Pro Tip: Get Involved and Stay Informed In Your Family Law Matter

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.          3 minute read

The best case outcomes in many family law matters depend on active, ongoing client involvement and two-way communication between attorney and client. A good working relationship between attorney and client is often essential for a good outcome in family law matters.

Unlike some other areas of law practice, family law matters depend on open, ongoing, two-way communication between lawyer and client. Divorce and child custody matters are often emotional. Events often take place during family law litigation that could impact the outcome of a case. Unless the client and his or her counsel have an open line of communication, the chances for the best possible outcome can decline.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

Common reasons why some clients are reluctant to keep their counsel abreast of new developments in their family law matter. 

a) Some clients feel like they will be overcharged for sending their lawyer a short email or asking a simple question. If you find yourself in this situation, bring it up to your lawyer without delay.

b) Sometimes a client will think that newly discovered information will hurt their case, so they say nothing and hope it goes unnoticed. This is a big mistake. Let your lawyer decide what is important. If you don’t keep your lawyer informed, you could get blindsided at trial.

c) Some family law clients are simply not in an emotional state to stay on top of the issues involved in a high conflict family law matter. This is common. The best thing to do is seek professional help. Mental health treatment can be a key component to becoming the best person you can be. There is no shame or stigma for reaching out for professional help, especially in times of great stress. Do not wait.

Your attorney is your advocate. Forming a great working relationship can often impact the result in your family law matter. I invite your inquiry. Feel free to contact my office at (610) 256 4843.

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Using Social Media in Child Support and Child Custody Cases

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.                             3 minute read

Use Social Media With Extreme Caution During Your Child Support or Child Custody Matter 

Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are fertile grounds for family law attorneys to gather evidence in support or custody cases. Skilled attorneys can navigate the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence to get the social media postings authenticated, and admitted in evidence.

Heavy Drinking, Drug Abuse, and Reckless Behavior Should Not Be Undertaken and Then Documented on Social Media if you are in a Custody Battle. 

It always amazes me how some people doom their own family law case by posting damaging evidence on their own social media accounts.

I recently represented a father in a high conflict child custody case. The mother had dozens of postings on her social media profiles proudly displaying her hard partying, illicit drug taking, intoxicated lifestyle. In nearly every photo she posted on her social media accounts, this mother was holding a beer can, or a shot glass, or a marijuana pipe, and she always appeared impaired and disheveled. The young child who was the subject of this custody dispute also appeared in many of the mother’s social media postings.

A good lawyer will have relevant social media postings admitted in evidence at trial.

I properly authenticated every single social media posting of the mother that my client obtained off of the mother’s social media accounts. Every piece of evidence was admitted in evidence. Needless to say, I was able to secure a great result for the father. Pictures don’t lie. Especially when you have dozens of pictures, all with the common feature of mother’s frequent heavy drinking, and frequent heavy cannabis use, while she had  physical custody of the young child. In the days before social media, obtaining this type and quantity of evidence would have been much more difficult, if not impossible. I am amazed that some people have no idea how they continue to doom their own child custody case via their use of social media.

Evidence From Social Media May Be Used in Spousal and Child Support Cases

In recent years, evidence retrieved from social media platforms has been used by savvy attorneys to support allegations of hidden assets or the underreporting of income. Social media postings by litigants in support cases who post details of frequent exotic trips, and their fancy new six-figure automobiles, can and do work against certain litigants in a support case. I am amazed how often litigants unthinkingly post photos of their new exotic sports cars, and expensive trips (often with their new paramour), even though they have a pending, hotly contested, support case where they claim an income that cannot possibly support such a lifestyle.

If you are a litigant in a support matter, use proper discretion when posting personal information about your new Italian sports car on social media.

For some reason, certain family law litigants seem to create problems for themselves by making bad decisions, being reckless, then documenting their recklessness on social media platforms for the whole world to see and discover.

Always try to think things through, with a clear head, and make good decisions that will impact your family law case in a positive manner.

Feel free to contact my office at 610 256 4843 to schedule a consultation about your family law matter.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Who the (BLEEP) did I marry? This is NOT a question you want to be asking yourself.

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.             3 minute read

I was recently introduced to a television show titled “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? Being a divorce and family law attorney, I could not resist finding out more about the program.

Nobody should EVER allow themselves to stay in an abusive relationship. Keep your eyes open and trust your instincts before getting married.

