In all families, emergencies and accidents are going to happen. “Expect the unexpected” are words of wisdom that have been passed down for generations. There are some circumstances that are unsettling to think about. However, having the attitude of “something like that could never happen to my family,” is extremely detrimental. Be prepared for whatever life might hand you. Keep your ears open for the referrals of good lawyers and file them, in case of that emergency. When you are in the midst of a crisis, the last thing you want to do is have to rely on luck or the Yellow Pages.

“Mediation offers parents the opportunity to discuss their fears and concerns with each other, and reach their own solutions, instead of having a stranger in a black robe make parenting decisions for them.”

Looking out for clients’ best interest is the main concern of conscientious lawyers. You may be wondering if you have grounds for a lawsuit, or if another party has grounds for a lawsuit against you. Lawyers are able to offer you advice and alternatives that you might not have even been aware of. MLT posed some general legal “what if” scenarios to a select group of experienced lawyers throughout the Main Line and Western Suburbs.

You need a lawyer if…

…you go to your ex’s house to pick up your child for your weekend visitation and you find an empty house – they’ve picked up and moved to Florida.

This scenario may seem far-fetched, but when it comes to divorce and child custody, anything is possible. If the parents do not have an amicable relationship after the divorce, there will be many times when they will need to call their family law attorney.

According to Chester County family law attorney Patricia Brennan, the parent left behind may file an emergency petition for the child’s return. Depending on the circumstances of the case and where the child has been taken, the Family Court judge may grant the emergency petition and order the other parent to bring the child back to the home county.

Under Pennsylvania law, a custodial parent who is considering relocation should file a petition to modify their child custody order. This should be done as far ahead of the planned move as possible. The Family Court will look at reasons for the relocation request and ask questions such as: Why is the parent moving? Is he or she trying to deny access to the child? What kind of support system will the parent have? What kind of arrangements can be made for the parent who is left behind to see the child?” If the petition for relocation is granted, the court does its best to make sure that time with the children is balanced between the parents.

In Chester County, parents who file for child custody must go to a mandatory parenting class and a mandatory mediation initiation. Attorney Brennan, a court-certified custody mediator for the Chester County Family Court, explains, “Mediation offers parents the opportunity to discuss their fears and concerns with each other, and reach their own solutions, instead of having a stranger in a black robe make parenting decisions for them. This is a golden opportunity to catch problems before they happen.” Mediation allows parents to put all the what if’s and fears on the table. If parents can resolve their conflicts and agree upon what Brennan refers to as a “parenting plan,” there is no need for a court hearing. Mediators ask questions, but do not give legal advice, since they aren’t supposed to be favoring sides. Most people do take advantage of mediation and 50 percent of cases end in positive results. The advantages of mediation are very desirable; it is less expensive than court proceedings and it is private and not open to the public.

“Parents usually want to do what is best for their kids,” says Brennan. “Children who get through divorce the best are the ones whose parents maintained a positive relationship. This is what parents are looking for with mediation.”