I Need a Family Law Attorney for my Pennsylvania Divorce/Support/Custody Case – Where Do I Even Begin?

Many individuals involved in a lawsuit realize at one point or another that they need the guidance of an attorney. The court system is a complex structure involving state procedural rules, local procedural rules, statutes as well as the practices and preferences for each decision maker. Our court system does not provide room for a “do-over” if you are unhappy with your first trip through nor does it give much leniency if a lay person (non-attorney) lacks an understanding of the controlling rules or law. A small, inadvertent error on the part of a lay person can be fatal to the success of a case.

For those reasons, its is not a surprise that many individuals decide to turn to an expert, an attorney, for guidance, advice and an education on the law as it relates to their case. Once the decision to seek out an attorney is made, many individuals do not know where to begin or how to even select an attorney. Here is the advice that I share with my friends and potential family law clients to help guide them through selecting an attorney.

  1. Obtain the recommendations of friends, family and coworkers who have been through a family law case. Word of mouth recommendations (positive or negative) can be a really powerful resource to help you identify attorneys that have been helpful to your peers in the past. Keep in mind that every case is different, so an attorney that was a good match for your friend may not be the best match for you, but this is a good launching point.
  2. Consider meeting with multiple attorneys. Every attorney is not the same and it is so important to find an attorney that is not only experienced and skilled but also has a personality and approach to the case that fits what you are looking for. A family law case is one of the most difficult and trying times of your life and one attorney’s approach to the case may be drastically different than that of another attorney. In addition, selecting an attorney that you like may ease some of the stress of court hearings and meetings.
  3. Choose an attorney who practices family law regularly in the county in which your case is based. You are paying a lot of money for their expertise in a very specialized field. Make sure they are truly an expert in the area of law covering your case and come with a wealth of education and experience.
  4. Come to your consultation with a list of questions which should include questions about the specifics of your case as well as the attorney’s practices regarding billing, communication (inside and outside of business hours), utilizing other professionals in the firm to keep your costs down (like associates and paralegals) and retainer payments. While a consultation is often geared towards discussing you and your case, this is also your chance to interview the attorney. Do not be shy about asking questions and expressing concerns.
  5. Consider a follow up consultation. I recognize that multiple consultations can be a costly endeavor. Consider asking for a shortened and discounted follow-up consultation if you still have some questions that were not answered at the first meeting.

My final comment is: if your attorney does not turn out to be a good match for you, it is okay to end the relationship in a civil and professional manner. You should feel that your attorney is your advocate as well as a trusted advisor. Having a competent and trustworthy attorney by your side should ease the burden of this difficult time.

If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth C. Early at 610-275-0700 or eearly@highswartz.com. Elizabeth is a family law attorney in Bucks County and Montgomery County specializing in many areas including divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution, pre- and post-nuptial agreements and abuse matters.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

