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  • 27 Sep 2023 12:17 PM | Kelsey Peake (Administrator)

    By Elle Barr, Our Family Wizard | AAML Pennsylvania Sponsor

    Custody schedules lay the groundwork for effective co-parenting. Explore the pros and cons of the 70/30 plan, compare 70/30 against other schedules, and download free templates.

    What Is a 70/30 Custody Schedule?

    A 70/30 custody schedule is a co-parenting arrangement where one parent has the child 70% of the time while the other has 30%. This schedule has become less common than others over the past 50 years.

    A 70/30 custody schedule is an alternative to joint equal parenting schedules like 50/50 or 60/40 plans. In a 70/30 plan, one parent has substantially more time than the other parent. This can work well for families who cannot split time equally.

    Key Takeaways

    • A 70/30 custody schedule is a physical custody arrangement where one parent has the child for 70% of the time, and the other has the child for 30%.
    • Factors such as geographical distance or work commitments can make a 70/30 schedule more practical for some families than a 50/50 or 60/40 schedule.
    • A 70/30 schedule often involves a 5-2 split, where one parent has the child during the school week, and the other has weekends.
    • When deciding on a 70/30 custody schedule, co-parents should prioritize the child's well-being while considering logistical factors like work schedules and geographic distance.
    • Co-parents can use a dedicated app to track and manage 70/30 custody schedules.

    Many factors affect which schedule the co-parents select. Co-parents may start with one schedule and switch to another as circumstances change. In general, most co-parents hope to make a 50/50 custody schedule work. This joint custody schedule feels attractive because it tries to split parenting time down the middle, giving each co-parent equal parenting time. However, many co-parents can’t feasibly maintain a 50/50 schedule for various reasons.

    Samuel Berse headshot

    “Some situations that prevent a 50/50 schedule are simply unavoidable. For example, perhaps geographical distance or work commitments interfere with one parent’s ability to exercise 50/50 parenting time.” -Samuel Berse

    Co-parents who can’t maintain a 50/50 tend to compromise with 60/40 split custody, which gives one co-parent primary physical custody with 60% of the co-parenting time. If the 60/40 split still creates logistical problems, co-parents may land on a 70/30 split.

    “A 70/30 parenting time schedule, where one parent has two overnights every week, is a common arrangement designed to prioritize practicality over equal parenting time, especially when factors such as geographical distance or work commitments come into play,” Berse says.

    Julie Colton headshot

    Here's how Family Law Attorney Julie Colton describes the difference between schedules like 50/50 and 70/30:

    “Primary physical custody is when a parent has more than 50% of the custodial overnights. Partial physical custody is when a parent has less than 50% of the custodial overnights. Therefore, a 70/30 custody arrangement would be a primary/partial custody arrangement. This means that one parent has primary physical custody, and the other parent has partial physical custody.”

    Like Berse, Colton points out that the 70/30 schedule usually arises out of necessity. “Usually, co-parents take on a primary/partial schedule like 70/30 when they are dealing with logistical constraints. For example, when parents live more than 30 to 40 minutes from the child’s school, a shared custody schedule (50/50) is less practical.”

    Colton adds that it is important to note that the physical custody schedule does not affect the legal custody arrangements, which designates decision-making responsibilities for a child.

    “Parents with a 70/30 physical custody schedule still usually have a shared legal custody agreement,” - Julie Colton

    Although this schedule was popular in the 1970s, many experts don’t recommend it because it gives one co-parent significantly more time with the children. Also, the available 70/30 scheduling options can be difficult to implement.

    Peter Stanbleck headshot

    “Determining which parent should have primary physical custody of a child and what particular parenting time schedule should be implemented can be quite complicated in the light of life’s day-to-day variabilities,” says Family law attorney Peter Stambleck.  “A straightforward implementation of a 70/30 child custody schedule would give the non-custodial parent two overnight visitations per week. This arrangement is imbalanced and not a true form of shared parenting. Clients very rarely agree to a 70/30 custody spilt, unless it is the most appropriate schedule to ensure that they continue to provide a lifestyle that is best for their child.”

    Still, the 70/30 may be suitable for co-parents who live far apart or for children who prefer having a consistent home base for much of the week.  As with any parenting plan, the suitability of a 70/30 arrangement depends on how your family’s circumstances affect the realities of day-to-day life.

    Stambleck puts it best: “Every family is different, and a child custody agreement needs to address the existing and anticipated needs of the family clearly and specifically. There are many factors to consider, including but not limited to the needs of the children, their ages, each co-parent’s availability, location, and other commitments that may affect the ability to care for the children.”

    “Every family is different, and a child custody agreement needs to address the existing and anticipated needs of the family clearly and specifically. There are many factors to consider, including but not limited to the needs of the children, their ages, each co-parent’s availability, location, and other commitments that may affect the ability to care for the children.” - Peter /ste==

    What Does a 70/30 Custody Schedule Look Like?

