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Family Law
The following is a brief explanation of the steps in a divorce case (in Pennsylvania):

1.  A divorce complaint is filed with the Court by the Plaintiff (the spouse that files the divorce complaint).  The Court filing fee starts at approximately $200 plus additional fees depending on the relief requested.
2.  A filed copy of the complaint is served on the Defendant (the other spouse).
3.  Either a Certificate of Service or an Acceptance of Service is filed with the Court.
4.  After 90 days following the date that the complaint is served on the Defendant, Plaintiff and Defendant file Affidavits of Consent and Waivers of Notice with the Court.
5.  A marital settlement agreement that includes a resolution of all issues in the case, including custody, support and equitable distribution (property division), can be prepared and signed by the parties at any time.
6.  A Praecipe to Transmit Record is filed with the Court along with the marital settlement agreement.
7.  The Court will review the file and notify the party that filed the Praecipe to Transmit Record (usually the Plaintiff) if there are any missing documents.  Otherwise, the Court will issue a divorce decree.

In cases that require the Court's assistance to resolve custody issues, the following are the steps (in Pennsylvania):

1.  A custody complaint is filed with the Court by the Plaintiff (the parent that files the complaint).  A county for custody can be included in the divorce complaint if appropriate.
2.  The Court will direct the parents to attend parenting classes and mediation.
3.  If the issues cannot be resolved through the mediation process, a conciliation conference will be necessary.
4.  At the conciliation conference, the Conciliation/Master will attempt to have the parents reach an agreement.  If the parties reach an agreement, an Order will be entered.  If the parties do not reach an agreement, the next step necessary varies by county.

In cases that require the Court's assistance to resolve support issues, the following are the steps (in Pennsylvania):

1.  A complaint for support, which my include child support and/or spousal support, is filed with the Domestic Relations office by the Plaintiff (the party that is owed support).
2.  A conference will be scheduled by the Court and notices will be sent to both parties.
3.  At the conference, both parties must be present and must provide documentation regarding income.  A recommendation for a support Order will be made during the conference.  If an agreement is reached, the recommendation will become a final Order.  If an agreement is not reached, a hearing before a Master will be scheduled.
4.  At the hearing before the Master, which varies by county, information will be presented to the Master to allow the Master to issue a recommendation as to the appropriate amount of support. If either party disagrees with the Master's recommendation, exceptions may be filed, which is a request for a Judge to determine the appropriate amount of support.  The procedures for filing exceptions and the next steps after the exceptions are filed vary by county.

In cases that require the Court's assistance to resolve equitable distribution (property division) issues, the following are the steps (in Pennsylvania):

1.  Detailed information regarding assets, debts, income and expenses are submitted to the Court by both parties.  A conference will scheduled by the Court for a Master to discuss with the parties and/or attorneys issues regarding the exchange of documents, property division, alimony and counsel fees.  If an agreement can be reached by the parties, that agreement will become part of the divorce decree either by the terms of the agreement being placed on the record or the submission of a written settlement agreement to the Court.  If an agreement is not reached at the conference, additional proceedings will take place and those proceedings vary by county.  In Chester County, if the parties cannot resolve the equitable distribution issues, there is a filing fee of $511.

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