Effective Divorce and Family Law Representation.

Frequently Asked Questions

We're often asked certain questions about Pennsylvania family law and about our practice. We invite you to review some of our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to some of your concerns.

Do you offer free consultations?

I believe that every prospective client deserves an in-depth consultation personalized to his or her particular circumstances. Unfortunately, offering consultations at no charge would result in such a volume of inquiries that I couldn't devote the necessary time and attention to either prospective or current clients. For that reason, I offer consultations at my reasonable hourly rate.

What does it cost to hire you as my attorney?

My Office accepts an up-front payment known as a retainer. A retainer is money paid by a client in advance for work that will be completed on an ongoing basis from the initial consultation after the client hires us as their attorney. The retainer is a credit in your account with us, and we bill against that credit. When the credit nears depletion, it may need to be replenished; the amount of the initial retainer does not represent full payment for a client’s legal fees. It is virtually impossible to determine in advance the total cost for attorneys’ fees in a contested family law case.

When a client meets with us for the first time, I review their particular issue(s), evaluate their concerns, and begin to work a plan to reach a client’s particular goals. Rest assured that I work as efficiently as possible in order to keep your costs down.

What types of payment does your office accept?

My office accepts payment by cash, check, debit card, credit card (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover).

Can both parties use the same lawyer to represent them in Pennsylvania family law matters?

Wesley will not represent both spouses in their divorce for ethical reasons, due to concerns about conflict of interest. Under the Professional Rules of Conduct by which Pennsylvania attorneys must abide, parties can waive potential conflicts of interest in some circumstances, however, family law matters are not suited to that type of representation.  Wesley cannot and will not represent clients in a dual representation format.

Can I get “legally” separated from my spouse? 

There is no such thing as a "legal separation" in Pennsylvania. The date of a couple's actual separation, however, is an important milestone in the divorce process. The date of separation is usually the date of filing of the divorce complaint, and living ''separate and apart’’ has a specific legal definition. It is possible for couples to live "separate and apart" even if they are occupying the same residence.  

What are the residency requirements for obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has jurisdiction over divorce actions in which one spouse has resided in the Commonwealth for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the Complaint in Divorce. If the court discovers that it lacks jurisdiction in the divorce matter then the court will be forced to dismiss the case.

How long will my divorce take? 

First and foremost, every case is as unique as a snowflake. What does that mean, you ask? Well, each case is as unique as the parties involved; and there are a lot of different factors that determine how quickly or slowly your particular case may move forward. However, a “mutual consent" no-fault divorce can be completed as quickly as  four to five months after filing. There is a 90-day "cooling-off" period after the complaint is filed. After the “cooling-off” period expires, both parties may file affidavits of consent. If all the economic issues are resolved, the divorce decree is entered. At the other end of the time spectrum, a contested divorce can last years, with the average contest lasting a year or more.

Can I make my spouse pay my attorney fees?

Under some circumstances, one spouse can be compelled to pay the other's attorney fees  However, this is only a possibility and not a guarantee; awards of attorney fees are actually relatively rare. You should be prepared to pay your own counsel fees throughout your divorce action. In the rare instance where the court awards counsel fees it is usually the case that there is a huge difference in incomes between the parties or the court has found bad faith conduct by the adverse party. 

Is alimony available in a Pennsylvania divorce action?

Yes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers alimony as a remedy in divorce actions. However, alimony is not automatic and may not be granted in your particular case. The statute says generally, “Where a divorce decree has been entered, the court may allow alimony, as it deems reasonable, to either party only if it finds that alimony is necessary.” How does a court decide that alimony is “necessary”? When the court is considering awarding alimony it must analyze seventeen separate factors that guide the court to its ultimate decision.

Alimony is financial support that is awarded for a period of time to an ex-spouse after the divorce decree is final. Financial support that is awarded before the divorce decree is finalized is either spousal support or Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) and these are handled differently than alimony. 

How is the property divided during a divorce proceeding in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania courts use a process called "equitable distribution." It is important when filing a divorce to file an equitable distribution count in your complaint; otherwise the court will not divide your property. Pennsylvania courts do not just divide the property equally between the parties, because what is equitable or fair is not necessarily equal. The relevant statute states in part, “Upon the request of either party in an action for divorce, the court shall equitably divide, distribute or assign, in kind or otherwise, the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors. These factors are set forth in the statute.

This process identifies the marital estate (assets and liabilities) and divides the estate according to the facts and circumstances of the particular case. The division of the marital estate may be an equal 50/50 split, or it may be 60/40, 55/45, etc. 

 

Notice: Attorney Advertising. This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. The information provided on this website is for the limited purpose of introduction to family law concepts. It is always in your best interest to consult with an attorney before undertaking any legal action. There are many rules and exceptions not listed on this website. More importantly, the law changes frequently and it is the duty of an attorney to know and understand the changes in the law to better advise clients. A website is not a substitute for an attorney. However, you can use the information on this website to take the first step towards becoming an informed client, so you can ask the important questions of your attorney.

The statements in the Frequently Asked Questions page are based on current Pennsylvania law as of October 2014 and are provided for general information and not to advise potential or current clients. The statements are general and may or may not apply to your particular case.

If you have further questions, we invite you to contact the experienced and qualified attorney at the Law Office of Wesley W. Legg. Please call to arrange your initial consultation (484) 401-7079

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Wesley Legg is a native of Chester County. He attended Bishop Shanahan High School and graduated in 2002. He went on to attend West Chester University, later transferring to Penn State University from… Read More

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