    Co-parents with a 70/30 schedule usually split the week with a 5-2 schedule where one co-parent has the child for the school week, and the other takes weekends. Alternatives include swapping every third week or having more frequent exchanges every third day.

    Berse describes the 70/30 parenting schedule like this: “A 70/30 parenting schedule involves one parent having two overnights per week (equivalent to 104 overnights per year), while the other parent has five overnights a week (260 overnights per year). Typically, co-parents divide this arrangement where one co-parent has the children during the school week and the other co-parent has them either every other weekend or most weekends (such as three weekends per month or four weekends per month in months with five weekends). Additionally, many co-parents allocate extra time during the summer for the parent with 30% custody.”

    “A partial physical custody schedule is often every other weekend from Friday after school until Monday start of school, along with some weekday time,” says Colton. “The time during the week may be an overnight on the non-weekend week or an overnight each week. The weekday time may just be a few hours for dinner.”

    Experts recommend mapping out a 70/30 schedule in two-week blocks. Dividing 14 days into a 70/30 split means the co-parent with 70% custody should receive around ten days and nights, and the co-parent with 30% should receive the remaining four days and nights. This approach gives co-parents a broad view of the schedule and allows for easy comparison between 70/30 and other common custody schedules.

    For the parent with 30% custody or partial custody, Colton adds that some situations require that time to be supervised. “Where there is an issue with a substance use disorder or untreated mental health issues that cause a risk the child, then there may be a need for supervised custody.” She adds that this may be a temporary solution: “A parent who is addressing issues of substance use disorder and/or untreated mental health problems that are negatively affecting the child may find themselves with a partial physical custody schedule while any safety concerns for the children are being addressed.”


    Father and daughter read together while sitting on a bed.

    70/30 vs. 60/40 Custody Schedules

    In a 70/30 custody schedule, one parent has the child about 70% of the time, while the other has them 30%. In a 60/40 plan, one parent has the child 60% of the time, and the other parent has them 40%.

    In a 14-day block, a 60/40 custody schedule typically allocates eight days to the co-parent with 60% custody and six days to the co-parent with 40% custody. 60/40 parenting plans often use a 3-4 weekly schedule, alternating custody in four-day and three-day blocks.

    On the other hand, a 70/30 split provides the parent with primary custody with significantly more time with the children. Instead of a 3-4 weekly schedule, a 70/30 split typically utilizes a 5-2 split variation.

    Berse says co-parents often adopt the 70/30 parenting schedule by necessity, typically due to the work schedules. "A 70/30 schedule is commonplace when it's simply not feasible for one parent to have weekday overnights during the children's school year,” he says. “Co-parents usually adopt this schedule because it's practical.”

    70/30 vs. 80/20 Custody Schedules

    A 70/30 custody schedule involves one parent having the child 70% of the time while the other parent has them 30% of the time. An 80/20 custody schedule means one parent has the child 80% of the time while the other parent has them 20% of the time.

    In a 14-day block, an 80/20 custody schedule allocates 11 days to the co-parent with 80% custody. It is common for co-parents to follow an assigned weekend custody schedule, where the child spends pre-determined weekends each month with the non-custodial co-parent.

    In the 80/20 arrangement, the primary custodial parent assumes 80% of the parenting time, representing a 10% increase over the 70/30 plan. The decision between the two plans depends on the co-parents’ circumstances and the child’s best interests.

    Factors to Consider When Choosing a 70/30 Parenting Schedule

    When choosing a 70/30 parenting schedule, it is crucial to consider significant factors that may affect how the plan works. For example, consider the child's age and needs, the distance between co-parents, the parents’ work schedules, and the level of conflict between co-parents.

    A standardized custody agreement won’t accommodate the diverse circumstances and preferences of different families. A personalized approach, where co-parents work together to understand and adapt to specific circumstances, is essential in selecting the right parenting schedule.

    Choosing a custody schedule involves multiple factors, which can cause conflicts. For example, co-parents of a young child might lean toward a 5-2 plan to foster regular interactions. However, if they live far apart, implementing a 5-2 schedule can present logistical obstacles. In making these decisions, the child’s well-being must always take precedence.

    While there is much to consider when evaluating custody arrangements, here is breakdown of four key factors to consider before choosing 70/30 schedule:

    • Child’s age
      The child’s age plays a significant role in determining the time they require with each co-parent. Contemporary attachment theory underscores the crucial influence of secure parent-child relationships on a child's emotional and psychological development. Extensive research consistently highlights the necessity for children to have sufficient and consistent contact with both co-parents to form healthy relationships.

      For instance, a seminal review from 2004, Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development, underscores the importance of secure attachment with both parents. The paper emphasizes that just like in early childhood, secure attachment in adolescence profoundly impacts development, fostering exploration and the development of cognitive, social, and emotional competence. These findings emphasize the significance of maintaining strong bonds with both parents throughout a child's development to support their overall well-being and optimal growth.

