Criminal Defense &  DUI Lawyers with offices in Berks, Lancaster & Lebanon

We are also experienced divorce attorneys helping clients with all types of family legal issues

If you are dealing with a personal family matter like divorce or are facing a criminal charge like a DUI, you’ve come to the right place. At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we offer high-caliber legal representation in family law and criminal defense.

As a small firm of dedicated and caring attorneys, we are able to provide reliable, responsive attention to every client we serve. We are sympathetic to what you’re going through and are committed to delivering a favorable outcome in your case.

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Legal proceedings can be intimidating and stressful but we provide compassionate support and guidance every step of the way. Reach out to our Reading divorce lawyers, Lancaster DUI defense attorneys and Lebanon County lawyers handling family law, DUI and criminal cases in Berks County, Lancaster County and Lebanon County.

Attorneys Committed To Making A Difference

We believe that Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., is unique in our approach to the law and our service to clients. Whether you are dealing with a family law issue, facing the consequences of a DUI arrest or responding to criminal charges, we address both the emotional aspects and the legal issues. This holistic approach helps to put you at ease so that you can think clearly about your priorities and make informed decisions about matters with immediate and future ramifications.

  • We are counselors: Family matters and criminal charges have personal and emotional elements. Having gone through similar family law situations in their own lives, our attorneys are attuned to your concerns and the potential impact. We work to build trust through honest and practical advice.
  • We are problem solvers: It is in our nature to focus on real solutions rather than fanning the flames of conflict or taking the other party’s first offer. You can count on us to listen to your story and to respond with creative suggestions, unique strategies and a commitment to the most favorable result in settlement or plea negotiations.
  • We are litigators: Sometimes court is the only option. Our attorneys have more actual trial experience than any firm in the Reading area, with thousands of courtroom days between us. We are not afraid to go to court to fight for your freedom, your parental rights or your financial interests.

Just Talk To Us | We Offer A Free Initial Consultation

In some ways, handling a legal problem is like treating a medical problem: When we are contacted early in the process, we can often intervene to limit the damage of an arrest or prevent the escalation of family law conflicts. We spend a significant amount of time with clients at the beginning of their cases to understand the circumstances and explore different options and strategies. We want you to be comfortable with the approach and satisfied with the outcome.

We understand that you may be going through a tough time — perhaps your nerves are raw and your trust level is low; maybe you feel hopeless or helpless. For this reason, we offer a free 30-minute initial consultation to “try us out” and decide for yourself if we are really hearing you and if we can really help.

Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki & Smith have office locations in Wyomissing, Lancaster and Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Call us at 610-685-8000, or contact us online to schedule a meeting.

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca A. Smith
Matthew Kopecki
Matthew Kopecki
Eric Gibson
Eric Gibson
Anne Gibson
Anne Gibson

Our Reading divorce lawyers, Lancaster criminal defense lawyers and Lebanon DUI defense attorneys serve all of Berks County, Lancaster County and Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. This includes Reading, Lancaster, Lebanon, Palmyra, Annville, Cornwall, Wyomissing, Blandon, Shillington, Birdsboro, Womelsdorf, Kutztown, Albany, Akron, Manheim, Lititz, Quarryville, Ephrata, Elizabethtown, Columbia, Millersville, Willow Street, Mount Joy, Leola, Intercourse and Denver, Pennsylvania.

Vigorous Defense Against Criminal Charges

A criminal conviction can impact your life in profound ways. In the immediate aftermath of an arrest, you could be facing a jail or prison sentence, substantial monetary fines or restitution, probation, and other court-mandated penalties.

Beyond the threats to your freedom and finances, you can expect to encounter additional setbacks. A criminal conviction can damage your reputation and potentially affect your personal and professional relationships. In the future, when you fill out any type of application, you will be legally obligated to disclose your criminal history. This can negatively impact your ability to get a job, get accepted into the school of your choice, obtain housing, secure a loan, and more.