A Primer on Impeachment in the United States According to the U.S. Constitution

November 21, 2017By Joel D. RosenImpeachment. It is a term that has been raised by political opponents, whether or not warranted, since the ratification of the Constitution, but seemingly with more frequency since the Nixon administration. Impeachment is now being raised in discussions regarding President Trump. But what do we know about the impeachment process and the history of presidential impeachment proceedings in the United States? Two previous sitting presidents, Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton, were impeached. Neither was convicted and removed from office.The U.S. Constitution sets up the removal of a sitting president through a two-step impeachment process. Article I, Section 5, states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”Article 1, Section 3 (6) states: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.”So, the basic impeachment process itself is fairly simple to understand (especially for those of us still watching Law & Order reruns). The law provides that the House of Representatives, which investigates through its judiciary committee, may charge the president with “treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Article II, section 4 of the Constitution). If the president is charged, the Senate sits in judgment as the jury during the trial phase of the impeachment process. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senators present to convict the president.But punishment is limited to removal from office. Article I, section 3 (7) states: “Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”Impeachment does not limit criminal prosecution by a state or federal court if a crime has been committed, but the Senate’s authority is limited to removing the president from office. The vice president would then fill the vacancy.Now that we are all constitutional scholars, let’s look at the only two instances when a president was impeached. Although Articles of Impeachment were drafted against Nixon they were never voted on by the House of Representatives. Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings could be consummated.Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached, meaning that Articles of Impeachment were prepared and approved by a vote of the House of Representatives. Both Johnson and Clinton had Senate trials where neither president was convicted. Johnson was impeached primarily for violation of the Tenure of Office Act (but the Articles against him also included “making three speeches with intent to show disrespect for the Congress among the citizens of the United States”). President Johnson avoided conviction by a single vote. President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of the charges and both he and Johnson remained in office after the conclusion of the impeachment process.Besides “treason” and bribery, what are “high crimes and misdemeanors?” It is a phrase that dates back to English common law and includes a whole host of possible offenses. As noted above, Congress included perjury, obstruction of justice, the violation of a federal statute and “making three speeches with intent to show disrespect for the Congress among the citizens of the United States” into the same pot with treason (a crime defined in the Constitution) and bribery.  Suffice it to say, “high crimes and misdemeanors” probably includes any offense the House of Representatives deems should be included. Its meaning has been debated and discussed, but in the end it is part politics and part legality and difficult to say which part is the greater.Whether the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” will be expanded in the near future remains to be seen.If you have any questions, please contact Joel D. Rosen at 610-275-0700 or jrosen@highswartz.com. Our attorneys in Bucks County and Montgomery County are here to assist you.The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation. 

High Swartz Lawyer Elected Pottstown Mayor

Stephanie A. Henrick wins position in Montgomery County borough governmentNORRISTOWN, Pa. (November 14, 2017) – Full-service law firm High Swartz LLP is pleased to announce that associate Stephanie A. Henrick has been elected as the Mayor of Pottstown.Henrick ran on a platform of revitalizing the economy of the city, promoting civic engagement, and improving the local government’s communication with residents. Her goal is to create a thriving, self-sustaining and environmentally friendly Pottstown community.“Pottstown is my home. I have planted my roots here, and I want to support this diverse, engaging community that has such an incredible amount of potential,” said Henrick. “I am honored to serve the residents of Pottstown and I look forward to improving our community together.”Henrick’s passion for civic service drives her personal and professional life. In addition to her elected position, she serves on the board of Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority and is active in Pottstown Rotary. She endeavors to work with integrity and contribute her expertise to the problems and needs of society in order to improve the quality of life for people in her community.At High Swartz, Henrick focuses her legal practice on estate planning, estate administration, tax law, and Social Security Disability. She earned a Masters of Law (LL.M.) in Taxation and a Certificate in Estate Planning from Villanova University School of Law.High Swartz LLP is a general practice law firm serving clients in the Delaware Valley and throughout Pennsylvania from offices in Norristown and Doylestown. Established in 1914, High Swartz serves the needs of businesses, municipalities, government entities, nonprofits and individuals. With offices in Bucks County and Montgomery County, the full-service law firm provides comprehensive counsel and legal support to individuals and business entities of all sizes across a broad spectrum of industries throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information, go to www.highswartz.com.# # #

Has Chen Changed the Face of Subrogation in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Matters?

