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Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Physician Hire Thyself

The recent 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case, Edwards v. Geisinger Clinic, (case number 11-1528), may provide some guidance into how far Pennsylvania’s at-will employment doctrine is able to stretch. Although unreported, and therefore not precedential, this case certainly sheds light on where the mind of the Court is in matters such as Edwards. Edwards was terminated by Geisinger Clinic, in breach, Edwards alleged, of the terms of an employment contract he had with Geisinger Clinic. The Court disagreed, ruling in favor of Geisinger Clinic on its motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Edwards was a physician from the United Kingdom on a temporary work visa, who was attempting to secure certification from the American Board of Radiology. Pursuant to the guidelines set by American Board of Radiology, certification can only be granted after four (4) years of uninterrupted employment at an approved program. At some point, Geisinger Clinic approached Edwards to discuss Edwards’ working at one of its clinics. The parties engaged in discussions negotiating the terms of Edwards’ hire by Geisinger Clinic. Through the aforesaid discussions, Edwards believed Geisinger Clinic was aware of the American Board of Radiology’s requirements and gave him six (6) years to secure certification. As a result of the aforesaid discussions, Geisinger issued Edwards an offer letter, memorializing its requirement that Edwards is to secure certification within six (6) years. The offer letter indicated that the offer was subject to Edwards’ executing a practice agreement; however Edwards denied receiving the practice agreement at the time he executed the offer letter. Instead, Edwards merely executed the offer letter, in effect accepting the offer, and, later still, executed Geisinger Clinic’s employment application. In arguing his position, the above-mentioned employment application is significant for Edwards as it contains specific reasons why he could not be terminated. Unfortunately for Edwards, while he was working toward his certification, his work visa expired, forcing him to return to the United Kingdom. Edwards quickly attempted to reenter the United States in order to complete his requirements for certification. Geisinger Clinic was extremely cooperative in Edwards’ efforts to reenter the United States, representing to the immigration authorities that Edwards had at least a three (3) year commitment with Geisinger Clinic. Ultimately, Edwards was readmitted into the United States and resumed his position at Geisinger Clinic. At some point not long after the above-events, Geisinger Clinic realized that Edwards had not executed the practice agreement. Geisinger Clinic quickly remedied the apparent oversight in a way Edwards would argue effectively amounted to duress by approaching him while he was in the midst of treating a patient. As a result of the alleged distraction of his patient, Edwards merely skimmed the practice agreement, apparently overlooking the “at will” employment language buried within it. Eventually, and unfortunately for Edwards, Geisinger Clinic terminated its employment relationship with Edwards before the end of the employment term Edwards argued was contained in the offer letter. Edwards believed his termination was a breach of the written contract he had with Geisinger Clinic. Edwards argued the following in support of his claims against Geisinger Clinic: (1) the offer letter he executed with Geisinger Clinic was for an express term of years and termination before the term was completed is a breach of the contract; (2) Geisinger Clinic apparently emphasized that at least a four (4) year term will be required in order to secure certification; (3) the offer letter executed by Edwards had no “at-will” language; (4) the offer letter contained restrictions on Geisinger Clinic’s ability to terminate Edwards (i.e.: therefore his employment was not exactly “at will”); and, (5) in assisting him in his efforts to reenter the United States, Geisinger Clinic represented that it had a multi-year commitment with Edwards. The Court was not persuaded by any of Edward’s above-described arguments. The Court pointed out that an “at will” employment relationship is the default employment status in Pennsylvania and will be presumed unless clear and precise evidence to the contrary can be proffered. Part of the aforesaid evidence required includes evidence of the intent of the parties, explaining that simply the “subjective expectation” of a definite employment term by an employee and the “hope” of an employer that an employee will continue his employment are not sufficient evidence. Ultimately, the Court believed the evidence available proved that both parties intended to enter into an “at will” employment relationship, or at the very least, did not expressly reject an “at will” relationship. In response to the five (5) arguments above, the Court ruled as follows: (1) the contract was in the context of the practice agreement which expressly indicates it is “at will.” The fact that Edwards skimmed and quickly executed the practice agreement was done at his own risk; his consequent ignorance of its terms is no defense from their enforcement; (2) Geisinger Clinic’s statements regarding the length of Edwards’ employment term were not sufficiently precise to justify ruling that they formed a contractual term (these statements fall into an “employer’s hope” described above); (3) the offer letter did not have to contain “at will” language for it to create an “at will” employment relationship as “at will” is the default status of all employment contracts; (4) the enumeration of reasons it could not terminate Edwards actually reserved Geisinger Clinic’s right to terminate for all other reasons not so enumerated; and, (5) while Geisinger Clinic provided the immigration authorities a copy of the executed offer letter, it made no representation that it guaranteed employment for the full term mentioned in the offer letter. Indeed, Edwards was as equally free as Geisinger Clinic to terminate his employment relationship “at will” also. When attempting to protect one’s employment rights under an employment contract, the Edwards case teaches the lesson that people should review the contracts they sign diligently and completely to ensure there is an understanding of the terms and securing a lawyer for this purpose is always recommended.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on October 3, 2012 and can be seen here.