The criminal defense attorneys at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., are committed to mounting the strongest legal defense possible on your behalf. We prepare every case as if it’s going to trial so that we have an in-depth understanding of all the facts in the case from day one.

Our ultimate goal is to get the charges against you dismissed or to minimize the consequences of a conviction. We have the knowledge, resources, and skill to give you the best chance at attaining a favorable result.

Criminal cases require early intervention. Right now, the prosecution is gathering evidence to try and prove your guilt. Don’t wait to seek legal assistance.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for a crime or has already been arrested and charged, call us at 610-685-8000, or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.

Criminal Defense Practice Areas

Pennsylvania law divides most criminal charges into two types of offenses – felonies and misdemeanors. Typically, any offense that would result in a jail sentence lasting less than one year long is a misdemeanor offense.

Misdemeanor offenses common in Pennsylvania include

  • DUI
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Simple Assault
  • Shoplifting
  • Drug Paraphernalia Possession

A crime that would result in jail time lasting longer than a year is a felony offense.

Common felonies committed in Pennsylvania include:

  • Aggravated Assault
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Armed Robbery
  • Sexual Assault
  • DUI Homicide by Vehicle

At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we defend against a wide breadth of criminal charges, including:

  • Drug crimes
  • Property and theft crimes
  • Fraud
  • Violent crimes
  • Weapons Offenses
  • DUI
  • Traffic Violations
  • Juvenile Offenses
  • Parole/probation violations
  • Crimes against law enforcement
  • College student crimes

Drug crimes

Drug use is a problem nationwide and Pennsylvania is no exception. Heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are the three most commonly used and sold drugs in the state. Drug laws in Pennsylvania are some of the toughest in the nation and prosecutors are known for pushing strict penalties to curb the use of illegal drugs.

At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we defend against drug charges including simple possession, possession with intent to deliver, manufacturing and trafficking. A drug conviction can lead to a lengthy prison sentence, suspension of a driver’s license, court-mandated drug treatment and more. Criminal charges and penalties for drug crimes are primarily based on the quantity and type of drug or controlled substance.

Additional factors that can enhance a sentence include prior convictions, sale or distribution of drugs, distributing to a minor or in a school zone, and possession or use of a weapon in the commission of a drug crime.

Many individuals accused of committing a drug crime either had a lapse in judgement, were at the wrong place at the wrong time, or is dealing with a serious addiction. Whatever circumstances surround your drug charge, we aim to help you avoid severe punishment and seek alternative sentencing options such as drug treatment.

Property and theft offenses

Property crimes refer to offenses that involve taking someone else’s property without permission or by deception such as shoplifting, identity theft, and forgery. Other property crimes involve the destruction or devaluation of someone else’s property such as arson or vandalism.

Penalties for property and theft crimes depends on the amount or value of the property stolen. A theft conviction is particularly damaging because it can stereotype you as a dishonest or untrustworthy person. Our property crime lawyers will work diligently to expose weaknesses in the prosecutions case and mitigate any negative long-term impacts on your life. 

Violent Crimes

A violent crime is an offense that involves force or the threat of force. This is a very serious charge in Pennsylvania that carries harsh penalties. Depending on the details of your case, you could be facing prison and separation from the people you love, substantial fines, probation, and more.

The violent crime attorneys at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C. have experience handling a broad range of violent crime cases some of which include: simple and aggravated assault, robbery, domestic violence, murder, and rape. Regardless of the crime you’ve been accused of committing, we are dedicated to providing you with a vigorous defense.

Fraud Crimes

Fraud is a common white-collar crime that is defined as “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.” Many types of fraud exist including corporate fraud, tax fraud, mortgage fraud, securities fraud, credit card fraud, insurance fraud, wire/mail fraud. In most cases, fraud is charged as a federal crime and the consequences of a conviction are severe, and can include prison time, restitution and fines.

We represent “white-collar” professionals from all walks of life who have been charged with fraud, including doctors, lawyers, CEO’s and CFO’s.  No matter where you are in the process — if you have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to provide testimony or documents or have already been indicted, we can take control of your case quickly.

