lawyers can help you resolve these critical issues, or contact our office for a confidential consultation to explore your options and plot a strategic and practical path forward. We are here for you to help you through one of the most difficult and intensely personal times of your life.

The Divorce Process in Pennsylvania

An initial step for divorce in Pennsylvania is to understand the grounds for divorce and the different types of divorce cases that can be pursued. When it comes to the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania, divorce can be either “fault” or “no-fault.” A fault-based divorce is pursued when one spouse alleges and proves grounds such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or bigamy. In addition to providing the basis for divorce, proving marital misconduct can also impact the payment of spousal support and alimony; however, it has little to no impact in other areas including child custody.

That said, most divorces in Pennsylvania fall under the category of “no-fault” divorce, where the parties acknowledge the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. A no-fault divorce can be obtained with or without the cooperation of your spouse. There are certain time frames involved in the process that can be discussed with your attorney.

The way the divorce proceeds through the courts depends on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

  1. Uncontested Divorce: When both parties agree on major issues like property division, child custody, and support, the process is smoother and often faster. The parties can craft a marital settlement agreement and other documents with the help of their attorneys, bypassing the need for further proceedings in court.

  2. Contested Divorce: This occurs when spouses disagree on one or more key aspects of the divorce, such as child custody, child and spousal support, or property division. These cases may require conciliation, mediation, negotiation, or a period of litigation followed by a hearing in court to resolve disputes.

Property Division

Pennsylvania divorce cases follow the principle of “equitable distribution.” This means that marital property is not necessarily split 50/50 but rather in a way that is fair and just. Factors considered include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, and contributions to marital property. Our lawyers can help ensure that assets are properly characterized as marital or separate property and accurately valued. In addition, we can provide the court with factual and legal arguments regarding the relevant factors for a fair division of marital property that meets your needs.

Child Custody

Whether parents are married or not, child custody in Pennsylvania focuses on the best interest of the child. A custody determination requires considering two different aspects of child custody – legal custody and physical custody:

  1. Legal Custody: The right to make significant decisions for the child in areas such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
  2. Physical Custody: Which parent the child lives with and when.

Custody arrangements can be sole, primary, partial, or shared, depending on various factors like parental roles, the child’s preference, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment. We can help you craft a workable custody consent order or custody agreement, or represent you in court if needed for a custody decision that reflects your children’s needs and best interests.

Child and Spousal Support

Pennsylvania calculates child support based on statewide guidelines considering parents’ income, custody arrangements, and sometimes the child’s needs, but deviations from the guidelines are allowed in appropriate circumstances. Spousal support or alimony pendente lite (APL) may be granted during the divorce process. Alimony may be awarded after a divorce depending on factors like the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and each spouse’s financial resources. Legal advice and representation are critical to ensuring all different forms of support are calculated correctly and assigned to each party based on the facts and relevant law.

Contact Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm for Help With Divorce and Custody in Northwestern Pennsylvania

Divorce and custody decisions are consequential and impact families for years into the future, and these matters therefore require a careful and compassionate approach. At Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm, we are dedicated to providing our clients in Franklin and surrounding communities with comprehensive legal support during these challenging times. If you are dealing with a divorce or custody issue in Northwestern Pennsylvania, we invite you to contact us to discuss how we can assist you in navigating this complex legal landscape.

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