Basically, the show is based on marriages where one newlywed has kept a deep, dark secret from their spouse. In fact, sometimes they have more than one deep, dark secret. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting spouse finds him or herself starring in their own real-life horror movie, with no easy way out.

Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? tells the unenviable stories about people who get married without really knowing the dark details about who they are marrying. Much like the show, I have seen people rush into a marriage for many reasons, and without knowing the other person very well. This is a high-risk gamble with a huge potential downside.

The real life stories are endless. Do your homework.

Some people feel that they “cannot do any better” so they “settle” on marrying their current partner. Some people feel that time is somehow “running out” and they want to get married before doing their homework. I have also seen couples enter into a marriage because their parents, friends, and or family members pressure them to get married. Of course, nobody should ever feel pressured to make a life decision, (such as getting married) unless and until they are ready.

The Evil Beauty, A Dangerous Affair, I Will Control You, Living a Double Life. Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? You do NOT want to be asking yourself this question. Do your homework. Take your time. Getting married is easy. Getting divorced can be difficult.

Be wary of spousal abuse before you walk down the aisle. Spousal abuse can take many forms. Economic abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Sexual abuse. While it is not always possible to completely vet a potential spouse, it is possible to keep your eyes open for tell-tale signs of possible abuse. Take your time. Listen to your instincts. Open your eyes. Wide. Early. Often. Things rarely get better.

I have been contacted by many potential divorce clients who endure abusive marriages, and end up wondering “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry”? Sometimes they wait for years to take action because they do not want to be alone, or they feel like they would be considered a failure if they initiate divorce proceedings. While it is almost always preferable to work things out wherever possible and reasonable to do so, sometimes marriages become non-functioning or abusive.

In reality, I do not know of one person who escaped an abusive relationship or non-functioning marriage who was not convinced that they made the right decision. Actually, every abused person I ever met who did take action wishes they didn’t wait as long as they did. Most people saw warning signs, but chose to ignore them.

Proceed with caution before getting married. You do not want to star in your own version of “Who the (Bleep) did I Marry”?

While nothing in life is 100% certain, proceeding with caution can help prevent you from ever starring in your own version of “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry”?

I welcome your comments.

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Child custody matters are not always ripe for family court

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.            3 minute read

Dear Potential Child Custody Clients,

I want to remind you that your children are unique. They are very special. They are one-of-a-kind. When you cannot come to an agreement with the other parent regarding some aspect of your child’s life, it is usually best to attempt to keep trying. Most excellent family law attorneys are good negotiators. They can help facilitate a fair resolution to child custody matters, often without court intervention. I realize that some parents can be hard-heads. Or passive-aggressive. Or mean. Or toxic. Or intoxicated. Or recalcitrant. Or oppositional. Or spiteful. Or jerks. Or all of the above.

Sometimes the other parent will undermine everything you say or do, even if they know what you are trying to do is clearly in your child’s best interests. I have even handled child custody matters where the “toxic” parent has nothing better to do than to try to thwart the other parent’s attempt to make a better life for their child. It happens all the time. There are ways to deal with the problem parent. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you.

Think twice before rushing into custody litigation.

The point of this post is to have you think twice before using the family courts to decide your child custody matter. Nobody knows your child better than you know your own child. When called upon, family courts work very, very hard to try to make decisions that “are in the best interests of the child”. Unfortunately, family court judges are human. They cannot possibly observe your child as often as you do. They could never know as much as you know about your own child.

When you search for a child custody attorney, try to remember that the more decisions that you can make that impact your child, without involving the courts, the better. The family courts should be used as a last resort, not your initial move. Too often, I see cases where one parent rushes to file a custody petition, even before they have tried to come to an agreed, amicable resolution with the other parent that would truly benefit the child. Sometimes one parent (or both) let the emotions of the divorce or separation interfere with putting the needs of the children first. Always remember that your child did not choose to be involved in a custody conflict. Keep your focus where it needs to be: on the best interests of your child.

Feel free to contact my office if you are in a high conflict child custody situation. Perhaps not all is lost, and things can be resolved without the time and costs associated with litigating in the family courts. I welcome your inquiry.


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Why you want a Smart and Savvy Lawyer, not a Rude and Obnoxious Lawyer

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.       5 minute Read

Smart, focused, savvy lawyers nearly always beat rude, obnoxious, bombastic lawyers in Family Court. 