      A 5-2 schedule or every-third-day plan is the best option for younger children who will benefit from regular interactions with both parents. Teens and pre-teens will likely prefer the 5-2 or every-third-week schedule.
    • Physical distance
      The physical distance between co-parents is another crucial factor when deciding between 70/30 custody schedules. The proximity of the co-parents' residences can significantly impact the feasibility of a parenting schedule.

      If co-parents live apart, frequent household exchanges can be stressful for the child and co-parents. Depending on the distance, the 5-2 schedule and every-other-week schedules can work. For example, if co-parents live an hour apart or more, even the 5-2 schedule may prove to be too stressful.
    • Parent’s work schedule
      Co-parents need to evaluate their work commitments and determine how it aligns with the proposed schedule. Work schedules that involve long hours, frequent travel, or irregular shifts can pose challenges in maintaining a consistent custody arrangement.

      For example, if one co-parent has a demanding work schedule during specific, consistent days of the week, the co-parents can shift the schedule so the parenting days fall on days off from work. For example, the 5-2 schedule can work very well if the co-parent with 70% custody has a flexible working week. Then, the co-parent, with a demanding weekly schedule, will have the children on the weekends. Of course, co-parents can change the day that the 5-2 starts to accommodate different or unconventional work schedules.
    • Child’s school schedule
      Finally, co-parents should evaluate how a 70/30 schedule will affect their children’s school commitments. During the school year, the 70/30 schedule should promote a consistent routine that allows the child to focus on school and extracurricular activities. For example, every third day schedule doesn’t work well during the school week (unless the co-parents live very close to one another) because the child will have to juggle schoolwork with exchanging households.

      Also, co-parents may want to ensure they both can attend school events, parent-teacher conferences, or extracurriculars.

    A mother and her young son and daughter do schoolwork together at a table.

    How to Pick the Best 70/30 Custody Schedule for Your Family

    When selecting a 70/30 schedule, consider your child’s age, the distance between co-parents, work schedules, and school commitments. Be sure to prioritize your child’s well-being, and ask them for input.

    Here's a quick checklist of questions to consider when determining if a 70/30 custody schedule would suit your family. Remember that your child's best interests should always be the primary guiding consideration.

    • Child's age: How old is your child, and what are their specific needs regarding regular interactions and stability?  Will a 70/30 schedule provide sufficient quality time with each parent for your child?
    • Child’s well-being: How will a 70/30 schedule affect your child?
    • Distance between co-parents: How far apart do you and the other co-parent live? Will frequent exchanges be manageable?
    • Work schedules: Do both co-parents have work schedules that allow consistent and reliable parenting time? Are there any irregular shifts or travel involved that could pose challenges?
    • Child's school schedule: Will the proposed custody schedule support the child's academic commitments and extracurricular activities? Can both co-parents be available for school events and parent-teacher conferences?
    • Level of conflict: How well do you and your co-parent communicate and cooperate? Is there a significant level of conflict that could affect the custody schedule?
    • Child's preferences: Have you considered the child's preferences and desires regarding the custody schedule? How involved do they want to be in shaping their own schedule as they grow older?

    Easiest Way to Track 70/30 Custody Schedules

    Take control of your co-parenting schedule with OurFamilyWizard. This powerful co-parenting app offers comprehensive tools for co-parents looking for an easier way to manage their custody schedule.

    “The OurFamilyWizard Calendar feature easily accommodates the 2 out of 7 nights, 70/30 parenting schedule, and also supports custom 70/30 plans,” notes family law attorney Stambleck.

    A standout feature is the Trade/Swap™ tool. With just a few clicks, co-parents can easily communicate about schedule adjustments. Trade/Swap helps parents propose a day swap, request a trade in parenting time, and respond to requests from the other parent. When a request is approved, the schedule updates automatically—no need to manually enter adjustments.

    OurFamilyWizard’s dedicated platform tailored for co-parents offers a practical solution to enhance and streamline the co-parenting dynamic. With it, you'll experience a newfound level of organization and efficiency in managing your custody schedule.

    A note about this article: This is an abridged version of the article which was originally posted on Our Family Wizard. To view the full article, which includes additional resources like schedule examples and templates, click HERE.

    A Note on Terminology 

    In general, the term “physical custody” refers to which parent a child lives with. Today, many experts use other terms to describe this arrangement, like “parenting schedule” or “parenting time arrangement.” These new terms better represent a relationship and the parent’s responsibilities for their children. But just a heads up: this article uses these older and newer terms interchangeably.  

