Family Law

Compassionate Family Law Representation

Divorce and family law matters can be emotionally charged and confusing. At Caldwell & Kearns, P.C., we will guide you through your divorce, child custody or other family law matter, looking out for your best interests while seeking workable solutions.

Contact our Harrisburg law firm at 717-232-7661 to arrange a consultation. We represent individuals in family court proceedings and negotiated agreements in Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Lancaster, Franklin, Lebanon and Perry counties.

Solutions In Family Law Cases

The attorneys of Caldwell & Kearns, P.C., provide compassionate counsel and cost-effective representation. We seek out-of-court resolutions whenever possible. Even in contested proceedings, we promote your interests without needlessly escalating litigation. We handle all issues of Pennsylvania family law, including enforcing property distribution, custody and support orders:

  • Divorce and asset division — We will make an accurate valuation and creatively negotiate to produce a fair division of property.
  • Child custody disputes — We help our clients find workable parenting plans that keep both parents involved in the child’s life.
  • Child support — We can assist our clients with the following:
    • Verifying the other parent’s income for accurate determination of support (e.g., a self-employed ex-spouse).
    • Modifying child support due to a substantial change in economic circumstances (job loss/increased income) or the needs of the child (child care expenses, health insurance, special education costs, preference to live with the other parent)
    • Enforcing unpaid child support.
  • Adoptions — We represent parties in all adoption proceedings, both open and private; review of adoption agreements; and formal adoption of a stepchild.
  • Termination of parental rights — We represent individuals seeking to terminate an absent or abusive parent’s rights (contested or uncontested).
  • Grandparents’ rights — If grandparents have essentially raised a child or provided substantial care, or if they have assumed the role and responsibilities of the child’s parent, such as when the child’s parent dies or is deemed unfit, they can petition for custody. Grandparents can also seek visitation rights if they had a positive, ongoing relationship and were cut off or separated from the child.
  • Paternity — We can arrange DNA testing to prove parentage and file petitions for a mother seeking child support, or a father seeking to establish custody/visitation.
  • Name changes — If you are seeking a name change (e.g., divorce, adoption or for other personal reasons), we can help satisfy the court’s requirements, file the appropriate forms and guide you through the process.

Contact Us

Our divorce lawyers bring experience and compassion to your legal situation. Contact our Harrisburg office to arrange a consultation. We are conveniently located off I-81 on Front Street. Free off-street parking is available.

Child Custody

Lawyers With Vast Understanding Of Child Custody And Visitation Legal Issues

No matter how child custody and visitation shakes out, you will have an ongoing relationship with your ex in raising your children. At Caldwell & Kearns, P.C., our attorneys strive for workable parenting agreements that serve the best interests of the child and keep both parents actively involved.

We represent clients in out-of-court negotiations or contested custody proceedings, in pre and post-divorce custody disputes over visitation or relocation, or in custody battles where there is no marriage involved. Our Harrisburg family law practice serves mothers or fathers in Dauphin County and surrounding counties of Central Pennsylvania. Arrange a consultation at 717-232-7661.

Determination Of Custody And Visitation

The courts believe that the healthiest environment is one in which both parents share in raising the child. In most cases, you will share legal custody — both parents are involved in decisions about health care, education and upbringing. But one parent may have primary physical custody and the other may have partial custody or visitation.

  • Contested custody — Litigation is sometimes unavoidable. We sit down with clients to explain and guide you through the court process, discuss the likely outcome (and the adverse effects) of a child custody dispute, and advise clients on the do’s and don’ts to put them in the best position in the eyes of the court. For example, bad-mouthing your ex can backfire — the court looks for a home that fosters a healthy attitude toward the other parent.
  • Negotiated custody — We guide clients to a reasonable arrangement that spells out the specifics and aims for an environment of respect and cooperation. Shared custody (shared time) is one option, but may not always be in the best interests of the child. If you will be the noncustodial parent, we work to ensure you get regular contact and a favorable arrangement for weekends, holidays and vacations.