As a family law attorney who has been involved in some epic battles, I want to share some insight. When all is said and done, the smart, focused, savvy and hard working lawyers nearly always beat the rude, obnoxious and bombastic lawyers in family court. Most excellent family law attorneys do not get caught up in the mindless and counterproductive fighting brought on by their adversary. The best lawyers are focused on winning their cases, and achieving favorable outcomes for their clients.

When lawyers fight with each other, progress grinds to a halt. Yet the meter is still running for the client.

When lawyers fight with each other, the client does not benefit. Skilled litigators are not baited by opposing counsel.

I am not sure why some divorce, child custody, and family law attorneys think that they must “put on a show” for their clients. I can’t tell you how many nasty letters and emails I have received from opposing counsel where they make absurd allegations about my client that are neither truthful, nor relevant to the issues in the case. Some letters even make ad hominem attacks on me for skillfully protecting and advancing my client’s rights. I find it interesting that some lawyers actually believe that the nasty, bombastic letters they send me will somehow positively impact the outcome of the family law matter in favor of their client. These letters are nothing more than an ill-advised or ignorant attempt by opposing counsel to demonstrate to their client what a “nasty shark” their client has hired. Then the “nasty shark” lawyer bills their client for the totally ineffective letter. The smart, savvy, and hard working lawyers are not at all impacted by nasty shark tactics. The smart and savvy lawyers can (and do) nearly always beat the nasty shark in every area of family law cases.

Nearly all nasty, obnoxious letters I receive are from opposing counsel who either a) do not know me well, and/or b) they do not know any other way to act. Some lawyers only have one mindset, and they only know one method to approach every case. They cannot understand the difference between motion and progress. Avoid hiring these types of lawyers to handle your family law matter, unless you enjoy wasting time and money.

These attorneys love to “put on a show” for their client. In nearly every situation, the nasty letters do nothing more than inflate the billable time opposing counsel charges their client, while doing nothing to resolve the legal issues in the case. In other words, inflammatory letters exchanged between lawyers are rarely (if ever) effective in resolving important legal issues and moving a family law case forward. They are only an effective tool in costing clients time and money.

Attorneys who Encourage Fights – A Big Red Flag When Choosing Legal Counsel

Family law cases get emotional. Divorce and child custody issues are rarely easy for either party. Emotions run high. If your attorney is encouraging fights over trivial matters, that is a red flag. Great lawyers can and do make terrific arguments on points that really matter to help you get a favorable outcome in your case. That is the bottom line.

Is your divorce or child custody lawyer really listening to you?

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.                  4 Minute Read

Last year I wrote about choosing your divorce or child custody attorney very carefully. Based on the number of contacts I am receiving from people who want to retain me as their second, third or fourth family law attorney, it seems as though some people are rushing to hire the first attorney they meet. It is usually best if you are not constrained to switch attorneys before your family law case is concluded. I realize that things do not always work out as planned when you hire a family law attorney. However, early due diligence on your part could save time, costs, and stress. Here below are some of “red flags” to consider when choosing a family law attorney.

in-sync-rowing-with-your-lawyer
The more in sync you are with your family law attorney, the more you may increase your odds for a favorable result. Working closely as a team can also help your family law matter move more quickly. This could help drive down costs.

RED FLAG # 1 – BEWARE IF YOU HEAR “DON’T WORRY, I’LL HANDLE EVERYTHING” BEFORE FULLY EXPLAINING THE FACTS OF YOUR CASE

Sometimes family law matters can get emotional. Clients are usually stressed. Tensions run high. Much is at stake. It is at this moment that you need to be sure that any potential attorney you may hire is carefully listening to the facts of your case and clearly understanding your goals. Any lawyer who rushes you, or tries to minimize your specific situation, is likely not someone who will get you the best results. If your concerns are constantly met with “don’t worry, I’ll handle everything”, even before you have finished explaining the facts of your family law matter, you should probably continue interviewing potential legal counsel.

RED FLAG #2 – BEWARE OF THE LAWYER WHO SAYS “I HAVE SEEN THIS ALL BEFORE, DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING”

In my opinion, with very limited exception, there is no such thing as a “routine” family law matter. Every situation is a little bit different. For example, sometimes very small nuances in a child custody case can be a decisive factor. If one or both parties are predisposed to conflict, small nuances can sometimes blow up into  unnecessary battles. It is nearly always a good idea to try to minimize potential conflict. A competent lawyer who fully understands your position is normally in the best position to advocate for you, while trying to minimize conflict. A level-headed attorney who actively listens and understands your goals is usually in the best position to help deliver the best results.