Driving Under the Influence

The legal limit in Pennsylvania is .08, which means that if you are found to be driving with a blood alcohol content over that amount, you can be charged with a DUI. A DUI is a serious charge that can result in potential jail time, substantial fines, a driver’s license suspension, and a criminal record.

Let our DUI lawyers challenge the science behind the charges, investigate whether or not the police followed proper procedures, and devise an overall defense strategy to successfully beat the charges.

Weapons Offenses/Gun Grimes

The Second Amendment guarantees your right to bear arms, but federal and state governments can impose limits on this right in the interest of public safety. Pennsylvania is one of the most dangerous states in the nation in terms of gun violence, and as a result law enforcement has strict laws governing the possession and use of firearms.

We can help defend against a variety of weapons charges including: possessing criminal instruments, carrying a firearm without license, possession of a weapon on school property, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, and more.

Prosecutors must prove that you acted with criminal intent in order to convict you. Our weapons defense attorneys can utilize numerous strategies to fend off these charges such as demonstrating that your rights were violated through an illegal search and seizure or that police entered your home without a search warrant and without your consent.

Juvenile Offenses/College Student Crimes

Everyone makes mistakes when they’re young but being in trouble at a young age can be a scary experience and can create challenges for you later in life. If you or your child has received a juvenile petition charging them with a crime like underage drinking, driving under the influence, shoplifting, drug possession, sexual offense, we can help.

Our juvenile offense attorneys have been successful in negotiating for rehabilitative sentences rather than punishment. This can include admittance into a diversionary or probationary program like therapy or counseling, drug treatment, alcohol-education classes, community service.

Local Criminal Courts in Reading, Lancaster, and Lebanon

Major criminal cases in Pennsylvania, such as felonies, are heard by the Courts of Common Pleas.  The locations for the Court of Common Pleas in your county are:

  • Berks County Court of Common Pleas
    633 Court Street
    Reading, PA 19601
  • Lebanon Court of Common Pleas
    Room 311, Municipal Building
    400 South 8th Street
    Lebanon, PA 17042
  • Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas
    500 N Duke St.
    Lancaster, PA 17602
Magisterial District Courts handles all traffic cases, minor criminal cases, and civil cases involving amounts up to $12,000.  Magisterial District Judges can set bail and conduct preliminary hearings in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases to determine if the cases should be dismissed or transferred to the Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings.

Criminal Court Process After You’ve Been Arrested in Pennsylvania

If you or a family member has been arrested in the Reading PA area, you can generally expect the criminal court to follow these procedures

Arrest

An arrest occurs when there is probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. This is established through police witnessing a crime firsthand or through an investigation. You can either be handcuffed in person or sent a summons in the mail to surrender (DUI case).

Booking

After an arrest, you will be brought to jail for booking, which involves being fingerprinted and photographed. In Pennsylvania, you will receive a medical screening at the time of booking before you are placed in a holding cell.

Preliminary Arraignment and Bail

Your first court appearance will be a preliminary arraignment in front of a Magisterial District Judge at the local district court. You will be read the charges against you and a bail determination will be made. Bail is an amount of money that the Magistrate believes will secure your future appearance in court if you were to be released from custody.

A judge will weigh several factors when considering whether or not to set bail, including: the severity of the charges against you, your ties or standing within the community, and whether you would be a flight risk or pose a threat to the public.

If you were charged with a low grade misdemeanor DUI, you will most likely be released of your own recognizance and would not have to post bail.

There are some situations in which the magistrate will set an unsecured bail. This is a monetary amount, but you will not need to pay that amount to stay out of jail or remain out of custody. Rather, you would owe that amount of unsecured bail if you failed to appear at your next court hearing.

On the other hand, if you were charged with an offense that involves violence, bodily injury, reckless or outrageous behavior, drug trafficking, or firearms, the magistrate would most likely set a traditional secured bail which you would need to pay in order to be released from custody.

