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March 2013 Archives

Court Conciliation and Evaluation Service

The Court Conciliation and Evaluation Service, or CCES for short, is a program in Bucks County that conducts custody evaluations for pending court cases. Parties to a custody matter would participate in a series of sessions with an assigned evaluator. The goal of the program is to facilitate an ideal co-parenting relationship that provides for the best interests of the child(ren) involved. The end result of the program is either an agreement on custody or a full clinical report including a recommendation which is then provided to the court. In addition to the parents and the children, additional parties can be interviewed as part of the CCES process based on their role in the parties' lives or unique insight they may be able to provide. On average, it takes 6-8 weeks for the process to be completed with the report due to the court within 45 days of the final session. An expedited evaluation which is completed in a matter of days is possible only in emergency situations or when one or both of the parties live out-of-state.

Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite, or APL, is spousal support while the divorce is pending. A party may petition for APL at the same time as the divorce complaint or any time thereafter prior to the entry of a final decree. The purpose of APL is to ensure each party has the ability to sustain themselves during the divorce. A party seeking APL should be ready to prove they lack sufficient property to provide for their reasonable means and are financially unable to support themself during the pendency of the divorce litigation. It is the income-dependent spouse who would have the opportunity to receive APL.

Mandatory Waiting Period for Divorce

Many states require some waiting period between when a divorce complaint is filed and when a divorce will be granted. In Pennsylvania, a no-fault divorce may be granted after a waiting period of 90 days provided both parties consent to the divorce at the conclusion of the waiting period. This waiting period is often referred to as a cooling-off period. It is arguably utilized in many states to give the parties an opportunity to reflect on the severity of the decision to get a divorce and/or seek marital counseling to see if the relationship can be saved. At this point, almost half of the states have some waiting period between when you file and when you can be divorced.

Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree, Court Order or Contract

A U.S. Court will recognize a foreign divorce decree under the doctrine of comity so long as the party has established domicile in the foreign country. As discussed in Hilkmann v. Hilkmann, [c]omity is a recognition which one nation extends within its own territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another. It is not a rule of law, but one of practice, convenience, and expediency. Although more than mere courtesy and accommodation, comity does not achieve the force of an imperative or obligation...Comity should be withheld only when its acceptance would be contrary or prejudicial to the interest of the nation called upon to give it effect. 2003 PA Super 25 (2005). A U.S. Court will invoke comity by its discretion and will usually look at two factors: whether the foreign court had jurisdiction, and whether fair procedures were used.

Discovery in Family Law

Discovery is the process of obtaining information from the opposing party in the course of a lawsuit. Discovery is governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure (Pa. R.C.P.). Rule 1930.5 states that there shall be no discovery in a simple support, custody or Protection from Abuse proceeding unless authorized by court. In order for you to be allowed to send discovery in a support matter, you must get your case deemed complex by the court. Discovery is allowed in alimony, equitable distribution, counsel fee and expense proceedings and in complex support cases without leave of court. The information requested must be relevant to the case pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 4003.1. In divorce, the court gives much leeway as to what is relevant since the factors for equitable distribution allow for broadness.

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