  • 15 Jun 2023 2:23 PM | Kelsey Peake (Administrator)

    2023 AAML Arbitration Training Institute

    Rochelle B. (“Shelly”) Grossman and Carolyn Zack led the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) 2023 Arbitration Training Institute in Chicago on June 1 and 2, 2023. The Institute planners were Academy Fellows Amy J. Amundsen (Tennessee) and Jennifer Bingham (Massachusetts), co-chairs of the AAML Arbitration Committee, pictured below with Shelly and Carolyn. Judge Robert Childers, a Circuit Court judge, mediator, and AAA-trained arbitrator, served as a guest lecturer and offered guidance on practical, ethical, and jurisdictional issues. PBA Family Law Section member Maris J. Weiner attended and made valuable contributions to the program. The two day in-person training provided 13 hours of CLE credits, including one hour of ethics, and participants received a certificate of training issued by the AAML. Participants also received feedback from their advisors, Academy Fellows with experience as arbitrators, on their draft agreements to arbitrate, interim directives, and arbitration awards. The attendees included more than 30 attorneys from across the country, Fellows and non-Fellows, who engaged in a lively and thoughtful discussion about the benefits of family law arbitration, shared information about their local family law practice and experience, and offered their perspectives on best practices for family law arbitrators. All participants, including Shelly and Carolyn, came away from the program feeling better prepared to tackle complicated arbitration-related issues. An overwhelming theme of the Institute is the need for a more uniform approach to family law arbitration and the adoption of the Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act (UFLAA) throughout the country. Another outcome of the training institute is the demand for more certified arbitrators trained by the AAML, which is the only professional organization training family law arbitrators. If you are interested in attending the AAML Arbitration Training Institute next year, please reach out to Shelly at shelly@pottsshoemaker.com or Carolyn at czack@momjiananderer.com.

  • 1 Jun 2023 6:05 PM | Kelsey Peake (Administrator)

    By Mary Cushing Doherty, AAML Pennsylvania Fellow | High Swartz

    In the case at hand, your client is Dad A in the custody and support matter:  Mr. A v. Mr. Z.  The case involving their 10-year-old daughter.  The parties settled custody issues before Conciliator C.  After the Domestic Relations Office support conference and testimony before the support Hearing Officer a legal issue was raised and referred to Family Court Judge J for a hearing on whether an agreement before Custody Conciliator C is binding in the support case. 

    During the Custody Conciliation Dad Z and Dad A agreed that their daughter should return to attend overnight summer camp as she had in prior years.  The agreement on this and other issues was placed on the record before Conciliator C.  Dad A recalls that Conciliator C heard the lawyers state during the Conciliations that the respective cost to each parent would be resolved in support court.  Dad A is furious now because Dad Z (who switched lawyers) is telling the support DRO Officer, and the support Hearing Officer, that he cannot afford to pay his percentage of the overnight summer camp cost.   Dad Z argues he is not bound to contribute to this unreasonably expensive summer camp.  Dad Z asks the court to rule that he should not be bound to contribute anything greater than his share of the cost for their daughter to attend a local day camp.  You argue on behalf of Dad A that Dad Z cannot reopen the issue of the daughter’s reasonable summer camp when it was jointly approved as part of the custody agreement.  You argue both attorneys acknowledged in the Conciliation each parent’s contribution would be determined in support court.  Now Dad Z with his new attorney claims there was never this acknowledgement.

    Your client wants Conciliator C to testify that the cost of summer camp was brought to the attention of Dad Z before he signed the custody agreement that addressed selection of overnight summer camp. You study whether you can successfully issue a subpoena to Conciliator C to appear before Judge J.  You start by reviewing 9 Standard Pennsylvania Practice 2d §54.12 that disapproves of eliciting testimony from a judicial officer as well as Pennsylvania Rule of Judicial Administration 1701 that provides no judicial officer pursuant to a subpoena without prior authorization of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

    You read Kulesa v. Mindy Harris, et al, 519 Fed Appx (3rd Cir. 2013) in which the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals found the various court employees in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (court administrators, prothonotary and Support Master Harris) are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity because they exercised discretionary judgment as part of their function.  Therefore, Support Master Harris could not be sued by a party about her actions in the support matter, and the litigation brought by plaintiff Kulesa was dismissed.

    The Pennsylvania Superior Court in Leber v. Stretton (2007 allocatur denied) held questioning a judicial officer as to the knowledge or opinions of judicial officers regarding cases and their judicial function is prohibited.  You discuss the Leber and Kalesa decisions with your client and the client spots footnote 12 in Leber suggests in dicta a distinction between a judge testifying about her/his mental process (where judicial immunity applies) compared with purely factual testimony about what happened.  Arguing Conciliator C will provide purely the factual testimony, Dad A wants the subpoena to issue.

    In an unreported decision Zabreski v. von Schmeling, 213 WL 1402324 (M.D. Pa. April 5, 2013), the Superior court rejected this argument based on the dicta in Leber and relied on the conclusion of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Leber that found questioning a judicial officer about surrounding facts would be contrary to public policy and unacceptable because the conduct occurred during the judicial officer’s participation in a public hearing.

    As an advocate you may try to thread this needle claiming you only seek fact testimony as suggested in the Leber dicta (footnote 12).  As counsel for Dad A, you should warn the client that Judge J might raise concerns about the burden on the functioning of the court.  The Zabreski decision advises there may be an appearance of impropriety if it is viewed that the court officer or judge is biased or showing favoritism.  The court has an interest is in facilitating the dispose efficient disposition of family law cases before Conciliators, Hearing Officers and other quasi-judicial court staff.  Therefore, the subpoena may not lead to testimony from Conciliator C.