Create a Contrast Culture in Your Church

My parish priest Fr. Mark Rudolph, rector and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, circulated a fantastic article to the Vestry (of which I am a member) called “Create a Contrast Culture in Your Church” and I think it is worth sharing here.

The article was originally found here on the gospelcoaliton.com.  For your convenience I posted the article below:

Church leaders who stop by our little house of worship in Washington sometimes ask what we have done to produce all the discipling, evangelism, and hospitality they see. What programs are we using?

It’s a 20th-century American way of asking the question. Church growth has been viewed in business terms for at least half a century, so the questioner assumes some program has birthed these activities.

But our answer points in a different direction. We say we want to develop a culture of discipling, and a culture of evangelism, and a culture of hospitality. And so we offer tools, not programs.

What do we mean by a “culture” of these things, and how do we cultivate such culture?

Church as a Distinct Culture

Think about the local church as an embassy from the future. It’s a formally constituted gathering of Spirit-indwelt kingdom citizens who proclaim and display Christ’s end-time rule. They gather to declare their king’s warnings and promises, and they gather to formally affirm one another as kingdom citizens through the keys given by their king, which they do with baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Here are the laws, and here are the passport holders.

What’s more, these eschatological embassies on earth, spread out like pins on a map, should be characterized by an unworldly culture. It’s not a culture imported from another place, but from a future age. It’s not defined by sushi, cricket, or burqas, but by the habits of holiness and love and the ambassadorial work of discipling, evangelism, hospitality, and caring for the needy.

Citizenship, mind you, is an office. And activities like discipling, evangelism, and hospitality constitute a Christian’s basic office responsibilities. “Go and make disciples,” Jesus says. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality,” Paul says. These are what Christians do by virtue of being citizens of Christ’s kingdom. We “live as citizens worthy of the gospel,” which means “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27, my translation; cf. 3:20).

The local church, in short, is the embassy where we show up for work, where we learn to be ambassadors who evangelize and disciple, and where we display an otherworldly culture that shines like stars in the dark night sky (Phil. 2:15).

12 Ways to Cultivate Such a Culture

So how do these embassies of Christ’s rule cultivate a culture of discipling, of evangelism, of mutual care and hospitality?

1. Train and equip one another for being Christians. The British drink tea. The Brazilians love Carnival. Christ’s gospel citizens share the gospel and encourage one another in the faith. Tuesday night programs, perhaps, can help facilitate such activity. But in the bigger picture, the entire teaching ministry of the church equips the saints for such work (Eph. 4:11ff). Christians gather on the Lord’s Day to be trained to disciple and evangelize on Monday to Saturday.

2. Center the church’s weekly gathering around the gospel. If a culture of kingdom citizenship depends on the gospel, then the church’s weekly gathering should be centered on the gospel. Every text should be preached with a view to the canonical and Christocentric horizon. Songs should point to the gospel. Sins should be confessed in corporate prayer, and thanks given for forgiveness.

3. Preach all of Scripture. It’s all the word of our King. As citizens, we need to hear all of it (see Acts 20:27).

4. Apply sermons and small group lessons corporately. Bible teachers instinctively apply biblical texts to individuals. But most of us could get better at applying texts corporately. For instance, if you’re teaching a passage about holiness, encourage people to help one another fight sin, to practice church discipline, to take care in whom they receive as a member (see Matt. 18:1-14). Holiness and love are a group project, and lead to a group witness.

5. Encourage church members to build their lives into one another’s. Yes, we want friendships outside of our churches. But Christians should also prioritize relationships within their churches, where they can leverage the same ministry of the Word in one another’s lives.