In extreme cases like a homicide charge, you may be denied bail altogether.

Preliminary Hearing

 Your next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing which will be held in front of a Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) in the district where the alleged crime occurred.

At this hearing, the state will present their case against you in an effort to show that by a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not or 51%) you were the person who committed the crime. It is very important to have a criminal defense lawyer at this hearing to challenge the evidence and cross-examine any witnesses.

If the MDJ decides the Commonwealth has met its burden of proof, then the charges will be “bound over” and sent to the Court of Common Pleas. If, on the other hand, the MDJ has concluded that there is not sufficient evidence, the charges will be dismissed.

Formal Arraignment

If the charges were not dismissed at your preliminary hearing, a formal arraignment will take place at the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you were arrested. You will be advised of your rights and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this phase in the criminal process, your attorney will seek discovery or all of the evidence in your case such as police reports, lab reports, photographs, etc.

Pre-trial Conference and Call of the List: After your formal hearing, you will participate in a pre-trial conference. Some counties refer to this as the Call of the List in which you inform the judge of the status of your case and decide whether to enter a plea negotiation, issue a continuance, or list the case for trial. At this stage in your case, we exhaust every opportunity to reach a favorable plea deal with the prosecution.

Trial

If a plea deal is not reached at the pre-trial conference, your case will proceed to trial. In Pennsylvania, the accused has the right to decide what kind of trial they want – a trial before a judge or a trial by jury. At the trial, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

DUI Arrest

After an arrest for drunk driving, you will most likely be taken into custody and released after processing and chemical testing has taken place. You should receive a summons in the mail notifying you of a Preliminary Arraignment/Hearing date. This packet of information comes from the District Court and will include a criminal complaint outlining the charges against you. It may or may not provide the results of the chemical tests. It will list the date and location of your preliminary hearing before a District Judge.

The sooner you contact a DUI lawyer at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., the better off you’ll be. Don’t wait until you receive a complaint in the mail or a summons to appear in court before reaching out. Immediately following your arrest, we may be able to prevent a complaint from being issued, or mitigate the charges that will be placed in the complaint.

Pennsylvania DUI Laws and Penalties

There are two formal charges that can be brought against you after a Pennsylvania DUI arrest: violating the state’s “per se” laws by driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, or driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree that renders you incapable of safe driving.

In Pennsylvania, drunk driving offenses are graded on a 3 tier system. The higher your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the harsher the punishments.

  • Tier 1 offense/General Impairment: BAC level of .08% up to .099%
  • Tier 2 offense/High BAC level of .10% up to .159%
  • Tier 3 offense/Highest BAC level of .16% or higher

Additional factors that may increase DUI penalties include: number of prior convictions, refusing to submit to a chemical test, whether a child passenger was in the vehicle, and whether any injury or property damage occurred during a crash.

General Impairment BAC 0.08% to 0.099%

First DUI offense:

  • up to six months probation
  • $300 fine plus associated court costs
  • mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • alcohol and drug treatment.

2nd DUI offense:

  • 5 days to 6 months in prison
  • Fine ranging $300 to $2,500
  • Drivers license suspended for 1 year.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school
  • Alcohol and drug treatment
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

3rd DUI offense

  • 2nd degree misdemeanor charge
  • 10 days to 2 years in prison
  • Fine ranging $500 to $5,000.
  • Driver’s license suspended for 1 year.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

High BAC 0.10% to 0.159%

1st offense:

  • 48 hours to 6 months in prison
  • Fine ranging $500 to $5,000
  • License suspended for 1 year
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school
  • Alcohol and drug treatment

2nd offense:

  • 30 days to 6 months in prison
  • 30 days to 6 months in prison
  • Automatic driver’s license suspension for 1 year.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

3rd offense:

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge
  • 90 days to 5 years in prison
  • Fine ranging $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Automatic license suspension of 18 months.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year

Highest BAC 0.16% and over OR Controlled Substance

1st offense:

  • 72 hours to 6 months in prison
  • Fine ranging $1,000 to $5,000
  • License suspended for 1 year
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.

