ALLEGHENY COUNTY DIVORCE PROCEDURES
In Allegheny County, a divorce action begins with the filing of a Complaint in Divorce by an Allegheny County divorce lawyer. The defendant-spouse usually is served with the Allegheny County Divorce Complaint by certified mail. If the divorcing spouses are unable to agree on the issues of equitable distribution, alimony, and related claims, the Allegheny County Family Court Judge assigned with the case can not begin the formal court process for division of marital property and debts until the parties' Allegheny County divorce decree is ready to be entered by the Court. This could be as soon as 90 days after service of the Divorce Complaint or as long as 2 years after the spouses' separation.
The formal process for equitable distribution begins with both spouses (through their Allegheny County Divorce Attorneys) filing a formal inventory of their assets and debts and the informal or formal exchange through discovery of documents relating to income, assets and debts. Thereafter, an equitable distribution conference can be scheduled which consists of the Allegheny County Divorce Lawyers and assigned judge discussing settlement proposals in the judge's chambers. Generally, the divorcing spouses must be present in the courthouse so any agreement can be reduced into writing and signed on the same day.
If a settlement does not occur during the first conciliation, the Allegheny County family court judge will either schedule second equitable distribution conciliation or will set a date for trial. In complex equitable distribution cases involving self-employed individuals or business owners where protracted testimony regarding income or the valuation of a business will be presented, the Allegheny County Family Court judges will usually assign the case to an Equitable Distribution Master to hear the testimony and enter a proposed order of court. The two Masters employed by the Court are both former Allegheny County divorce lawyers.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY CHILD CUSTODY PROCEDURES
A child custody action is initiated by an Allegheny County Child Custody Lawyer filing a Complaint for Custody of Minor Children or a formal petition seeking to modify an already established Custody Order of Court. Thereafter, the parents (or other third party involved in the case such as grandparents) and any minor children over the age of 6 are required to attend the Allegheny Generations program educational seminar in any case where child custody issues are raised by the parties. Next, the parties are required to attend a Custody Mediation session with a court-appointed mediator who may be a counselor familiar with custody laws or an attorney. If an agreement is not reached in mediation, the parties and their Allegheny County Custody Attorney will attend a Custody Conciliation in the Family Court's Generations department. A Custody Conciliator will consider the statements by the lawyers and parties and offer settlement recommendations. If a settlement is not reached, the Conciliator may direct that court-ordered psychological evaluations be completed and will enter an order setting forth each parties' financial cost for the same.
Once the court-appointed psychological evaluations are completed, either parent's Allegheny County Child Custody Lawyer can request a custody conciliation with the assigned Family Court judge. The Family Court judge will review the evaluation and make recommendations for settlement. If a settlement is reached, a Consent Order of Court is drafted during the conciliation and signed by all parties. If a settlement is not reached, the Family Court judge will schedule a pre-trial conference and dates for trial.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY SUPPORT PROCEDURES
All actions for child, spousal support, and alimony pendente lite in Allegheny County support actions start with the filing of an Allegheny County Support Complaint. (Claims for alimony in Allegheny County are resolved as part of the equitable distribution process.) The Family Court then schedules a support conference where the parties and their Allegheny County support lawyers will attempt to settle their dispute with the assistance of a Support Conference Officer. If an agreement is reached, a Consent Order of Court is typed and signed by all parties. If no agreement is reached, the case is heard the same day by a Support Hearing Officer.
The Support Hearing Officers are Allegheny County support attorneys employed by the court to take testimony from the parties, hear legal arguments from the Allegheny County support attorneys, and to enter a Recommended Support Order of Court. If either party disagrees with the Recommendation, Exceptions to the Hearing Officer's Recommendation can be filed within 20 days. The Exceptions are heard by the assigned Allegheny County Family Court Judge who will consider the transcripts of testimony and written briefs from the support lawyers.
OUR ALLEGHENY COUNTY FAMILY LAWYERS
To learn more about our Pennsylvania family law firm, and to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our experienced Allegheny County family law lawyers, click here to schedule an appointment or telephone our Pittsburgh office at 412-281-9906, our Cranberry Township office at 724-776-9906, our Southpointe office at 724-436-5500, or toll free at 1-855-VARI-LAW (1-855-827-4529).
Our Pittsburgh law office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and evenings by appointment, our Southpointe office is open 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and our Cranberry Township office is open by appointment only.
Appointments may also be available at other meeting locations if special arrangements are made in advance with our office. Ask the secretary scheduling your appointment for details including appointment locations.