  • 5 Apr 2023 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    By Julie Auerbach, AAML Penn Fellow | Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP

    In any support case, the practitioner must identify all forms of income that fall within the state’s definition of income for support purposes. Income for support purposes is typically defined differently from income for tax purposes. Different states use different definitions of income. For example, some states include gift and inheritance as income for support purposes while others do not.

    Pennsylvania defines income available for support as follows:

    "Income." Includes compensation for services, including, but not limited to, wages, salaries, bonuses, fees, compensation in kind, commissions and similar items; income derived from business; gains derived from dealings in property; interest; rents; royalties; dividends; annuities; income from life insurance and endowment contracts; all forms of retirement; pensions; income from discharge of indebtedness; distributive share of partnership gross income; income in respect of a decedent; income from an interest in an estate or trust; military retirement benefits; railroad employment retirement benefits; social security benefits; temporary and permanent disability benefits; workers' compensation; unemployment compensation; other entitlements to money or lump sum awards, without regard to source, including lottery winnings; income tax refunds; insurance compensation or settlements; awards or verdicts; and any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of source.

    23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4302.

    Additionally, there are certain forms of income that may not be expressly included in a state’s statutory definition of income, but are included on the basis of case law.

    Disputes often arise as to whether or not certain forms of income should be included in a support calculation. These “tricky” forms of income include phantom income, deferred compensation, business and employment perquisites, income from a trust, gift, or inheritance, and “paper only” deductions on tax returns. There are other forms of income that while may not be difficult to prove, may escape attention from the litigants, such as electronic forms of payments or the income of a spouse or partner as a basis to deviate from the support guidelines.

    The first part of this presentation will discuss how to identify and include these tricky forms of income and sometimes overlooked forms of income in a support calculation. The second part of this presentation will discuss best practices in identifying and presenting these forms of income to the court.

    Read the full article HERE.

  • 30 Mar 2023 4:26 PM | Anonymous

    Congratulations to our newest AAML Pennsylvania Fellow, Carolyn Moran Zack, Partner at Momjian Anderer, LLC.

    Carolyn is a partner at Momjian Anderer, LLC, where she practices family law in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Ms. Zack began her career under the tutelage of Academy Fellow Albert Momjian, Esquire, and was a member of his family law group for fifteen years. She later served as a hearing officer for Chester County Family Court before joining the Momjian Anderer firm. Ms. Zack promotes alternative dispute resolution in family law matters, including writing a book on family Law Arbitration (Family Law Arbitration: Practice, Procedure and Forms (ABA 2020)).

    Ms. Zack is the Treasurer of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section, a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee, the ABA Family Law and Dispute Resolution Sections, the Doris Jonas Freed Inn of Court, the Philadelphia Bar Association, and an interdisciplinary group of judges, mental health professionals and attorneys who meet regularly to discuss evolving custody issues.

    Here is a note from Carolyn on what joining the AAML means to her:

    "I have aspired to be a member of the Academy since I started practicing family law in 1987. My mentor, Academy Fellow Albert Momjian, spoke highly about the benefits of the AAML in developing a strong referral network and in providing an opportunity to learn from experienced family lawyers across the country. I look forward to making new friendships and to continuing this lifelong learning journey."

    Welcome, Carolyn!

  • 29 Mar 2023 11:31 AM | Anonymous

    By Amy P. De Shong, AAML Pennsylvania 2022-2023 President | Wisler Pearlstine LLP

    Do I need an attorney?

    Say you and your spouse want to work amicably toward a low cost divorce outcome. Consulting with an attorney – especially if you do not tell your spouse about it – can feel like a betrayal. Worse, if you do tell your spouse about it, he or she may become angry. (“You promised we wouldn’t lawyer up!”)

    Just as you would not sign yourself up for heart surgery without learning about your condition and your options, you should not try to settle with your spouse without having at least one consultation with an experienced family attorney. Your attorney will explain the law and how it applies to your situation. Everything you tell him or her is confidential – even the fact that you were there in the first place! When you learn about your legal rights, obligations, and options – as well as those of your spouse – you will feel the power that can only come from knowledge. There is no substitute for that.

    Believe it or not, it’s better for you if your spouse does the same thing.

    Can’t we just use the same attorney?

    In most jurisdictions, attorneys are prohibited from representing both of you. And that makes sense, once you think about it. A homemaking mom’s goals and incentives differ from those of her husband: an attorney representing mom usually seeks a high level of financial support for as long as possible, while counsel for husband seeks to minimize the support obligation and may offer an increased portion of the marital assets in lieu of sharing her client’s income.

    I’ll make the appointment: now what?

    Your attorney should spend one to two hours with you. Expect to pay for the meeting. When you contact his or her office, ask whether there is a charge, the amount, whether payment is expected at the meeting, and whether the firm accepts payment by credit card. Think about how you will pay for the appointment if you do not wish for your spouse to know about the meeting. (If you pay with cash, your attorney should give you a written receipt.)