Child Custody Modifications

The custody order can be revisited when there is a substantial life change such as:

  • The custodial parent wishes to relocate beyond Harrisburg or out of state
  • An older child expresses a wish to live with the other parent
  • A parent remarries and the child doesn’t fit in with the new family
  • A parent cannot care for the child because of health, emotional or financial problems
  • Sole custody petitions — Sole custody is not about “better parenting skills” — it is granted only if the other parent is judged by the court to be unfit, whether because of child abuse, substance use, domestic violence or other danger to the child.

If the custody arrangement is a mutual decision, we can help draft the details and present it to the court for approval, including any changes in child support. If the matter is disputed, we will fight for you and the best interests of your child in a modification hearing.

Emotions can get in the way of reason in child custody matters. Our skilled and compassionate lawyers can help you see the solutions. Contact our Harrisburg office to arrange a consultation. Call us at 717-232-7661.

Support

Child Support

Child support is a regular payment a parent makes to help cover the costs of raising children. In Pennsylvania, both parents must provide financial support for their children until the children turn eighteen (18) or become emancipated. Generally, the parent with more custodial time is entitled to receive support from the other parent.

The child support amount depends primarily on the income of both parents and the number of children involved. Therefore, one of the first steps in determining a child support obligation is to figure out how much income each parent earns. In addition to what a parent makes at a job, income can include bonuses, commissions, pensions and retirement plans, social security benefits, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, interest on investments, rents from properties and gains from business dealings. When a parent does not have a job or is working at a job for which he or she is overqualified the court may attribute additional income to that parent after considering the facts and circumstances of the case.

Once a court enters an order for child support, the obligor must continue to make those payments until the order is modified or terminated. If a parent is struggling to make a support payment, they may request a modification of the support amount. A court may modify a child support order if either parent experiences a material change in circumstances.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is a regular payment one spouse makes to the other spouse when they are no longer living together. Like child support, the amount, if any, of spousal support is determined in significant part by the incomes or earning capacities of the parties. Unlike child support, however, the spouse from whom support is sought may challenge the other spouse’s legal entitlement to support based on marital misconduct.

Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite (“APL”) or temporary alimony is another form of support payable by one spouse to the other. A spouse may seek an award of APL during the pendency of a divorce action. The purpose of APL is to even the playing field between two spouses during the pendency of a divorce so they are on equal financial footing to assert their positions in negotiations or litigation. APL differs from spousal support in that marital misconduct is not a bar to the receipt of APL.

Alimony

Alimony is a regular payment one spouse makes to the other spouse to provide financial support during and/or after a divorce. Spouses may agree on the amount and duration of alimony or the court may order the amount and duration if the spouses can’t agree. The law requires Pennsylvania courts to consider the following factors in determining whether to order alimony and what type, amount, manner and duration of payments:

  • The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties
  • The ages and physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties
  • The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to medical, retirements, insurance or other benefits
  • The expectancies and inheritances of the parties
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party
  • The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of the minor child
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage
  • The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
  • The property brought to the marriage by either party
  • The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
  • The relative needs of the parties
  • The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage
  • The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
  • Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed pursuant to the divorce to provide for a party’s reasonable needs
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.

If there are significant changes in one of the spouse’s circumstances, he or she may file a motion to modify the amount or duration of alimony, if the alimony was ordered by the court or the parties’ agreement provides for modification.

The issues involved in child support, spousal support, alimony pendente lite and alimony can be very complex. The involvement and assistance of an attorney is most often highly beneficial to either party who finds themselves involved in these matters.

Divorce and Property Division

Working Out the Division Of Assets And Alimony

Everything is on the table in a divorce — from the marital estate you built together to the emotions and events that led you to this point. At Caldwell & Kearns, P.C., we help you approach your dissolution like a business deal, coming to a fair agreement with the least hostility and legal expense possible.

Our divorce and family law attorneys offer support and legal protection for clients in a difficult process. We represent individuals in Harrisburg, Dauphin County and the surrounding jurisdictions of Central Pennsylvania. Contact us at 717-232-7661 to arrange a consultation.