November 7, 2017By Thomas E. PanzerThe Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act allows an employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier to subrogate to a third-party recovery. In other words, where an employee is injured while in the course and scope of employment, and the injury is due to the negligence of a third party, the employee is paid workers’ compensation benefits under the no fault workers’ compensation system, but may also sue the third party in a civil suit under a negligence theory. If the claimant recovers money from the third party, the employer and its workers’ compensation carrier are entitled to be reimbursed for payments it has made to the injured worker.The statutory right of subrogation derives from the principal against double recovery. That is, since the injured worker already received wage replacement and payment of medical bills under the workers’ compensation benefit system, they should not also be entitled to a duplicate payment from the negligent party, or tort-feasor.  Viewed differently, the employer and its workers’ compensation carrier have paid an obligation belonging to another (the tort-feasor), so when the injured worker recovers money damages from that tort-feasor, the workers’ compensation carrier should be reimbursed for their payment.The long-standing rule in Pennsylvania has been: the right to pursue the third-party action belongs to the claimant. The employer and workers’ compensation carrier’s right to subrogation follows the injured workers’ choice whether to pursue the third-party action. The employer and its workers’ compensation carrier do not have the right to pursue an action to directly enforce their subrogation interests. In fact, in one well known decision, Liberty Mutual v Domtar Paper, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reaffirmed that principal.  In that matter, Liberty Mutual filed a third-party action, “as Subrogee of” the injured worker. The suit was dismissed because the injured worker was not a participant.  Instead, the court considered the lawsuit as an improper attempt by Liberty Mutual to pursue a subrogation claim directly.The long-standing rule is again being challenged in Hartford “on behalf of” Chunli Chen v Kamara. In Chen, the insurance carrier paid workers’ compensation benefits, then filed a civil action to protect its subrogation interest.  However, unlike the Liberty Mutual case, the carrier in Chen filed “on behalf of” the injured worker. The Superior Court saw a distinction in the two actions, and allowed the civil action to proceed. The rationale was “on behalf of” implied that the carrier was pursuing all remedies available to the injured worker, for the benefit of the injured worker, and would subrogate from that recovery. Liberty Mutual was interpreted to mean that Liberty Mutual therein was simply pursuing its own subrogation interest, and not pursuing all remedies available to the injured worker.The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will review whether the carrier’s actions in Chen are allowable. If they rule in the carrier’s favor, employers and workers’ compensation carriers in Pennsylvania will have more latitude in attempting to pursue civil actions against tort-feasors “on behalf of” injured workers.  The logistic challenges of successfully pursuing those actions is the subject for a future blog.High Swartz workers’ compensation attorneys have decades of experience handling both employees and employers in Pennsylvania. Our Bucks County and Montgomery County workers’ compensation attorneys have knowledge and experience in all facets of workers’ compensation issues. If you are considering filing a claim, or if a claim has been filed against you, please contact Thomas E. Panzer at 215-345-8888 or tpanzer@highswartz.com. Our attorneys in Bucks County and Montgomery County are here to assist you.The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

High Swartz Family Law Attorney Speaks at North Carolina Bar Association

high swartzMary Cushing Doherty discusses prenuptial planning for older couples NORRISTOWN, Pa. (November 7, 2017) – Pennsylvania family law attorney Mary Cushing Doherty, a partner at High Swartz LLP and the chair of the firm’s family law practice, was recently a speaker at the North Carolina Bar Association Family Law Section CLE seminar on Nov. 2-3 in Greensboro.Doherty presented “Marriage & Divorce in the Golden Years” which discussed the benefits of prenuptial agreements and other financial considerations for adults marrying later in life. The Family Law Section seminar is a 12-hour, intensive program. Attendants must be family law specialists or have five years of legal experience in family law.A former member of the Board of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and former Chair of the Family Law Sections of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Montgomery Bar Association, Doherty has more than 35 years of legal experience in the area of family law. She concentrates her practice on all aspects of marital dissolution and family law issues including divorce, child support, visitation, custody, spousal support and alimony, premarital agreement asset protection, complex property division and more.A highly sought-after speaker in family law, Doherty received the Lynette Norton Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association Women in the Profession Committee in 2012 and also was one of the Legal Intelligencer’s Women of the Year. She has been named a Philadelphia Business Journal Woman of Distinction, and, in 2006, she received the Margaret Richardson Award from the Montgomery Bar Association, which is presented to a trailblazer who has promoted the role of women in the legal profession.High Swartz LLP is a full-service law firm serving clients in the Delaware Valley and throughout Pennsylvania from offices in Norristown and Doylestown. Established in 1914, High Swartz serves the needs of businesses, municipalities, government entities, nonprofits and individuals. With offices in Bucks County and Montgomery County, the full-service law firm provides comprehensive counsel and legal support to individuals and business entities of all sizes across a broad spectrum of industries throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information, go to www.highswartz.com.# # #