    Ask whether you should bring any documents and expect to be asked to bring your last tax return, paystubs for you and your spouse, and a basic outline of your assets and liabilities. Know the amounts of certain monthly bills, such as your mortgage, real estate taxes and homeowners insurance, so that the attorney can run a support calculation. 1 Amy P. De Shong, Esq. adeshong@wispearl.com can run a support calculation. Don’t be afraid if you don’t have all of that stuff – just do the best you can. Bring along a list of all your questions. When you make the call for the appointment, be ready to provide your spouse’s name and employment information, so that the attorney can run a conflict search before you get there. (This is particularly important with larger law firms, where another attorney at the firm may have already met with your spouse or the firm may already represent your spouse’s employer or family members.)

    If you and your spouse signed any agreements together, including a Prenuptial Agreement, bring them along. The more information you can supply, the more useful the attorney can be. Most jurisdictions use grids or guidelines in assessing child and spousal support obligations. These are usually based on incomes and/or living expenses of the parties and their kids. If a spouse or child has special needs or unusual expenses, such as medication or therapy, bring that information along.

    What will I learn at this meeting?

    As long as you bring the necessary information, your attorney should give you an overview of support, custody, and property distribution. The attorney should answer all of your questions and treat you with compassion and respect. Expect to become emotional and maybe even to cry during the meeting.

    Your attorney should listen to you, not interrupt you, and not lecture you. Your attorney should be able to speak to you clearly and in plain terms. If he or she bristles at your concerns, is high-handed, or makes your feel stupid, thank him or her for the time and end the meeting. No experienced attorney should be threatened by your questions. At the same time, however, remember that things you may have read about divorce on the Internet or heard from the folks at your neighborhood bar are not always correct.

    I have retained an attorney: what’s next?

    Your attorney should give you a written summary, often called a fee agreement letter, of exactly how and when you will be billed. Read it carefully and do not sign it if you have questions, concerns, or if you do not understand it. Expect to receive invoices monthly and insist that they set forth detailed charges so that you always know exactly where you stand. If your attorney seems uncomfortable answering your reasonable questions about any charges, that’s a red flag. Tell your attorney how you feel and if he or she is not responsive, it may be time to move on to someone else.

    You and your counsel should map out a strategy that meets your goals and concerns. That means that you have to be able to identify and articulate those goals and concerns, at least on a basic level. For example, you may want your attorney to get as much money for you as possible, but without being ugly or combative. Your attorney may point out that those goals conflict if your spouse is hiding money from you. That should prompt a healthy discussion about how far your attorney can go in issuing subpoenas and other legal documents before you will become too uncomfortable. Then, talk about what happens after that.

    Similarly, be as clear as you can be about your preferred child custody arrangements. If you are a dad who is just fine with alternating weekends, make sure your lawyer knows that so that he or she does not start demanding equally shared custody on your behalf.

    As you go along, keep a file of your notes, all correspondence, all emails, and other papers such as pleadings and financial information. Make sure your attorney and his or her assistants do not send emails and other communications to your workplace, unless you want them to do so. (Think carefully about that, by the way.) Clarify expected response times. (In this age of instant responses, some clients demand instant answers to complex questions -- that's not such a good idea.) Plan your phone calls and email exchanges so that you keep your costs down. When you are anxious and upset, it’s easy to ask the same questions over and over again: if you can take careful notes and then refer back to them when you get upset, rather than calling your attorney, you will save money on legal fees. Talk with your counsel about what you can do on your own to contribute to your case and keep your fees down. For example, you may be able to gather and copy documents, or even to prepare summaries of financial information. Just remember that your attorney must read and understand it all in order to make an effective presentation on your behalf.

    Remember that no reputable, experienced family lawyer is threatened by a well-informed client who seeks to reduce his or her legal fees! At the same time, however, if you find that you are constantly second-guessing or questioning your counsel, he or she will begin to feel mistrusted and not respected. If that goes on for too long, the relationship may fail. If you start to feel that things are not going well between you and your attorney, speak up.

    If you have to attend any Court or other legal proceedings, your attorney should explain to you exactly what is expected of you, how much time will be involved, and what will likely happen that day. Will you be cooling your heels in the hallway with your spouse while the attorneys speak with the Judge? Will there be any decision that day? Court is not like what we see on TV and in the movies – there is a lot of waiting. Judges have heavy caseloads and they do not always have the time to read the file before we get there. You can arrive eager and ready for action, only to find yourself 15th on a list of 20 cases.

    Attorneys are people too.

    Sometimes your relationship with your spouse plays out in your relationship with your attorney. The spouse of an aggressive and overbearing spouse retains an aggressive and overbearing attorney. That client gets swept along in an emotionally and financially costly exercise without ever being in control. Because that’s business as usual for that spouse, he or she may not even be aware of it. No personal growth occurs for that client. As a result, he or she may never be able to move beyond the divorce.