RED FLAG #3 – YOUR CALLS AND EMAILS ARE RARELY RETURNED.

Attorneys who handle divorce, child custody, child and spousal support, Protection from Abuse (PFA’s), and other family law matters are in court a significant amount of time. That means your calls or emails may not be returned until after 5 pm. If your calls or emails are often not returned at all, you should find out why. This may be a red flag.

INTERVIEWING A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY BEFORE HIRING HIM OR HER IS TIME WELL SPENT. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SEARCH VIGOROUSLY. TAKE NOTE OF HOW JUST WELL YOU ARE BEING HEARD. IF YOU ARE IN SYNC WITH YOUR FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY AND YOUR CASE IS MOVING TO A SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION, I CONGRATULATE YOU IN THE SELECTION OF YOUR LEGAL COUNSEL.

I invite your inquiry. (610) 256 4843. jonathancnobleesq@gmail.com

 

 

Without Making Timely Objections on the Record at Trial, Get Ready for an Uphill Battle on Appeal in Your Family Law Matter

by Jonathan C. Noble                                3 minute read

YOU MUST PRESERVE YOUR RIGHTS AT THE TRIAL COURT LEVEL IF YOU WISH TO PURSUE AN APPEAL. ISSUES THAT ARE NOT PRESERVED AT TRIAL ARE NORMALLY WAIVED ON APPEAL.

I am sometimes contacted by a family law litigant who wants me to handle their appeal. They do not agree with some aspect regarding the outcome of their family law matter. For example, they are convinced that their divorce decree is somehow unfair, or they allege the court mistakenly allowed damaging hearsay testimony during a child custody trial, or that unauthenticated documents were improperly admitted in evidence during a final PFA hearing.

Many potential appellants mistakenly believe they get to re-try their entire family law case on appeal. For pro se family court litigants, pursuing an appeal is usually the first time they seek to hire an attorney. Unfortunately, even the best appellate lawyers cannot undo the damage that has already been done at the trial court level.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esquire
Jonathan C. Noble, Esquire

IN PENNSYLVANIA APPELLATE COURTS, REVERSIBLE ERROR ALONE IS NOT USUALLY ENOUGH TO PREVAIL ON APPEAL.

When I interview a potential client regarding an appeal, I dig into any possible reversible error made by the trial court.  However, unless a specific and timely objection is made on the record before or during trial, most reversible errors made by a trial court are almost always waived on appeal. In other words, unless a litigant (or his or her counsel) makes a timely objection to any aspect of the proceedings, at trial or before trial (i.e. filing a motion in limine), and unless the objection is noted on the record, the issue cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but the exceptions are rare.

NON-LAWYER, PRO SE LITIGANTS IN FAMILY COURT ARE OFTEN DOOMED ON APPEAL

I have seen my fair share of non-lawyer, family court litigants attempt to represent themselves in family court. This is a mistake that often leads to a less than optimal outcome. Often without recourse. Most non-lawyers are not familiar with the Rules of Civil Procedure. Most non-lawyers do not understand the Rules of Evidence. Non-lawyers are not familiar with the statutes and decisional law that courts are constrained to follow. Non-lawyers (as well as many practicing trial attorneys) are not familiar with the Rules of Appellate Procedure. A non-lawyer who represents himself or herself in family court is analogous to a person walking in a mine field, with a blind fold on. You may get a good result by getting to the other side unharmed, but if you do, you will be beating the odds.

DO NOT GIVE UP WHEN SEEKING LEGAL COUNSEL IN ANY FAMILY COURT MATTER, OR ON APPEAL. YOUR FUTURE MAY DEPEND ON IT.

Last week, I saw a bumpersticker that read: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. The same holds true for having competent legal counsel on your side in any important legal matter. If you can’t afford the attorney of your choice, contact your local bar association for a referral until you find an attorney who you trust, and can afford. Some local county bar associations have a “legal access project” where some attorneys take certain cases at a reduced fee. If you qualify as a low income party, you should contact your local legal aid office. In addition, some law schools may have a family law clinic, where third year law students are permitted to represent clients in certain family law matters. The bottom line: do NOT give up when seeking legal counsel in family law matters.

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