Family Law

A Message from the Chair

I am thrilled and honored to serve as the 2022 Chair of the Family Law Section.
Our Section provides invaluable experiences for attorneys in all stages of their practice. We provide relevant and interesting programming; we collaborate with the Court to address concerns of practitioners and litigants; experienced attorneys mentor those new to the field; we can all feel comfortable asking one another questions, and feel supported in our work. Over the last two years our ability to work collaboratively, share information and work towards common goals have made an extremely tough time more productive and efficient. The work family law attorneys do is tough, we often see people at their absolute worst. Which makes it incumbent upon family law attorneys to be our best and the Family Law Section helps us do just that. The comradery the Section promotes certainly makes it easier for counsel to do our best for our clients while being kind and respectful to one another. I take pride in this, as well as the work the Family Law Section does for litigants in family court who cannot afford counsel. The Family Law Section has well-deserved reputation of taking large number of pro bono cases. We keep up-to-date information on the Court’s and the Bar’s website to assist litigants. The Family Court Help Center was a dream some of us in the public interest community had, and together with this Section and the Court, we made it a reality. I thank all of those who continue to support the Help Center and volunteer their time to assist litigants with pleadings and navigating through their cases.

Many of the litigants that walk into the court are seeking safety, looking to the court to help them and their families stay safe as they separate from an abuser or attempt to remain free from domestic violence. While the Court does a great deal already to assist survivors seeking protection through the court, we should always be looking for ways in which we can improve safety in the courthouse, and be sure litigants get the help they are seeking. We are fortunate to have the support of Administrative Judge Margaret Murphy in these efforts, and appreciate Her Honor’s willingness to meet with the Section on a regular basis, and to work collaboratively with the Bar and public interest organizations.

I encourage us all to think about the purpose of the family court: to serve Philadelphia’s families, many of whom are experiencing crisis. The incredibly difficult work attorneys do in dependency and delinquency cases can shape the trajectory of children’s lives. While it may be impossible for most litigants to walk out of the building happy and satisfied, it can be possible for litigants to feel heard, seen and able to communicate. The concept of procedural justice tells us that often it is what happens during a proceeding that is more important than the actual outcome for litigants. Nothing is more important to most parents than what happens to their children, where they will live, who will be caring for them, how they can improve chances of success for them. Despite an outcome that might not be exactly what they want, litigants feel better about the process and the result if they feel they were heard, had an opportunity to speak, and were treated fairly and with respect.

For the past several years, I have had the privilege of leading, with Molly Callahan and Megan Watson, the Bar Association Access to Justice Task Force’s Family Law Group. While true civil Gideon may be a far-reaching goal in domestic relations cases, while we work towards ensuring representation when family safety is at stake, we will continue to work to improve access for self-represented litigants. We can be effective and zealous advocates for our clients at the same time as improving access to justice for all, and I hope you will join me and the Section in these efforts in the coming year.

Susan Pearlstein

Monthly Section Meetings

Below are the dates of the monthly Section and Executive Committee Meetings. The Section Meetings will be held at noon in either the Family Court Building (1501 Arch Street; 15th Floor) or the Philadelphia Bar Association (1101 Market Street; 11th Floor Conference Center). Please check the list serv notices to confirm the exact locations of the meetings and to RSVP. The Executive Committee meetings will all be held at noon in the Philadelphia Bar Association in the 11th Floor Committee Room South. Kindly note that the Executive Committee Meetings are open to all members of the Section.

Family Law Section Meetings

The meetings will be held via zoom until further notice.

  • January 11
  • February 11
  • March 1
  • April 5
  • May 3
  • June 7
  • July 12
  • August 2
  • September 13
  • October 4
  • November 11

Family Law Executive Committee Meetings

The meetings will be held via zoom until further notice.

  • January 21
  • February 18
  • March 18
  • April 15
  • May 20
  • June 17
  • July 15
  • August 19
  • September 9
  • October 21
  • November 18

Minutes & Caselaw Update

Resources & Forms

Here you will find links to printable documents relating to various areas of Family Law. These forms and instructions were prepared under the sponsorship of the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Family Law Section Mentoring Committee

As part of the Family Law Section's continuing commitments to improve attorney professionalism and competence, the Section offers two types of mentoring programs: Peer-to-Peer and Law Student. The Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program provides attorneys who are less experienced in the area of Family Law with the ability to connect and consult with an experienced Family Law attorney for guidance and support. If you are interested in participating as a Mentor or Mentee in the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program, please click here.

The Law Student Mentoring Program allows current students from regional law schools to connect with Family Law attorneys. The Mentors provide their Mentees with valuable knowledge and insight into the legal profession, while also providing practical advice on conquering the challenges of law school. Though the formal law student mentoring relationship is expected to be for one academic year, many Mentors and Mentees retain their connections for much longer. If you would like to participate as a Mentor or a Mentee in the Law Student Mentoring Program, please contact one of the Co-Chairs below.

Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the one of the Co-Chairs:

Lisa Shapson
Eileen G. Murphy
Judy McIntire Springer