Practice Areas

Kristen Zollers FathDivorce

Kristen Z. Fath has handled numerous divorce cases, both uncontested and contested.  An uncontested divorce may be the intention of the parties, and in many cases can be accomplished with the filing of the appropriate paperwork without the need for any court appearances.  For example, where there exists little or no marital property, no minor children are involved, and/or the parties agree to make no claims against each other for property or support, an uncontested divorce is possible.  If this applies to you, Ms. Fath can prepare the legal documents necessary for you to obtain a divorce with ease.

However, even if your intent is to experience an uncontested divorce, you may learn that your legal rights entitle you to property or support, so it is always best to consult with a family law attorney so you do not waive any of your important legal rights.  Ms. Fath can help you navigate your way through this transition in life.  In many cases that may seem complicated to a married couple, she can assist with the drafting of a comprehensive property settlement agreement which can ensure an amicable resolution of your differences.

Of course, an easy settlement is not always possible, but Ms. Fath is committed to achieving divorces with creative solutions that benefit the entire family.  She will discuss with you the possibility of a collaborative family law approach in lieu of litigation.  This alternative dispute resolution method has worked for countless married couples who are committed to working together, outside of court, to resolve their financial and child custody issues.

In the event that collaborative divorce is not possible, Ms. Fath has extensive experience in the litigation of all aspects of divorce issues.  She will assess your case and guide you through the process with an honest and practical approach no matter the level of discord which may arise.

Equitable Distribution

In Pennsylvania, marital property is divided in a divorce based upon the concept of equitable distribution, which means that property is divided fairly, but not always equally.  If parties to a divorce cannot agree on the distribution of their marital assets, the court will intervene and assist in this process.

It is important to be advised on the specific types of property that you or your spouse may own as you enter into the divorce process.  The characterization of property as marital or non-marital, or the combination of both, is critical in equitable distribution and an experienced family lawyer like Kristen Z. Fath can help you manage your expectations regarding how a court will assign each type of property and ultimately construct the equitable distribution thereof.

When deciding on what distribution of property is fair and equitable in a divorce case, Pennsylvania courts consider several factors, such as the length of the marriage, any prior marriage of either party, the age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party, and the opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital, assets, and income.

The factors further include the sources of income of both parties, the contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker, the value of the property set apart to each party, the standard of living established during the marriage, the economic circumstances of the parties at the time the division of property is to become effective, the tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, the expense of sale, transfer or liquidation associated with a particular asset, and whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.

Child Custody

Cases involving the custody of minor children, whether the parents are married or not, can be extremely emotional and difficult.  Kristen Z. Fath has handled numerous custody matters ranging from settlements to complex trials and understands the impact this process has on parents, guardians, grandparents, and children.  Like equitable distribution, Pennsylvania law sets forth factors which establish how the custody of children should be decided.

The controlling factors in custody concern the best interest of the child and safety considerations.  The factors include which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party, the present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party, and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.

The factors also include the parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child, the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life, the availability of extended family, the child’s sibling relationships, the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment, and the attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.

The factors further include which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs, which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs of the child, the proximity of the residences of the parties, each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child care arrangements, the level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another, the history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or a member of a party’s household, and the mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.

In addition to advising you on how these factors may apply to your custody case, Ms. Fath can help you navigate through the custody language used in Pennsylvania such as legal custody, physical custody, including primary, shared, partial, and sole physical custody.  Further, she is well versed in the difficult arena of custody relocation cases where one parent or guardian wishes to relocate and how this proposed move may affect the custody rights of the parties.

Child Support

In almost all cases involving child custody, the issue of child support is present. Kristen Z. Fath can assist you in the determination of child support calculations based upon the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. This includes the calculation of net income to establish support, earning capacity issues where no actual earnings are realized or a party is not achieving his or her earning potential, as well as difficult cases involving self-employed parties and business owners. An experienced family lawyer is necessary to advise you of your rights and how child support is determined, especially in cases involving difficult financial and custody issues.

Alimony, Spousal Support and APL

In many divorce cases, one of the parties is entitled to alimony, spousal support and/or alimony pendente lite (APL).  Kristen Z. Fath is experienced to guide you through your entitlement or obligation to these forms of periodic payments to or from your spouse based upon the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.

Claims for spousal support and/or APL may arise prior to or contemporaneously with a claim for divorce.  Addressing these issues as soon as possible with an experienced family law attorney like Kristen Z. Fath is critical to securing your financial rights since the claim to receive these periodic financial payments must be filed with the court or these important rights may be waived and/or no retroactive support will be awarded.

Unlike spousal support and APL, alimony is an economic claim that can be raised seeking periodic payments after the entry of a divorce decree.  Also unlike spousal support and APL, the support guidelines are not used to establish the award of alimony or the amount of the alimony.  Alimony is awarded based upon factors established under Pennsylvania law.

The factors include the relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties, the ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties, the sources of income of both parties, the expectancies and inheritances of both parties, the duration of the marriage, the contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party, the extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child, and the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.

The factors further include the relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment, the relative assets and liabilities of the parties, the property brought to the marriage by either party, the contribution of a spouse as homemaker, the relative needs of the parties, and the marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage.

Support Enforcement

The court has the power to enforce any award of child support, alimony, spousal support or APL.  Kristen Z. Fath can guide you through the process of seeking support enforcement if your payments have fallen behind.  Support enforcement has gotten more and more effective over the years and many remedies exist to secure your receipt of these periodic financial payments.

Protection From Abuse

If you feel you are the victim of domestic abuse or you have been accused of domestic abuse, you should seek the advice of a family lawyer right away.  Kristen Z. Fath has handled both sides of numerous Protection From Abuse actions and can help you through this difficult process with compassion and accomplished experience.  It is critical to know your rights in this area of the law as a Protection From Abuse Order (a PFA) can have consequences in other areas of your domestic case and beyond.