2nd offense:

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge.
  • 90 days to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Automatic license suspension of 18 months.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year

3rd offense 

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge
  • 1 to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $2,500 to $10,000.
  • Automatic suspension of 18 months.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

DUI Under 21 Years of Age

If you are underage and were caught drinking and driving with a .02% BAC or greater, you are in violation of Pennsylvania’s “zero tolerance” law.

First Offense:

  • fine of up to $500
  • 90-day suspension of your license
  • possible alcohol assessment to determine if you have an alcohol or drug problem

Second Offense

  • fines of up to $500
  • 1-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • possible alcohol assessment to determine if you have an alcohol or drug problem

Third Offense

  •  fines of up to $500
  • 2-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • possible alcohol assessment to determine if you have an alcohol or drug problem.

If you are under 21 and are arrested for having a BAC of .08% or greater you will be facing the same penalties that someone over the age of 21 would be facing for the same offense including fines, jail time and license suspension periods.

Know Your Rights During DUI Stop

Law enforcement in Pennsylvania can only stop motorists if they have a reasonable suspicion that some type of criminal activity has taken place. A cop is trained to detect certain behaviors that may indicate drunk driving, such as straddling the center line, drifting between lanes, swerving, and sudden acceleration or deceleration for no reason. 

When the officer approaches your vehicle, they will look for evidence that points to intoxication — blood shot or glassy eyes, slurred speech, smell of alcohol on your breath, open containers in your vehicle, etc. 

Based on these observations, the officer may ask you point blank: “Have you been drinking tonight?” It’s important that you do not answer this question. Don’t attempt to talk your way out of the situation. Anything you say can be used against you later. You have the right to simply state “Officer, I choose to remain silent.”

Do NOT Consent to Field Sobriety Tests & Portable Breath Test

You may also be asked to step out of your vehicle to participate in a series of standardized field sobriety tests. These include walking a straight line, standing on one leg, putting your finger to your nose, reciting the alphabet, following a light with your eyes.  These tests are designed to make you fail which is why you should not agree to participate. You will not be penalized for refusing to

Another method a police officer may try to use to gather evidence is a portable breath test or preliminary breath test (PBT).  This involves you blowing into a machine that will measure your BAC. Similar to field sobriety tests, you are under no legal obligation to submit to this test. PBT’s are notorious for being scientifically unreliable. 

Consequences of Refusing Breath Test

You do, however have to consent to a formal breath, blood, or urine test. This can be performed at the police station, booking center or hospital.

Failure to comply with this chemical test will result in an automatic license suspension.

  • First offense: one-year license suspension
  • Second offense: 18-month license suspension
  • Third offense: 18-month license suspension

Treatment Instead of Incarceration for First-Time DUI Offenders

If this is the first time you’ve been charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for a pre-trial diversionary program called A.R.D., or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. If you successfully complete this program, the charges against you will be dismissed and the arrest will be erased from your record.

A.R.D. is similar to probation in that you will be under the court’s supervision for a period of time, most likely six months. To be eligible for the program, you must meet the following requirements

  • no offenses in the past 10 years
  • no serious injuries caused by the drunk driving
  • no child passengers in the car at the time of arrest.

Alternative Sentencing Options for Second and Third Time Offenders

Berks County is one of the few counties in the state to offer treatment programs for repeat DUI offenders facing mandatory minimum periods of jail time. If you have been arrested for your second DUI in 10 years, you may be eligible for the Second Time Offenders Program (STOP). STOP is a pre-sentence drug and alcohol treatment program that allows you to receive credit on a jail sentence if you agree to reside at a halfway house or serve a house arrest sentence with outpatient counseling.

Many third-time and subsequent offenders are offered treatment court as a way of shortening a jail sentence. This usually involves participating in treatment and intensive counseling and supervision.

 

Getting Your Driver’s License Back after DUI

If your license was suspended due to a DUI, we can represent your interests with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to regain your driving privileges.

