I may have just saved you $10,000.00 in your child custody dispute

Watch this video. Listen. Learn.

Sometimes I will come across some great family law related content. No two child custody cases are exactly alike. Child custody laws vary from state to state. Even judges who sit in the same jurisdiction can have different views. However, take a few minutes to listen to what this North Carolina family court judge had to say. This is a low budget video. However, in my opinion, the content is worth more than any slick, high-cost production video any lawyer or law firm can produce.

Keep your kids out of custody litigation

by Jonathan C. Noble         2 minute read

Keep your kids out of the middle

Every so often I see a parent try to pull their child into a child custody dispute. This is not a good idea. It is hard enough being a kid these days. Asking a young child to choose one parent over the other is often a bad idea. With very limited exception, kids should have ongoing access to both parents whenever possible.

Do not put pressure on your kids by pulling them into a custody battle. Be smart, even if the other parent is not smart. Leave your kids out of the fray.

Sole physical or sole legal custody: not likely

Unless there is compelling evidence under the law to preclude one parent from sharing physical or sharing legal custody of their minor child with the other parent, and both parents want to be in their child’s life, it is unlikely a court will order sole legal or sole physical custody of a child to only one parent. Sharing physical custody does not mean the parents will have equally shared physical custody on a 50/50 basis. No matter how much you may despise the other parent, they too have child custody rights under Pennsylvania child custody law. I have represented convicted felons out on parole in child custody matters. Unless there is a compelling reason under the law why a convicted felon out on parole cannot share custody of their child, a court will likely grant their request for a shared custody arrangement. No two family law cases are exactly alike. The specific facts of your case, and how those facts are presented to the court are two key elements of how your custody case will be decided.

Try to speak respectfully about the other parent. If you can’t speak respectfully about the other parent, then say nothing.

Children are like sponges. They pick up everything adults do and say. Even from an early age, children understand the difference between right and wrong. They understand hypocrisy. When you speak negatively about the other parent in front of the child, it often hurts children in a way they cannot easily ignore or defend. “If you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything”. Your kids will appreciate it, even if they do not say it. Children learn from your behavior. Be smart. Always take the high road. You can’t control the other parent.

If you are considering hiring an attorney in your family law case, search vigorously, select wisely.

Finding the right attorney to represent you in any legal matter can be difficult and time-consuming. I recommend speaking to at least two attorneys before hiring one. If you feel like you need to speak to more than two or three attorneys, keep searching before hiring one. Do NOT feel pressured into hiring an attorney until you are ready. Changing attorneys during a family law case can be expensive and counter-productive. Search vigorously from the start. Select wisely.

I look forward to hearing from you either for a brief phone inquiry or to schedule an in-depth initial consultation. I can be reached at  610 256 4843 or jonathancnobleesq at gmail dot com. I will consider representing individuals in complex family law cases throughout Pennsylvania.

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Pro Tip: 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 family law attorney should be your trusted 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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Social Media meets Family Law

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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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 child 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 / Savvy Lawyer, not a Rude / 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.

Family Law 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.

Without Making a Good Record at Trial, Get Ready for an Uphill Battle on Appeal

by Jonathan C. Noble                                3 minute read

YOU MUST PRESERVE YOUR RIGHTS AT TRIAL 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.

IN PENNSYLVANIA APPELLATE COURTS, REVERSIBLE ERROR ALONE IS OFTEN 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, BECAUSE THEY DID NOT KNOW HOW TO MAKE AN ADEQUATE TRIAL COURT RECORD.

Making an adequate record in the trial court is one of the many skills necessary to preserve your rights 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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