6. De-clutter the church calendar. It can be hard to build relationships with other members and non-Christians when the week is occupied with official church activities. Cancelling some of those programs might give the saints more time for discipling and evangelism.

7. Provide tools for evangelism and discipleship. In addition to the weekly sermon, you might offer adult Sunday school classes devoted to these topics. You might recommend good books from the front, and then provide those books at a discount in your church bookstore. And advertise good evangelism material when reporting testimonies of grace.

8. Pray together about evangelism and good works. Many churches have abandoned the old practice of the prayer meeting, relegating it—maybe—to small groups. I understand why. Too often, they’re unregulated, and you spend 50 minutes praying for Aunt Suzie’s ankle surgery. Such relegation, however, means the whole church doesn’t have the chance to pray for one another’s needs as a whole church. Churches do well, I believe, to look for ways to share kingdom concerns with the whole body and then pray about them. Our church does this in a highly regulated Sunday night prayer meeting. About two-thirds of the members come.

9. Highlight the saints by practicing church membership and fencing the table. Churches certainly should make visitors and non-Christians feel welcome, and they should address them in the sermon. Still, the borders of the church—who is bound and loosed by the keys of the kingdom—should be bright and clear. This is a crucial part of the evangelism and discipleship process. Relatedly . . .

10. Practice church discipline. If your church doesn’t practice discipline, its culture will soon become indistinct from the world’s. An embassy might as well knock down its walls and leave stacks of passports on the front sidewalk for anyone to grab.

11. Live near the church. We are embodied beings and geography counts. If you can, live near the church. It gives you greater opportunity to disciple one another, do hospitality, and do evangelism together.

12. Commit for the long-term. Whether you’re a church leader or member, committing to stay in a place for the long term gives you the chance to shape a culture.

Counter-Contextualize

Churches often work hard at contextualizing and showing the world around them that Christians are like them. And there is a place for this.

But part of contextualizing is knowing how to counter-contextualize: how to be culturally distinct embassies of Christ’s future rule. What good is salt that loses its saltiness, or a light hidden under a bowl?

Through preaching, praying, loving, and staying, we can help the church become such a contrast culture.

Jonathan Leeman is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., editorial director of 9Marks, and author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Reverberation, Church Membership, and Church Discipline. His PhD work is in the area of political theology. You can follow him on Twitter.

New Statute Modifies Pennsylvania Child Custody Orders

In January 2011, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a new statute regarding child custody. Since its passage, Pennsylvania courts have attempted to navigate its new provisions when applying it to the various custody cases that have come before them. One such case is the recent Superior Court matter of J.R.M. v. J.E.A. , 2011 Pa.Super. 263, 33 A.3d 647 (2011), which was litigated pursuant to the new Pennsylvania custody statute.

 

The matter of J.R.M. v. J.E.A. went to trial regarding petitions for custody by both the father, J.R.M., and the mother, J.E.A., with regard to their child. The trial court entered an order awarding the mother primary physical custody and the father partial physical custody according to a very complicated arrangement that relegated J.R.M. to what is known colloquially as “visitation” to account for the child’s need to nurse and a very restrictive custody arrangement upon the child’s weaning.

 

Upon the issuance of the above-described custody order, J.R.M. filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. His appeal was based upon the failure of the trial court to file a written opinion pursuant to the requirements of the new custody statute (see Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(ii)). J.R.M. also appealed on the basis that the trial court failed to “engage in a fact-specific, case-specific analysis of the best interest factors and made no findings to support its legal conclusion” and failed to make “findings that such severe restrictions [after the child no longer needed to nurse] were necessary,” according to the opinion.

Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5328(a), a section of the new custody statute, a trial court, when making a ruling on a custody issue, must specifically address and consider 16 different factors that impact the custody of a child. The trial court simply failed to specifically address and consider the aforementioned factors when making its ruling as described above. The Superior Court noted that the trial court merely focused on the child’s need to nurse and the parties’ difficulty communicating and did not mention any of the other factors as required by the new custody statute. Indeed, the Superior Court specifically stated that all of the 16 factors must be considered by a trial court entering a custody order. By failing to consider all of the factors, the Superior Court concluded that the trial court erred as a matter of law, and, consequently, vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case for further findings of fact.

J.R.M.’s appeal also argued that the trial court’s restrictions on his custody periods were imposed without any stated justification by the trial court. The Superior Court noted that an award for partial custody generally does not include any significant restrictions unless there would be some detriment to the child at issue without them as justified by the evidentiary record.

