Family Law FAQ

q: I currently live with my spouse or the parent of my child but I’m thinking about leaving. What should I do before I actually leave?

a: Someone who is thinking about leaving his or her spouse or the other parent of their child should consult an attorney before leaving. Leaving the residence can impact divorce, spousal support, child support and child custody.

q: My wife and I are separated and our child will soon be 14 years old. When he turns 14 it’s up to him to decide where he will live, right?

a: No. A 14 year old child is still a child. A child is subject to the authority of his or her parents, or the court, until the child is 18. In custody disputes the question is more accurately phrased like this – “what weight is given to the child’s preference to live with one parent or the other?” The weight given to the child’s preference is entirely up to the judge assigned to the case. In our experience, the judges in Lancaster County are more interested in the reason a child gives for his or her preference than the age of the child. As a result, a judge may give more weight to the preference of a younger child who states a good reason for that preference (Mom/Dad helps me with my homework) than to the preference of an older child who states a poor reason for his or her preference (Mom/Dad just got a new flat screen TV. !!!).

q: Do you provide free initial consultations for family law matters?

a: No.

q: Why don’t you provide free initial consultations for family law matters?

a: It is not economically possible for us to offer free initial consultations for family law matters. There is enormous demand for family law attorneys. Many people who need the services of family law attorneys are simply not able to afford those services. Providing free initial consultations to all those who need them would negatively impact our ability to help our existing and future clients.

q: Wait. So you never help people without charging them?

a: Of course we help people without charging them. Like many other lawyers in our community, we are proud to participate in the formal pro-bono program organized by the Lancaster Bar Association and administered by Mid-Penn Legal Services. By example, one of our attorneys represent a client who came to us through the pro-bono program at two Conciliation Conferences and three separate days of hearings last year.

q: What do you charge for an initial consultation for family law matters?

a: My fee for an initial consultation is equal to the fee I charge for a single hour of my time – $190.00. As an accommodation to clients, however, I do not charge for any time spent with the client after the first hour during an initial consultation. In this way, I hope the client gets more value for his or her $190.00 and we have a more relaxed and productive interaction.

q: Do you accept credit cards?

a: We accept Visa and MasterCard.

q: What should I bring to the initial client consultation?

a: You should bring all court documents and other paperwork you have which is related to the situation that made you want to see a lawyer. Papers of this sort include Custody Complaints, Divorce Complaints, Petitions for Special Relief, and orders requiring you to be in court. Also, be sure to bring any letters you’ve got from the attorney representing the other party involved. Old custody orders and signed Marital Settlement Agreements are also important to bring. The general rule is that it is better to bring it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

q: What happens during an initial consultation?

a: The client talks about what prompted him or her to contact the attorney and his or her goals. At the same time, the attorney asks questions to obtain clarification or greater understanding of the facts and the client’s goals. The attorney then provides guidance on how the law is likely to be applied to the client’s facts and how the client’s goals may be achieved.



q: What is a retainer?

a: A retainer is a fee paid to an attorney at the beginning of the attorney / client relationship to secure the services of the attorney.