Divorce: The Basics

An uncontested, or consensual, divorce can be accomplished in about 90 days. A contested divorce can be accomplished by court hearing or after living separate and apart for two years.

If your spouse has already sprung divorce papers on you, we go into “protection mode” to counter any unfair advantages he or she may have with aggressive strategies of our own.

Even when a husband and wife begin the dissolution of their marriage together, good intentions for an amicable divorce sometimes fall apart. Our resolution-minded attorneys can help keep negotiations on track or stand up for you in courtroom proceedings.

Property Division

Accurate valuations are important for a fair property settlement. Our divorce lawyers sort out the financials and the issue of which assets are subject to division to make sure everything is split fairly and equitably in the division of property, such as:

  • The home and other real estate
  • Retirement assets [401(k)s, IRAs, stocks and bonds]
  • Investments and bank accounts
  • Personal property
  • Closely held businesses
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Credit cards, loans and other liabilities

Marriage Settlement Agreements

A separation agreement is a valuable tool. It can serve as a temporary division of assets, giving both sides the framework and breathing room to negotiate the remaining details of the final dissolution and a final marriage settlement agreement encompassing a fair division of all assets and debts.

Alimony/Spousal Support

Obtaining spousal support or interim alimony before the entry of a divorce decree may or may not be possible if both spouses work outside the home. Many factors must be considered when determining entitlement to spousal support and alimony.

Alimony may apply after a divorce is finalized, such as in longer marriages or where there is a big disparity in earning power. Alimony can be negotiated or decided by a judge. We can quickly determine if it would apply in your divorce and help you protect your rights.

Contact Us

Caldwell & Kearns, P.C., has the diligence and knowledge of Pennsylvania divorce law to protect your interests. Contact our Harrisburg office to arrange a consultation with experienced lawyers.

Protection from Abuse

A Protection from Abuse (“PFA”) order provides protective relief for a victim for up to three (3) years. A person can file a PFA petition for themselves or on behalf of their children who are under eighteen (18) years of age.

Each county has its own process for filing for PFA order; however, most follow the same general process. A victim of abuse can go to the court during regular business hours and ask to petition the court for a PFA Order. In most cases, the petitioner will have a brief meeting with the Judge without the alleged abuser being present and the Judge will decide whether or not to issue a temporary or “ex parte” PFA order. This order will provide protection for the petitioner until a hearing is scheduled to make the order final. Even if the temporary PFA order is not granted, the court will often schedule the case for a hearing to determine whether a final order should be granted.

The last step is to obtain a final PFA order after a hearing before a Judge. At this hearing both the petitioner and alleged abuser have an opportunity to present their respective positions. The petitioner will set forth the allegations of abuse and the alleged abuser will have a chance to defend themselves against the allegations. The court then decides whether a final PFA order should be granted and, if so, the duration and conditions of the order.

Our lawyers have experience in representing both parties to these proceedings. Contact us for representation and guidance through this process.

Adoption

Private adoptions include adoptions through private agencies, adoptions by existing family members or step-parents, and adoptions that have been arranged without the assistance of an agency. In a private adoption, the process involves terminating the parental rights of the birth parents and giving parental rights to the adoptive parents.

In Pennsylvania, any individual may become an adopting parent. A prospective adoptive parent needs to show the court that they are able to financially provide for the child as well as provide a loving and stable home. If necessary, the court may require an investigation or home study to ensure the adoptive parents are able to provide an appropriate environment for the child. Additionally, the adoptive parents must provide records pertaining to their criminal background. Parties to an adoption generally must complete a Pennsylvania child abuse clearance form and criminal record check. Pennsylvania law allows for adoptions of both children and adults.

The birth parents and adopting parents may decide to allow continuing contact between the child and birth parents. This is known as an open adoption. A voluntary agreement for continuing contact after adoption may be drafted outlining the type of contact and setting forth the parameters of the ongoing relationship. This agreement must be signed by the birth parents and adoptive parents and then must be approved by the court effectuating the adoption.

Our experienced lawyers can help guide you through the intricacies of this process.