The Superior Court observed that the trial court never indicated why the restrictions are necessary; indeed, “the trial court made no finding that father was unfit or unable to care for child on his own, or that he posed any sort of threat to child if left entirely unattended,” according to the opinion.

Similarly, despite ruling that it was a long-term goal for J.R.M. to have custody of the child at his residence and/or overnight, the trial court did not allow him to have custody at his home and/or overnight immediately, without offering any explanation as to why. The Superior Court again observed, “The trial court made no finding that visitation in father’s home would be detrimental to child, that father’s home was not equipped to have child visit during the day or for overnight visitation, or that father or his fiancée posed a threat to child.”

The Superior Court also noted there was nothing on the record indicating issues with J.R.M’s cohabitating fiancée or why the child could not travel to his home once weaned. Considering the above, the Superior Court ruled that the above restrictions upon J.R.M. were unreasonable in light of the evidence presented at trial.

Ultimately, after consideration of all of the above, the Superior Court ruled that the trial court’s order was vacated and the matter was remanded because the trial court failed to adequately and expressly consider all 16 factors pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5328(a) and additionally failed to provide any justification for any of the restrictions placed on J.R.M.’s custody periods.

The matter of J.R.M. v. J.E.A. is, perhaps, the first of many cases to be appealed in the near future in order to secure adequate adherence by Pennsylvania’s trial courts to the standards set by the new custody statute. Therefore, Pennsylvania’s custody judges must be vigilant and expressly and clearly address all required aspects of the new custody statute when entering custody orders. Otherwise, their orders are likely to be overturned.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on July 17, 2012 which can be seen here and reprinted in Volume 34 Issue No. 3 (October 2012) of Pennsylvania Family Lawyer.

Metastatic Sarcoma/Cancer After Minimally Invasive Uterine Surgery – Morcellation

My friend and colleague Jim Hockenberry, Esquire is a leading personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in the Philadelphia area.  He has asked me to spread the word regarding the effect morcellators can have on women.

The information below has been taken directly from Mr. Hockenberry’s website which you can find here.

Morcellation of the Uterus

Unbeknownst to many woman having a minimally invasive hysterectomy, their uterus may have been “morcellated,” meaning it was cut up into very small pieces and then removed through the small incision. This morcellation process uses a variety of commercially available “morcellators” specifically designed for hysterectomies. Often, patients are totally unaware that a morcellator was used during their surgery.

Morcellator
Morcellator

It is well known that in some hysterectomies, the uterus is hiding within it a cancerous lesion. Recently, substantial evidence has revealed that use of a morcellator may spread cancer throughout the abdomen and body – resulting in metastatic sarcoma/cancer. The resulting metastatic sarcoma greatly limits the treatment options available and shortens the patient’s life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that approximately 600,000 women in the United States undergo hysterectomies each year. An increasingly popular technique for performing hysterectomies is a minimally-invasive method using a laparoscope (or using the Intuitive Surgical robot) where small holes are made instead of large surgical incisions. Such minimally-invasive surgery has many benefits, including less scarring, faster recovery, and less pain.

However, for women undergoing hysterectomies with uterine fibroids or other lesions, this popular procedure may be lethally dangerous. It is somewhat common for women over 35 to develop fibroids in their uterus, which are abnormal growths of muscle tissue. These fibroids are also known as “leiomyomas” or just “myomas.” Most fibroids are not cancerous and pose no serious risk to women. However, as many as 1 in 400 of these women, perhaps more, actually have a very dangerous form of cancer known as a leiomyosarcoma masking as a fibroid. In order to remove the fibroids (or entire uterus) from the small holes in the women’s abdomens, the fibroids and/or uterus must be ground up in a procedure called “morcellation.” Essentially, a surgical device shreds the fibroids and uterus so that they fit through the tiny incisions. A video showing this procedure can be found on YouTube.

The danger comes when the fibroid is actually a leiomyosarcoma or cancerous lesion, as morcellation may spread the cancer cells from the tumor throughout the woman’ abdominal cavity, essentially seeding the cancer everywhere. The dangers of this have been reported recently in both The New York Times as well as in The Wall Street Journal. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that the mortality rate for women only slightly over 3 years post-surgery with morcellation is 44% compared to only 19% after over five years when the leiomyosarcoma is removed intact or “en bloc.”

