Jessie D. Rawlings is the experienced Pittsburgh divorce lawyer that more people trust to navigate even the most complex and contentious divorces. If you’re contemplating divorce, it’s important to understand what you’re entitled to as soon as possible because it might take time to prepare yourself financially to begin the process. It can be difficult to digest the reality that splitting up usually reduces the lifestyle of both spouses and makes caring for children more complicated. Jessie prides herself in being able to explain even the most complicated legal concepts in a clear and concise way so that you’re empowered to make the best decisions for your family.

Property Division

In Pennsylvania, marital property is divided by equitable distribution, meaning that the judge has discretion to decide what is fair under the circumstances. The process begins with a determination of what property is marital or separate. Generally, property brought into the marriage is considered separate, but it can change its character if marital funds are used to improve it, such as a home that’s been substantially remodeled. The growth in value of a premarital asset can also be considered marital property in Pennsylvania. Inheritances are considered separate property, but if the funds are commingled with marital funds, a court could determine the money has become marital property. If you brought a business into the marriage, and your spouse worked at your business, it might not be so easy to get out of your marriage with your business intact. One of the reasons Jessie is known as the best family law attorney is her ability to spot and analyze every issue in your case and develop a solid plan.

Spousal Support and Alimony

Back in the day, alimony was routinely awarded to women that stayed home during the marriage until the children were grown, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Now, alimony is gender neutral, and is usually used as a rehabilitative temporary measure to help a non-earning or lesser earning spouse achieve financial independence. Educational expenses and childcare fees for the lesser earning spouse are often part of a settlement or verdict, as stay at home parents are expected to seek employment. Permanent alimony is very rare and likely only where a spouse has a severe disability. If the marriage is short, alimony is not likely to be very much or for very long. The amount and length of alimony is based on these and other factors:

  • Earning capacity of spouses;
  • Age, physical, mental, and emotional condition;
  • Additional income sources;
  • Education levels;
  • Child custody;
  • Expected inheritances; and
  • The length of the marriage.

Special Considerations for Divorce

The laws governing divorce in Pennsylvania apply equally to LBGTQ marriages, with the same rights and obligations. High net worth divorces and divorces involving small businesses can be complicated, especially if the non-owner has added substantial value to the enterprise during the marriage. With a great deal to gain and much to lose, high net worth divorces and those involving businesses tend to be contentious and drawn out. That’s when it’s crucial to hire a Pittsburgh high net worth divorce attorney that has experience with this type of case.


Child custody in Pennsylvania is determined by the gender neutral “best interests of the child” standard. It’s handled in a similar manner regardless of the marital status of the parents. There is a presumption of shared custody unless one of the parents is legally unfit. In most cases the children live with one parent that has primary physical custody and the other parent who is given ample time to spend with the children. The time a non-custodial parent spends with children used to be called visitation, but now it’s called parenting time, and parents are encouraged to spend as much time as possible with their kids. In fact, the whole concept of primary physical custody is becoming less popular and it’s becoming increasingly common for children to spend fifty percent of their time in each parents’ home, shuttling between two residences. The schedule of time spent with each parent is a physical custody plan and includes how holidays and vacations will be handled. The parent with primary physical custody typically receives child support payments from the other parent to help them cover the costs of raising the children. The amount of support is calculated based on income, children’s age, custody schedule, and other factors. In addition to basic support, parents may agree or be ordered to pay for health insurance, out of pocket medical expenses, and educational costs. Child support extends until the age of 18, or when the child graduates from high school, whichever is later. The courts can extend the age limit for a disabled child.


Jessie was a highly-trained domestic abuse counselor before becoming an attorney and handles many of these cases in her practice. That’s why she’s considered one of the most experienced domestic abuse attorneys in Pittsburgh. You can count on Jessie to help you safely navigate through this difficult period in your life. In Pennsylvania, domestic violence includes physical or verbal acts against family or household members that cause physical or emotional harm. It includes crimes such as rape and less obvious offenses such as “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts against another person . . . which place the person in a reasonable fear of bodily injury.” Victims of domestic abuse are often afraid to come forward due to their financial dependence on their abuser or concern that reporting the offense will endanger them and/or their children. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced and compassionate Pittsburgh domestic abuse attorney that can guide you safely through the process.


A prenuptial agreement is a contract with your intended spouse that clarifies issues such as property division and alimony upon divorce. A postnuptial agreement is the same type of contract, but it’s entered into during rather than before the marriage. It must meet the standards for all contracts such as being entered into voluntarily, not unconscionable (extremely unfair) or tainted by fraud. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in Pennsylvania cannot address the following issues:

  • Child Support
  • Child Custody
  • Religious Upbringing.

These restrictions are in place because courts will use the “best interests of the children” standard to decide these issues. Having a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place can be the difference between bankruptcy and financial security should your marriage end in divorce. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced Pittsburgh prenuptial agreement attorney that knows how to protect your interests.


If you’re seeking to adopt a child, an experienced Pittsburgh adoption attorney can guide you through the process. There are several types of adoptions, each with their own rules and regulations, such as:

  • Private adoptions, including direct adoptions from birth parents, stepparent and grandparent adoptions;
  • Agency adoption in Pennsylvania;
  • Interstate adoption from outside Pennsylvania; and
  • International adoption.

Jessie D. Rawlings is known as the best adoption lawyer in Pittsburgh because she pays careful attention to every important issue to ensure that the adoption process is smooth.