There may be

  • Apply for Ignition Interlock Device/Limited License: you may be able to drive if you agree to purchase and install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Before starting your vehicle, you would have to blow into the device. If the device detects alcohol, it will prevent the vehicle from starting
  • Financial Hardship Exemption: If you are struggling financially, you may be able to qualify for an economic hardship exemption which would only require to install an ignition interlock system on one of their motor vehicles To qualify for an economic hardship, your adjusted gross income must be below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • Apply for Occupational Limited License: If this is your first DUI offense, you may qualify for an Occupational Limited License (OLL) which permits you to drive for work, medical, and school purposes. If your license has been suspended for one year, an OLL would be issued after the first 60 days of the suspension. For an 18 month suspension, it would be issued after one year of the suspension has been served.

How to Fight DUI Charges in Pennsylvania

Those accused of a DUI often make the mistake of believing their case is hopeless because they blew over the legal limit of .08 percent. An experienced, aggressive DUI attorney at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C. can utilize several defense strategies to attack the evidence against you. In crafting an effective defense, we will examine the following:

Illegal Traffic Stop

Law enforcement must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you were committing a traffic violation. If the officer stopped you without probable cause, any evidence collected after the stop may be suppressed and inadmissible in court.

Illegal Search and Seizure

The fourth amendment protects you from illegal search and seizures. The police cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause, without a warrant and/or without a your specific consent to the search.

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests

There are several factors that can contribute to a poor performance result, some of which may include: a disability or medical condition, being overweight or elderly, weather conditions, uneven pavement, distraction from flashing lights and traffic, etc. It’s also possible the police officer did not follow proper protocol in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every police cruiser should carry in-dash cameras and a recording may show

Inaccurate Breathalyzer Results

Breathalyzer machines are not fool-proof and there are certain variables that can contribute to a false reading, including:

  • medical conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux or heartburn
  • burping or vomiting
  • mouthwash and breath sprays
  • your body temperature
  • The machine wasn’t calibrated correctly
  • officer who administered test was not certified or properly trained on how to use the breathalyzer machine
  • Machine errors, defects, or malfunctions
  • Radio frequency interference

Inaccurate Blood Test Results

Although a blood test is considered more scientifically accurate than a breath test, it is not immune from error.

  • Contaminated testing equipment
  • Broken or defective testing equipment
  • Too much time elapsed between arrest and testing
  • Technician error

Should You Make a Plea Deal?

While the priority is always to seek a dismissal of charges, there may be a circumstance in which it is appropriate to pursue a plea deal with the prosecution. This would involve you pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or reduction in penalties.

One option may be to plead guilty to a reckless driving charge which is less severe than a DUI conviction and can’t be counted as a prior conviction if arrested for a DUI in the future. Another option may be to plead guilty to a traffic infraction in which you’ll merely have to pay a fine and won’t end up with a criminal record.

 

Compassionate Divorce Attorneys

Dealing with a family legal matter can be a heavy burden to carry alone. Let us help you get the closure you need to move forward in your life. We understand how emotionally charged a family dispute can get. Our goal is to give you the tools you need to help you reach amicable agreements on all the issues rather than going through the monetary and emotional expense of a drawn out trial.

If the issues in your marriage cannot be resolved through compromise, we will not hesitate to aggressively litigate in court on your behalf.

Family Law Practice Areas

  • Divorce
  • Division of property
  • Spousal support/alimony
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Military divorces
  • Same sex marriage issues
  • Relocations

PA Divorce Attorneys

Deciding to end a marriage is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. Letting go of the life you once knew and heading into an uncertain future can be intimidating and overwhelming. At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we can help make this transition a little more bearable by providing you with compassionate support and smart legal counsel.