Morcellator In Use
Morcellator Cutting Uterus

The solution to this dangerous problem may be something as simple as using a surgical specimen bag or intra-abdominal bag where the fibroid or uteruse is placed into a bad before it’s morcellated. The morcellation then takes places in the bag essentially eliminating the risk of seeding. Such a simple solution, as well as the dangerous of morcellation, have been well-known by the manufacturers of the morcellators and physicians for some time.

If you or a family member have had a minimally invasive hysterectomy and later developed metastatic sarcoma or cancer, you should have your case reviewed by a physician-attorney able to analyze the medical and legal issues involved. In some cases, death may result from the metastic cancer spread by the morcellation process during a hysterectomy.

Call Leon Aussprung, M.D., J.D., LL.M. toll free at 855-770-0902 or email him directly at LA@AussprungLaw.com.

The consultation with a physician-attorney is free and you pay nothing unless you recover. All cases are taken solely on a contingency fee basis.

A Sign From Above

Check out Faye Cohen’s blog post “A Sign From Above” on her blog Toughlawyerlady here.

Phillies Phail their Phans

 

Baseball is the American National Pastime and it has brought joy, fun, and camaraderie to generations of Americans for over 139 years. The Philadelphia Phillies is a venerable Major League Baseball franchise which was founded in 1883 and is the oldest continuous one-name/one-city franchise in American professional sports. The sounds of the crack of the bat, the cheering of the crowd, the warmth of the spring sun, the sound of good ‘ol Harry Kalas (or even Scott Franzke) on the radio, and other great memories and feelings belong to our great Pastime. Unfortunately, many of these things will not be experienced by thousands of Phillies fans this year and the foreseeable future.

 

The failure of the Phillies referred to above has nothing to do with their general manager, aging infield, inconsistent bull pen, or their many years (decades?) of futility. This time the Phillies have failed their fans by taking away one of the primary means for their fans to watch, enjoy, and participate in their gams: the Phillies took away their games on broadcast television.

 

Once upon a time, when I was young, I remember the rule was home games were “on cable” (whatever that meant in the 1980s) and away games were “on UHF”. Remember UHF? Those were the channels you had to hunt for on the dial through what seemed like a million channels of snow after you made sure to first set the other dial to “U”. The only exception, of course, was that Sunday games were always on television regardless of whether it was at home or away. This was the general rule for what seemed, to me, to be a long time, though I am sure there were some exceptions.

 

As the 1990s wore on, and especially into the ‘00s, the games on broadcast television steadily dwindled while the games on cable television increasingly grew in number. By the 2013 the Phillies’ presence on broadcast television was reduced to about once per week along with what seemed to be the sacred Sunday game. I am not someone who has cable television and although very disappointed that fewer and fewer games were broadcast, I was always thankful for the games that were broadcast and made sure to watch them as much as I could. Indeed, who has time to watch all 162 regular season games anyway?

 

I thought one game per week plus Sundays was going to be the status quo indefinitely until the Phillies struck yet another blow in 2014. The Phillies took away all but twelve games on broadcast television. Twelve out of 162 games, and that includes taking away all of the Sunday games. In fact, of the twelve broadcast, at least two of them are on air on a weekday afternoon when I am at work, so, in essence, I am left with ten games on broadcast television.

 

I used to be a Philadelphia Flyers fan; indeed I was a huge hockey fan. That was, of course, until the Flyers decided to take away virtually every game on broadcast television. Now, with no way to watch the games, my fandom of hockey has virtually disappeared. Luckily baseball and radio are a good combination – in a way hockey and radio are not – so I guess I can still listen to the games. Well, I guess I can until the Phillies decide to move all of their games to some sort of pay radio like Sirius.

 

I find being reduced to ten broadcast games per year a total disgrace and terribly disgusting development by the Phillies. It speaks to the Phillies’ prioritizing greed and their bottom line over their fans. It speaks to a complete and total disrespect to the game as a National Pastime. Now broadcast baseball is reserved to those who can, or more importantly can afford, an exorbitant cable bill each month. Baseball fandom is slowly becoming more exclusive and more expensive and jettisoning people of more modest means. It is bad enough ticket prices and concession prices and other sorts of things continue to rise, but now virtually forcing their fans to buy the opportunity to watch them on television crosses a line.

 

Baseball is meant for fathers and sons. It’s meant to be enjoyed by families on a warm summer evening. It’s meant to bring families together. It’s part of the American fabric. It would seem the Phillies no longer agree. For them baseball is now something reserved for those who have the desire and wherewithal to purchase through a third party (i.e.: Comcast) the right to watch their games. National Pastime? Not if you do not have cable television.

