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Family Law

Family law matters touch upon the most personal and intimate moments in your life, whether you are growing a family through adoption, changing the family dynamic through divorce, or seeking protection from an abusive spouse or family member. These matters can be hotly contested and fraught with emotion, making it essential that you receive support from a caring and knowledgeable attorney who can provide you with objective guidance in a professional and compassionate manner. These are the principles that guide our family law practice at Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm. For help with divorce and custody, child and spousal support, adoptions, and other family law matters in Clarion Crawford, Forest, Jefferson, Mercer, Venango and Warren Counties in Northwestern Pennsylvania, contact Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm in Franklin, PA.

Child & Spousal Support

In a divorce or separation, the court may create an obligation to support a child or spouse, including spousal support before a divorce action is filed, alimony pendente lite (APL) while the case is pending, and alimony post-divorce. The amount of support is generally determined according to statutory guidelines, although courts can deviate from the guidelines in certain cases. Alimony is not guaranteed and depends on a number of factors presented to the court by the parties. Child support, on the other hand, is a feature in any situation where the parents of a minor are not living together in the same household, regardless of marital status.

We can help you determine the proper amount and duration of child or spousal support, APL and alimony to ensure that your children’s needs are met and that you are treated fairly, whether you are to be the paying party or the one receiving support. We can represent you in negotiating a marriage settlement agreement that best meets everyone’s needs, or litigate the matter in court if an effective agreement cannot be reached. We also represent parties in proceedings to modify custody when the best interest of the children demand a review, and modify child support based on changed circumstances at a later date.


Adopting a child through a private agency is a beautiful way of bringing love into your life and the life of a child in need, but the procedure is far from simple. Agency adoption is a lengthy process involving mounds of paperwork and extensive screening, including interviews, home visits, and a trial period of pre-adoptive placement. Our skilled and compassionate adoption lawyers can assist you every step of the way, helping to ensure a smooth and successful adoption process, whether going through an adoption agency or attempting a more legally complex independent adoption.

Our family law attorneys also provide guidance and support in the stepparent adoption process. Adopting your spouse’s child can be an important move toward creating a strong, loving and supportive family bond while providing the adopted child with valuable benefits such as health insurance coverage and inheritance rights. The process can also involve terminating the parental rights of the child’s other biological parent, so it’s critical to handle the adoption correctly and with skilled legal assistance.

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements are common, practical tools that can help couples enter into marriage with security and peace of mind, knowing they will be taken care of and not taken advantage of if the marriage later falls apart. A prenuptial agreement is a binding legal document that determines in advance how matters such as spousal support, alimony, or the division of property will be handled in case of divorce. The prenup process helps couples address these matters in an objective manner that truly meets their needs without the stress and emotion that often accompany trying to resolve these matters in the heat of a divorce.

Each party to a prenuptial agreement should have their own attorney represent them during the crafting of the agreement or at least review the document before they sign it. This helps ensure the agreement is fair, does what you want it to do, and meets all legal requirements to be binding and enforceable if it is ever needed down the line.

Protection From Abuse

A Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is a civil court order that can provide immediate help to stop or prevent actual or threatened domestic violence or abuse. A PFA can require an abuser to move out of the house and order them to keep away from you and stop abusing, harassing or stalking you. A PFA can affect child custody and visitation as well. Judges have broad discretion to fashion PFAs in ways that make the most sense in the particular situation.

Protection From Abuse applies to family members or members of the same household, including spouses, in-laws, parents, children, or current or former intimate partners, regardless of whether they ever lived together or not. The acts that can constitute abuse (and form the basis for a PFA) include causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious injury, false imprisonment, child physical or sexual abuse, and engaging in a course of conduct like harassment or stalking that place the person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.

Courts are empowered to institute a PFA immediately before the alleged abuser is even notified. Before a final PFA can be put in place, however, the accused will have an opportunity to appear in court and argue that abuse is not occurring and a PFA is inappropriate. Both parties to the PFA should have legal representation to present their side to the court, citing the relevant facts and legal arguments to support their case. Our family law attorneys represent parties on either side of a PFA, including emergency, temporary and final PFAs.

Objective, Professional and Compassionate Help With Family Law Matters in Northwestern Pennsylvania

Dale Woodard Gent McFate Law Firm in Franklin is here to guide you, advise you, and represent you in any family law matter in Clarion Crawford, Forest, Jefferson, Mercer, Venango and Warren Counties in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Call us today at 814-432-2181 for immediate assistance, or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We’ve been serving families in Venango County for nearly 100 years, and we’ll always be here for you when you need us.

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