Residential Lease: More Than an Annoying Formality

November 1, 2017Picture this: you’ve been scouring Craigslist for weeks trying to find the perfect house or apartment to rent.  You finally discover one that hits all of your criteria. You contact the landlord, tour the property, fill out the application, and you think you’re ready to go to enjoy your new digs.  But the next step in the process is truly critical and too often overlooked by eager tenants…. negotiating the lease.Leases are binding legal contracts. Because it is a legally enforceable document, if you breach a provision of the lease your landlord may be able to legally evict you and seek damages.Reviewing your lease before signing it may seem like a hassle you may as well skip – please be advised, however, that there is a lot that can be learned from the document. The rights and obligations set forth in this document control every aspect of the relationship between you and your landlord: from the seemingly trivial things like the name of the bank where your landlord will hold your security deposit, to the ever important amount of rent and when its due. There will be the terms about which utilities you are responsible for, who takes care of snow removal, if pets are permitted, and many others that may become important at some later date.  Additionally, if the lease is wholly lopsided in favor of the landlord, sloppily drafted, unclear, illegible, or otherwise problematic this might be reason enough not to go ahead with the property.  A landlord who hasn’t taken the time to draft or have drafted a comprehensive and fair lease, may not be someone you want to have a legal relationship with. Paying attention and negotiating before you sign the lease will allow you some control over the terms you will be bound by.Certainly no one signs a lease intending to break the agreement.  But the simple fact is that life happens in ways that you cannot necessarily anticipate. You may need to move unexpectedly or the relationship with your landlord may sour to the point of being unbearable.  At those times specifically, it will be crucial that you already understand what you can and cannot doUltimately, it is important that you read and fully understand your lease PRIOR to signing so that know your rights for the duration of your tenancy.  If you have any questions or concerns about the lease you’ve been presented, seek legal guidance. It is far better to know what you must do to comply with a lease beforehand, rather than to realize when it is too late that you have locked yourself into an awful agreement. If, however, you realize too late that you have signed a bad lease, and you need to get out, seek out an attorney knowledgeable in landlord tenant law and they may be able to guide you to your desired outcome.If you have any questions about residential leases, please contact one of our experienced Real Estate attorneys in Bucks County or Montgomery Countyat 610-275-0700 or via email at main@highswartz.com.The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation. 

High Swartz Named a ‘Best Law Firm’ for 2018 by U.S. News – Best Lawyers

Full-service law firm in Bucks and Montgomery counties recognized for prowess in family law, municipal law, and land use and zoning litigationNORRISTOWN, Pa. (November 1, 2017) – High Swartz LLP, a full-service law firm with offices in Norristown and Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce that it has been named a “Best Law Firm” for 2018 by U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, achieving a Tier 1 ranking in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area in the practice areas of family law and municipal law, and a Tier 2 ranking for land use and zoning litigation.To be eligible for a Best Law Firm ranking, a firm must have at least one lawyer included in The Best Lawyers in America©. Attorneys are neither required nor allowed to pay a fee to be listed. For 2018, 10 High Swartz attorneys were named among Best Lawyers: Best Law Firm rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.The highest honor, a Tier 1 ranking, is based on a firm’s overall evaluation, which is derived from a combination of its clients’ impressive feedback, the regard that lawyers in other firms in the same practice areas have for the firm, and information that the firm provided to Best Lawyers via a survey. High Swartz LLP is a general practice law firm serving clients in the Delaware Valley and throughout Pennsylvania from offices in Norristown and Doylestown. Established in 1914, High Swartz serves the needs of businesses, municipalities, government entities, nonprofits and individuals. With offices in Bucks County and Montgomery County, the full-service law firm provides comprehensive counsel and legal support to individuals and business entities of all sizes across a broad spectrum of industries throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information, go to www.highswartz.com.# # #