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    • I saw a bill from a friend, and every time she talked to her lawyer she got charged. So how often should I talk to my lawyer? I don’t want to go broke.

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      Lawyers do bill by the hour and, therefore, every telephone call, e-mail and letter is a separate bill. I often recommend to my clients that they keep a notepad or an e-mail list handy and jot down questions as they occur to themselves and then contact me once a week with a series of questions to make the best use of my time and your money.

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    • I have never met with a divorce lawyer or any lawyer before. What happens in the first meeting? What should I expect? How long will it be?

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      Generally, a first meeting should last approximately an hour but may last longer if there are a lot of unusual or complicated issues. The first meeting gives you an overview the process taking into account the specific facts of your case. We will review your concerns with regard to support, custody and the division of assets and liabilities. We may discuss whether experts will need to be hired. We will also discuss interim issues such as gathering documents, whether either party will or should move out of the house, etc.

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    • How long does a divorce take in terms of the legal aspects?

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      When it's an amicable split, things can move more quickly. If you and your ex can agree on the three main legal aspects of divorce--custody, equitable distribution, and support -- then hopefully you can move through the process faster.

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    • Who gets my dog if I get divorced?

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      As a guy, I think the dog should stay with the mom in the child's primary home (most likely mom's) ... and I say this as a dog lover.

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    • I see all these ads about mediation. Does it work? What is it? What if it doesn’t work after we try?

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      Mediation is a common method used in settling divorce where both of those seeking a divorce hire a neutral third party, called a mediator, to meet with you and your soon to be ex to try to resolve the issues in your divorce. This individual tries to help both parties work through the challenges they face. The main advantage of this approach is that it is less expensive, allows you to arrive at a resolution yourselves rather than having it be imposed upon you and former couples retain more control over the process. It is much more effective for people to undertake if their split is amicable. Also, it is usually not used in cases where there is a lot of money at stake as those are often too contentious for a mediator to resolve. Remember that mediation also does not lead to a binding agreement so that it may not be worthwhile for you.

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    • I heard there are three parts to a divorce. Is that true? If so, what are they?

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      You are right-there are. The three parts are Child Support, Equitable Distribution, and Custody. Child Support is the most straightforward because it is a calculation based on income. Your divorce lawyer will give you that figure. In the Equitable Distribution phase, the marital assets are meant to be divided equally. Custody is of course regarding the children, and this is a tough area because it can always change. Either parent can request more time with the children at any time. My ex goes to his lawyer constantly so I feel like these issues can last for years even though it shouldn't take all that long to resolve them for most people!

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    • What do I need to bring to my first meeting with my lawyer? I heard I need to bring all sorts of documents, like tax returns. Is there a list of the ones I need? What if I don’t have all of them?

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      It is very helpful to bring the most recent year or two of tax returns, any personal financial statements, copies of documents indicating assets, as well as liabilities. Also, if there is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, sending a copy in advance can save a lot of time. Any proposed agreements or temporary orders that have already been entered or executed should be brought to the attorney's attention as soon as possible. Any document that you don't have, don't worry about. The attorneys can gather almost anything necessary during the normal discovery process. It is likely that you will not have access to all the documents that will be needed during the course of your divorce matter.

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    • What is arbitration? Is it like mediation? What is it good for? When is it used?

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      Arbitration is used to resolve disputes between divorcing parties. It is a type of divorce trial, but instead of being in a courtroom, the case is heard in a private setting before an Arbitrator. Issues that can be solved in this way include child custody, support, visitation, parental relocation and other modifications to a divorce decree. The key with arbitration is that it is usually a binding decision that cannot be appealed. The difference between mediation and arbitration is that mediation is really only for couples who have a very amicable split because mediation does not lead to a binding agreement, while arbitration does.

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    • Even though my husband cheated on me, a friend told me that won’t matter in terms of legal issues. Is that right?

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      Generally, fault is not a factor, particularly with regard to asset division. In some jurisdictions, it may be a factor with regard to alimony. Also, depending on the facts of your specific case, it may be relevant to custody, but only if the misconduct directly relates to a parent's ability to parent their child. In general, the Courts are not equipped to hear the details of this conduct in every divorce case.

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    • What is equitable distribution?

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      Equitable distribution means a distribution of assets that may not be 50/50. There are numerous factors that are to be considered when determining what is "equitable" and dividing your assets. Amongst others, these include length of the marriage, whether one party has primary custody of minor children, what is the size of either party's non-marital estate, what is the income disparity, what is the size of your estate. All factors are considered, other than fault, which is not to be considered in determining the division of assets, in order to come to a fair resolution which may be 50/50, it may be 60/40 or it may be 80/20.

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    • How much money does it cost to get divorced? Really what I want to know is how much will I end up paying a lawyer when it’s all done.

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      It is impossible to say how much it will cost to get divorced. You can have a very large and complicated marital estate but work together with joint experts and an amicable resolution which is relatively inexpensive or you can have a relatively minimal estate with a lot of animosity, interim issues that take up a lot of time and cost, inability to reach an agreement on the most simple issues and this will end up being extremely expensive.

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    • I know that you need to hire a lawyer for actual legal advice, but I just want to know the basics about custody.

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      It's best to discuss this issue with a lawyer because you can get a lot of free advice, but it may not be accurate. I looked up custody factors online, but still needed a lawyer to review my particular case.

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    • What should you look for in a divorce attorney? Is hiring a woman a good idea? Should I look for someone that’s tough and can fight?

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      The key is finding someone you trust, connect with, has your back and most importantly, is competent. If it's a woman, that's fine. The gender of your lawyer is less important than your relationship with her or him. I had a woman lawyer who I really liked. You definitely want someone who can fight in court if necessary -- you may not want to go to court, but it needs to be an attorney with experience there. You don't need to hire a shark -- but you do need someone who is tough, and reasonable.

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    • It seems like all the divorce lawyers in my area know each other and even worse, they all seem really friendly to one another. Isn’t that a bad thing?

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      Most often, divorce lawyers in a given area know each other. Some are friendly with each other, some less so. However, in my experience, you will almost always be better off with attorneys that get along, as opposed to attorneys who don't get along. You don't want your case to be about your attorney's personal animosity with regard to opposing counsel. You want people who can work together, who have experience with each other and can get to either a fair result or move the case forward to litigation, in the event that is necessary.

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    • Is there a formula for alimony in the state of Pennsylvania?

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      There is no formula for alimony in the state of Pennsylvania. However, there are numerous factors contained in the statute, many of which are similar to those considered for equitable distribution. One of the big differences, however, is that fault is a factor to be considered in determining alimony. However, there is more emphasis put on the disparity of incomes, what each party will receive in equitable distribution, the length of marriage, etc. Alimony is very factually based with regard to both duration and amount. In Pennsylvania, alimony is a secondary remedy.

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