    Even if your relationship with your counsel is perfect, he or she may head off confidently in directions that you do not want. When that occurs, it’s often because your attorney has grown to care deeply about you and wishes to do whatever it takes to protect your future – sometimes without checking with you first! If you feel that your attorney has raised the battle flag and run headlong into a skirmish that you have no interest in waging, speak up!

    While no divorce is ever pleasant, if you have a good relationship with a good attorney and you work as a team, you can expect to come through the process strong, solid, and confident.

    Originally published January, 2012.

  • 21 Mar 2023 3:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Julie Auerbach, AAML Penn Fellow | Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP

    • Unparalleled experience in all areas of family law;

    • Comprehensive understanding of the interpersonal dynamics of a divorcing family;

    • Access to national and international family law related resources;

    • Leaders in advocating for and presenting legislation to the Pennsylvania legislature;

    • Access to both national and international platforms to advocate for the needs of family law clients;

    • Respected members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section and members of the Judiciary;

    • Unparalleled expertise in the intricacies of business valuations, tax laws, and the inter-workings of a wide range of assets - from closely held businesses to publicly traded companies - from patents and trademarks to artwork and collectibles;

    The attorneys in the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have experience and credentials above and beyond most family law lawyers. Academy members must pass complex and sophisticated national and state examinations to gain admittance. They must be highly regarded for their legal expertise and ethics by both other members of the bar and Judges. They are actively involved in family law organizations and often serve on and advise legislative committees addressing ways to better implement and provide for the needs of those individuals with family law issues.

    Academy members have access to cutting edge information and resources with respect to the large number of issues that can arise in a divorce, support, custody or domestic violence case. The AAML partners with other professional organizations that intersect with family law related issues, such as business valuation organizations and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

    Academy members have networks throughout the country and the world to provide the right resources needed to competently and effectively represent our clients.

    For high quality and effective representation in your family law related matter, please reach out to one of our members. A list of our members can be found here.

  • 1 Mar 2023 1:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Amy P. De Shong, AAML Pennsylvania 2022-2023 President | Wisler Pearlstine LLP

    When you contact us, be prepared to provide the opposing party’s name, address, and employment information so that can identify any potential conflict of interest before you come in to see us. We will answer any questions as well as explain the cost of the consultation and how to make arrangements for payment.

    Your contact with us is completely confidential and will remain so, even if we find that a potential conflict of interest prohibits us from meeting with you.

    While every person’s needs are unique, we find that most prospective divorce clients want to know their rights and obligations with respect to support and asset characterization and distribution. If we have the information with which to do so, we will run support calculations and give you a sense of the likely asset and liabilities distribution. In order for us to do that, we need to have some basic financial information as follows:

    1. A list of the couple’s assets and liabilities. Be sure to include retirement accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts, pensions, and profit sharing/401(k) statements. Please include mortgage balances, credit card balances, and/or student loan balances.

    2. Your most recently filed income tax return, including all schedules and attachments.

    3. Current paystubs and the most recent Forms W-2 (year-end wage statement) for both parties.

    4. If you or your spouse are self-employed, please bring the most recent business tax returns, any Forms K-1, and, if possible, a profit and loss statement.

    5. Recent statements for all bank accounts titled to you and your spouse.

    6. Information with respect to health insurance and life insurance coverage.

    7. Recent credit card statements.

    8. Documentation of expenses such as private school tuition, child care expenses, and special medical needs.

    9. An overview of the household bills and some sense of how they are being paid and by whom.

    While prospective clients often assume that they should seek or be ready to defend against the entry of a support order, we sometimes find that they are better off with an agreement that maintains their status quo. If you do not have or are not able to locate all of this information, don’t worry. Just bring what you can locate and we will take things from there!

    This article was first posted in August 2016. It is intended to be used only for informational purposes. Neither this article, nor the contents of this article, are intended to be nor should be construed as legal advice.

  • 28 Nov 2022 3:06 PM | Kelsey Peake (Administrator)

    By Amy P. De Shong, AAML Pennsylvania 2022-2023 President | Wisler Pearlstine LLP

    If you are going through a divorce, the holiday season can be a special nightmare.

    The expectations of your family of origin and/or those of your in-laws are added to the demands placed upon you by your soon to be ex, your kids, and your work place. If you are struggling financially, you may feel inadequate because you cannot provide the quality of gifts for your family that you may have provided in the past years. Commercial expressions of "good cheer" are everywhere.

    If you are the spouse who sought the divorce, you may feel some guilt or uncertainty about your decision. Your spouse may be all too good at pushing those buttons.

    Here are some tips for getting through it all:

    1. Place yourself in your children's shoes.

    Really. When you are tempted to argue with your spouse, respond to an attack launched by your spouse, or even launch one of your own, stop, breathe and think. Where are your kids at that very moment?  

    Are they in the next room? Are they in the back seat? Are they upstairs in your house? If so, they are within earshot. They are probably even straining to listen. Don't kid yourself.