 

I get that the Phillies are a business. I get that Comcast offered them a large contract. I get that many people – mistakenly – view cable television as one of their necessities or utilities. I get that some people view me as cheap or some sort of Luddite. I get all that. That being said, was it necessary for the Phillies to take away two games per week? Was it necessary for them to take away Sundays? What does that make? Twenty or Twenty-five games? They had to take away what little was left? For what? Sure they may make some money now but they will now alienate thousands of people who do not have cable and cannot justify buying cable just to watch a little baseball. Indeed, mlb.tv, their online resource (for pay of course) to watch baseball is unavailable for local games. So, that option is not available either.

 

As a final note, what the Phillies may not realize is that cable television is using them to try and buoy the sinking ship of cable television. Paying for television is in the decline now that any number of online options are available, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Voodoo, Youtube, and even the network websites with episodes of shows uploaded on to them. More and more people are opting to simply use the internet to secure programming than use cable. So, what does cable have to hang onto? One huge market share is professional sports. Professional sports are not really available online to watch and, as with the Phillies, over the air broadcast games are going the way of the dodo, leaving on cable television to broadcast the games as the only available option. As a result, professional sports are one of, if not the last, remaining props holding up cable television. I wonder if the Phillies considered the fact that they are being used by Comcast to prop up a dying media outlet (cable television) which ultimately will be to the detriment to their fans in the future as it serves to exclude many who would otherwise be able to watch the games on broadcast television?

 

So, the Phillies have failed their fans. They have made baseball the exclusive province of cable viewers. They have taken anyway what little was left for the rest of us for the sake a few dollars today. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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The Pros and Cons of a Cut-Rate Divorce

I am sure you have seen billboard or newspaper advertisements which read something like “$250 Divorce!” or “Divorce Only $350!” Usually the prices indicated are less than $500; indeed they so low that they are less than the typical lawyer’s hourly rate for one (1) hour of work, let alone a proper full retainer! How can these rates be so low for this sort of work? Clearly there has to be a catch!

 

Like most unbelievable deals, the cheap rates do come with a catch, but for some people it may be a risk worth taking. The key to one of these low cost divorces is that they require filing in a distant Pennsylvania County, usually where neither party reside, Potter County for example, and a guarantee that there will be no resistance from the opposing spouse or any sort of property division.

 

The reason for filing in places like Potter County is that the total court fees and costs for a divorce are $69.00. This is in contrast to the court fees and costs for a divorce, in Philadelphia County, which currently is $316.98 for the complaint and $66.22 for the Præcipe to Transmit, plus other fees required for motions and/or seeking equitable distribution etc. So, right off the bat, there is a $314.20 savings in court costs and fees alone. It should be noted that the opposing party must stipulate to the jurisdiction of a foreign county over the divorce or else the entire endeavor to file the divorce in that county is a non-starter.

 

The reason for restricting these divorces to matters where there is complete cooperation and no property division is because, perhaps obviously, fees begin to add up when the parties start bickering over various things or need to seek some sort of property division, whether by agreement or order of court. As soon as either one of the above begins to occur, the low rate is immediately untenable for the lawyer representing one of the parties. If the parties are completely cooperative without any sort of property division, litigating the divorce only involves preparing some form documents and filing them at the correct times and in the correct order. Obviously, litigating in this fashion will take very little time or effort on the attorney’s part, which justifies taking the case at such an extremely reduced rate.

 

So, from the client’s point of view, there is a risk or trade off. On one hand, filing in your local county is more expensive, but if something goes wrong you have the security of being able to litigate the issues conveniently and locally without having to withdraw your complaint and start afresh elsewhere. On the other hand, filing in a different county is very cheap and easy, but if something goes wrong, the cost to litigate in a very distant county likely becomes prohibitively expensive and extremely inconvenient. Either way, you will have to withdraw your complaint in the foreign county and file a new complaint in your own county, potentially wasting the time and money that was spent filing elsewhere.
Both of the above options are viable and legitimate, it just depends on whether the circumstances suggest one over the other. Ultimately, the decision of where and how to proceed lies with the client as long as s/he is fully aware of the pros and cons, and costs and benefits, of each of the options described above.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on October 5, 2012 and can be found here and reprinted in Volume 34 Issue No. 4 (December 2012) of Pennsylvania Family Lawyer.

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