Our firm represents you at every state in the divorce process including:

  • Filing the divorce complaint
  • Notify your spouse by sending him or her a copy of the filed court papers via certified mail or process server
  • Negotiating the terms and conditions of the division and distribution of assets and liabilities, child and spousal support
  • Completing Affidavit of Consent

 

Divorce Filing Locations

Lancaster County
Where to file: Lancaster County Courthouse
200 N. Duke Street
P.O. Box 83480
Lancaster, PA 17608
Divorce Complaint Fee:
$190.50 for divorce complaint.

Berks County
Where to file: County of Berks
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
Divorce Complaint Fee:
$210.20 for divorce complaint.

Lancaster County
Where to file: Lancaster County Courthouse
200 N. Duke Street
P.O. Box 83480
Lancaster, PA 17608
Divorce Complaint Fee:
$190.50 for divorce complaint.

Residency Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania

You or your spouse must have been a resident for at least six months before filing. You may file in the county in which your spouse resides or, if he or she lives out of state, where you reside.

Grounds for Divorce

When filing for divorce, you will need to state the reasons for ending your marriage or the grounds for your divorce. There are no-fault and at-fault grounds in Pennsylvania. A no-fault divorce, also known as a mutual consent divorce is the most common route couples take in which they cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the split. If you and your spouse agree to a no-fault divorce, you have to wait a minimum of 90 days to get your divorce finalized.

If you choose to pursue a fault-divorce, you need to give a specific reason and prove that your spouse’s misconduct led to the end of your marriage. Fault-based grounds may include adultery, abandonment without cause, cruelty, domestic violence, bigamy, or imprisonment for two or more years. Fault may impact the divorce when determining whether or not alimony should be granted to one spouse. There is no waiting period for a fault-based divorce.

 

Division of Property

A key aspect of divorce is dividing the assets and debts acquired during the marriage. This can be accomplished by reaching an out-of-court property settlement with your spouse or leaving it up to the court to decide who gets what. The court relies on a process called equitable distribution to divide marital property. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal or even half, but rather what is deemed by the court to be fair.

You and your spouse will be required to disclose financial information

Our divorce attorneys are committed to safeguarding your assets

Custody

The family law courts in Reading, PA typically favor shared custody arrangements, either in a 50/50 split or awarding one parent primary custody and the other partial custody. Sole custody is rare in the state. As co-parents, you will have every opportunity to resolve the issues related to your children through negotiation and mandatory mediation

Physical custody refers to where a child will live and with whom. Visitation can be negotiated with based

Legal custody outlines how involved each parent will be in making major decisions related to the children’s upbringing,

Whether through negotiation, mediation or litigation, you can count on us to do everything possible to make sure you and your children are left in a secure and positive position after the divorce is finalized.

Child Support

As a parent, you are financially responsible for your kids until they are 18 years of age. Whether you are the parent seeking child support or paying support, we will make sure the payment is fair and reasonable, and meets the needs of your children.

Child support is based on a formula that takes into account:

  • Both parents’ incomes
  • The amount of time each parent has with the child (shared custody, partial custody, sole custody)
  • Any special needs of the child, such as medical needs or educational needs

Spousal support or alimony

The earnings and earning capacities of both you and your spouse are the most significant factors used to determine both entitlement to and the amount of support that will be awarded.

There are three different types of alimony available in Pennsylvania

  1. Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony provides temporary financial support for a fixed period of time to assist a spouse with going back to school, training, or other “rehabilitation” that will enable them to become self-sufficient
  2. Reimbursement Alimony: Reimbursement alimony is a form of alimony awarded to one spouse as payment for expenses paid on behalf of the other spouse. This includes payment of education, medical bills or marital debt.
  3. Permanent Alimony: Permanent alimony provides payments through a spouse’s lifetime or until the dependent spouse remarries. Permanent alimony is rarely awarded in Pennsylvania.

Post Divorce Modifications

In your life post-divorce, the rulings that suited your situation back then may not make sense anymore. A substantial change in your current circumstances may prompt you to ask the court to modify some of your original orders. Maybe you have suffered a job loss or developed a chronic illness, or maybe you have relocated or gotten remarried.

At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we can help you petition the court for modifications to alimony, child custody or child support.