    You cannot control your spouse any more than you can control the north wind. You can control your response to your spouse's behavior. Block the chance that things will escalate into an argument. Acknowledge whatever legitimate point is being made by your spouse and do your best to respond only to that. If you are wrong, say so and apologize. Offer to think about what he or she is telling you and tell him or her that you will respond later. Buy yourself some breathing room. If you can, paraphrase the content of your spouse's message, so that he or she see that you have indeed heard it. 

    Example 1: "I understand that you are mad because I got here 30 minutes late and that is making you late for your doctor's appointment. I got stuck at the office and I am sorry. I will make sure it does not happen again. Next time something happens that I cannot control, I will call you right away."

    Example 2: "I understand that you are very angry with me, but I do not think we can have a good conversation about it right now. Let's see when we can talk about (lateness, money, whatever the problem is) when we are alone and we are better able to do it without yelling at each other."

    Example 3: "I hear you. This is something that our attorneys will have to discuss and advise about because I do not know what the answer is. I will call mine first thing in the morning and ask for his/her guidance."

    Example 4: "I hear you and I want to understand why you are so upset. As long as you are screaming at me, however, I just can't do that."

    If none of this is possible, leave the room. Leave the house if you have to do so. Drive away. Whatever it takes to break the circuit. Try to envision your spouse as a co-worker. You wouldn't launch into an intensely personal argument in the work place, even if you were unfairly attacked, would you?

    2. If you normally use alcohol or other substances to get you through difficult family events, do not do it this year. 

    Remain focused and alert. You want to be in full control of your ears and mouth so that you can respond appropriately to any provocations. After having a few beers or too many glasses of wine, you will find it harder to keep your mouth shut.

    3. Demonstrate patience and grace

    If your spouse backs out of or tries to change a holiday custody agreement, is late for a pick up or drop off, or holds your kids hostage for an hour or two, go back to Tip #1. Give way.

    This is hard. It's really hard. Be that parent who takes the high road. Your kids don't care who "wins" - they just know that if mom and dad spend the next 15 minutes fighting over pick up, drop off, or who does the driving, they'll be late for or even miss their holiday concert or, worse, they will be deeply embarrassed in front of their friends. Unless your spouse's conduct threatens an overnight or the holiday itself, it rarely makes sense financially to get your attorney involved. 

    4. Remember that your new relationship takes a back seat to the (reasonable) needs of your kids. 

    If your significant other starts placing demands on you that feel unfair and unreasonable, that's probably because he or she is feeling insecure. The stress of the holidays heightens our sensitivity to that sort of thing and that means unintended slights get magnified and people make demands that make no sense. Stop, hug, and talk. Repeat as needed. Your significant other may be worried about his or her role in your life - give him or her permission to directly tell you about those feelings, rather than acting out, so that you may respond appropriately. 

    5. Do the same with your kids. 

    If it feels like your kids are making crazy demands, being especially needy, or seeking to manipulate you, ask them about their feelings and try to do directly. Are they feeling threatened by your significant other? Are they terrified that if they show any kindness toward him or her, the other parent will punish them? Are they worried that they are losing you? Consider one on one time with each child. Even an hour can mean a lot. 

    6. Be patient with yourself. 

    You are not perfect. And, let's face it, perfect people are dull. All that stuff that always drives you nuts during the holidays is still out there, in addition to your divorce. If you continue to circle back to Tip #1, you will find yourself starting the New Year without regrets. 

    This article was first posted in December 2011 and has been updated. It is intended to be used only for informational purposes. Neither this article, nor the contents of this article, are intended to be nor should be construed as legal advice. 

  • 24 Nov 2022 11:30 AM | Kelsey Peake (Administrator)

    Julie A. Auerbach, Esquire, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association on November 17 at the Annual Committee/Section Day, with the 2022 C. Dale McClain Quality of Life/Balance Award.  Presented by the PBA Quality of Life/Balance Committee, the annual award recognizes the substantial contributions that Pennsylvania attorneys have made by identifying issues relevant to balancing the professional and personal lives of their peers, and the progress made in assisting attorneys with maintaining and improving their overall quality of life.

    The award is named after C. Dale McClain, one of the founders of the Quality of Life/Balance Committee and the 114th president of PBA. McClain spent much of his career fulfilling the mission of the committee through educating attorneys on the importance of attaining a quality of life/balance in the practice of law.

    As a Co-chair of the PBA Women in the Profession (WIP) Quality of Life Committee, Julie Auerbach, is being recognized for her continued work to help attorneys learn to balance their professional and personal lives through wellness activities, educational tools and social events.

    Auerbach’s (and her co-chair and co-awardee, Anne John, Esquire) notable initiatives include coordinating the 2022 PBA WIP Wellness Luncheon Series that provided a forum for discussions about issues facing women lawyers. Program topics included assessing true financial worth, balancing career and childcare, finding time for fitness, navigating interoffice politics and paving the way for inclusivity in law firm culture. The co-chairs organized several additional WIP activities, including self-defense workshops, mindfulness walks and yoga sessions.

    Julie became a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2020. 

    Congratulations, Julie!

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