Gardner and Stevens Law Firm

KURT A. GARDNER
JOHN C. STEVENS
CONNIE J. STEVENS

Ephrata, PA 717-733-3330

Lititz, PA 717-626-7728

Lancaster, PA 717-299-0007


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Family Law

FAMILY LAW

Representing Clients in Lititz, Ephrata & Across Lancaster County

Divorce

A divorce is one of life's most trying and most critical situations. Emotions run high, and your legal rights, responsibilities and options need to be explained in a way that is clear and understandable. You need representation which is both aggressive and intelligent. We have experience from hundreds of cases over many years before both Divorce Masters and Judges litigating cases of divorce, adultery, marital misconduct, property division/equitable distribution, alimony and Postnuptial Agreements. Our skills and aggressive practice style will enable us to effectively defend your rights and pursue your interests and proves why we are the top divorce attorneys Lancaster, PA has to offer. We are able to give accurate, confident advice without getting caught up in emotion or losing sight of your goals. Our hands-on negotiating experience will give you the best chance of obtaining a favorable result without expensive litigation. These skills and our personal attention make us your most valuable ally during this difficult time.


Separation

In Pennsylvania, there is no such thing as going to court to seek “legal separation” papers. If spouses have decided to live apart from one another and no longer wish to be considered a married couple they will typically be deemed to be separated. In limited cases, spouses can still live under the same roof and still be considered separated, especially when a divorce action is filed. We advise our clients of their rights and obligations while they are separated and some of the pitfalls that they might encounter. We also evaluate whether it is appropriate to begin negotiations in the preparation of a postnuptial agreement and/or determine whether a divorce action should be filed.


Custody

Custody litigation is one of the most emotional areas, and perhaps the most important component, of a family law case. Our attorneys have decades of experience before both Custody Conference Officers and Judges litigating cases involving paternity, primary custody, partial custody and visitation, relocation and grandparents' rights. Our skills and experience are the winning combination you need when pursuing or defending your rights to time with your children or grandchildren.


Support

Making sure that you receive adequate child support and spousal support is important. If you are paying support, it is equally important to be sure that you are not over-paying. While basic support cases are often simple, complications frequently arise in cases of special needs, self-employment, disability, mortgage deviations and situations involving substantial or shared custody. We will discuss options and strategies regarding spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL) and explain the differences. With our years of experience, we are familiar with the nuances of the law which will allow us to help insure that your support is calculated accurately and fairly.


Protection From Abuse

The PFA statute is one of the most used, and unfortunately one of the most abused, laws on the books in the area of family law. Properly utilized, it is intended to protect victims of domestic violence and their children from abusive spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends and family members. Too often, however, PFA plaintiffs seek temporary protection from abuse orders for the primary objective of gaining leverage in a divorce, support or custody case. The consequences of such an action can be unexpected and far-reaching. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, our firm has decades of experience in successfully negotiating and litigating PFA claims.


Pre-Marital Agreements

Even if you own property prior to marriage, Pennsylvania law provides that your spouse may acquire an interest in that property after you are married. The law also provides for spousal support, providing of health insurance, payment of medical bills and other spousal rights if you ever separate. The only way to protect your assets and yourself is to sign a Pre-Marital Agreement, sometimes known as a Prenuptial Agreement or an Ante-Marital Agreement in advance. We have many years of experience preparing these documents, which will allow us to effectively protect your interests.


Post-Marital Agreements

Post-Marital Agreements, sometimes referred to as Postnuptial Agreements or Property Settlement Agreements are all essentially the same despite the name given to them. They are a written contract between two spouses that are in the midst or will be in the midst of a divorce action. All essential terms as to each party's rights, responsibilities and obligations are set forth in this contract. Most divorce cases are able to be resolved by this method when economic issues such as property distribution, debt distribution and support/alimony need to be addressed. Sometimes people try to save money by preparing these agreements themselves. However, many times, items are missed thereby creating more problems than they solve. Our attorneys will give you candid advice as to whether you need a postnuptial agreement, and we will prepare an analysis of your situation to properly advise you of all of your options.


Adoptions

Adopting a child is one of life's happiest times, but the law has numerous requirements and procedures, including criminal background checks, home studies, various notices and a Hearing in Court, even for an adoption by a step-parent. Agency, inter-state and international adoptions are even more complicated. Our attorneys have the experience necessary to competently guide you through these procedures, allowing you to focus on what is most important -- your new family.


Paternity Actions

Paternity can be established by many ways such as signing a paternity acknowledgment, paying child support through the court or entering into a custody action. Other times, paternity can be established by a person's actions such as when they hold the child out as their own, known as “paternity by estoppel”, or simply due to the fact that a child is born of the marriage, known as the “presumption of paternity”. Paternity can also be questioned in appropriate circumstances through DNA testing and testimony, especially when a family is no longer living together. The law on paternity is ever changing and can be complicated. Having handled many paternity actions in the past, our attorneys are able to explain the law to you and advise you of your options.


Grandparent Rights

Grandparents are playing a greater role these days in the custody of their grandchildren. Many times, grandparents are acting more like parents due to the unique circumstances of their own children. Pennsylvania has enacted a statute that specifically sets forth grandparent rights as it pertains to custody. Part of our job is to educate our clients as to what the law is and how it pertains to them. Having represented both grandparents and parents in custody situations, we will advise you of your options and best strategy to achieve your goals.


Name Change

If an adult person wishes to change their name, he or she must file a name change petition with the local county court. In order to avoid fraudulent practices, a criminal record search as well as a debt search must be conducted prior to proceeding in court. This is a relatively simple process with a brief hearing before a Judge for approval. If a child's name needs to be changed and both parents are in agreement, often times this can be done extremely simply and inexpensively, and without the need to proceed to court if the child was born in Pennsylvania. If there is a disagreement between parents, a hearing will need to take place before a Judge who will then decide whether the name change should be granted. We will be able to answer all of your questions and prepare whatever documents are necessary to seek approval of your requested name change.


The information contained herein is general in nature and should not be understood as a substitute for personal legal advice. A client-lawyer relationship has not been formed by simply viewing this website or contacting our firm for additional information. Please schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss the specifics of your individual case.