Frequently Asked Questions

Here is where you can get answers to the most frequently asked questions our clients have:

Workers’ Compensation
Unemployment Compensation
Social Security Disability
Personal Injury
Criminal Defense
Immigration
Family Law

Frequently Asked Questions About Workers Compensation Law

Who is covered under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act?
What are the injuries and illnesses covered, which occur in the workplace?
What are the injuries that are not covered, which occur in the workplace?
Who is responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits?
What does workers compensation cover?
How long does the process take?
How do you start a workers compensation claim?
What are the costs involved in a workers compensation claim?
Visit our Workers’ Compensation Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you win your workers compensation claim.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment Compensation Law

How do I apply for Unemployment Compensation?
I’ve just received a Notice of Determination that my unemployment compensation benefits claim was not approved. Now what do I do?
Should I hire a lawyer for my unemployment compensation hearing?
Who is supposed to complete the appeal forms?
I quit my job. Can I still receive unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
I was fired from my job. Can I still receive unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
What if I am the employer? Should my business hire a lawyer to defend against the Claimant’s (my former employee’s) unemployment compensation claim?
As an employer, if a former employee receives unemployment compensation benefits, will my unemployment compensation insurance tax increase for my current and future employees?

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability Law

What is Social Security Disability (SSD)?
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income?
Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability (SSD)?
What do I do if my SSD benefits are denied?
Why should I hire an attorney to help me with my claim for Social Security Disability?
Visit our Social Security Disability Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you win your social security disability claim.

Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Law

“What’s the first thing I should do if I am injured in an accident?
How long do I have to file a lawsuit if I am injured?
What are my rights if I’ve been injured?
What if I am contacted by an insurance company or another investigator?
How much will this cost? How do I pay for your services?
Will my case go to trial?
How much is my case worth?
How soon after a settlement is made will I get my check?
Visit our Personal Injury Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you win your personal injury lawsuit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense Law

Which types of Criminal Defense does your firm handle? 
Do I need to hire an attorney if the police say they want to speak with me, but they have not arrested me?
Do I need to hire an attorney if I have been arrested or charged with a crime?
What is bail and how do I make arrangements for bail?
What is the ARD Program?
If I get a DUI, will I have to go to jail?
Should I hire an attorney to represent me at a preliminary hearing at the District Justice Magistrate’s office?
What is a motion to suppress?
Will I get to find out everything the police know about my case?
What is the difference between parole and probation? 
Is there a difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge? 
What is the difference between a dismissal (when charges are dropped) and an expungement?
Can I get a finding of not guilty expunged?
Will my case go to trial?
What is the process of getting charged with a crime?
Can you tell me if I am facing jail time?
Can I be deported if I am not an American citizen and I am convicted of a crime?
If my child is charged with a crime, should I have him or her speak with the police and should I hire an attorney?
Visit our Criminal Defense Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you defeat the charges being brought against you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Immigration Law

What kinds of immigration cases does the law firm of Kitay & Associates handle?
Who from my family can help me obtain permanent residence?
What exactly is a family-based petition for immigration?
It there a limit to the number of family-cased petitions that one family member can make?
What are the family preference categories for immigration?
If I am convicted of a crime, will that affect my immigration status?
Visit our Immigration Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you win your immigration case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law

How do I get divorced in Pennsylvania?
What types of divorce are there?
Do I need to be a legal resident to file for a divorce?
Does Pennsylvania recognize legal separation?
What is a “Property Settlement Agreement”?
My spouse served me with a divorce complaint. What should I do?
Does the Court automatically split all the property 50/50 between spouses?
What is “Equitable Distribution”?
Do we have to go to Court if my spouse and I are in agreement with everything?
What are the fees for a divorce in Pennsylvania?
Can I do a divorce myself?
What is the difference between spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony?
How do I get child support? 
If I am sued for divorce, should I contact an attorney?
Can I re-marry and continue to receive alimony?
Why do I have to wait for a consent divorce to go through?
What if I lose my job and have child or spousal support obligations?
How is child support calculated?
Is the child support calculation different if the parents share custody 50/50?
What documents should I bring to my support hearing?
Can I get divorced if I didn’t get married in America?
Visit our Divorce Law Page to learn more about how Kitay & Associates can help you with your divorce case.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Worker’s Compensation Law in Pennsylvania

Who is covered under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act?
Most Pennsylvania workers (full-time or part-time) are covered by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Coverage under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act begins on the very first day of employment. If an employer has only one employee, that employee is covered. People who own their own businesses or are self-employed may not be covered.

What are the injuries and illnesses covered, which occur in the workplace?
Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the majority of all illnesses and injuries caused by a work-related accident or condition are covered. You are still entitled to receive workers’ compensation payments even if you are at fault for your work related injury, although there are some exceptions, which are listed below.

Are there injuries which occur in the workplace which are not covered by Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Law?
If you have been injured at work, or by a co-worker, you should contact the attorneys at Kitay & Associates, who can help you determine if you do have a claim. Generally, the following injuries are not covered by Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act:

  • Self-inflicted injuries which are intentional, including suicide
  • Injuries caused by your own illegal drug use or intoxication
  • Injuries which occur when a co-worker or a non-co-worker attacks you for a personal reason not related to your job, whether the injury occurs at your workplace or not
  • Injuries caused by breaking the law
  • Injuries from accidents that happen while traveling to or from work, or during breaks are usually not covered

Who is responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits?
Even though employers are required by Pennsylvania state law to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees, some neglect to carry it. Be your own advocate and ask about coverage at the time of hire. You can also contact the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to determine if your employer is carrying coverage.

What does workers compensation cover?
Workers’ compensation will pay only for your lost wages and medical bills. You cannot receive payment for pain or suffering. However, even if Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act will not cover your pain and suffering, there are some instances, described in the following question, where you can sue an employer or co-worker for pain and suffering.

How long does the process take?

  • The litigation process on a typical case can last anywhere from a year to a year and a half. If, however, the parties agree to some kind of resolution or settlement, the litigation can end much sooner.

How do you start a worker’s compensation claim?

  • Protecting yourself and starting a claim begins before you even walk into an attorney’s office.  Be sure that you have reported your work injury to a supervisor and asked to receive medical treatment.  After that, it is important to meet with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.  If the appropriate wage loss and/or medical benefits are not provided in accordance with the law, your attorney can file a Petition to put your case in court and in front of a judge.

What are the costs involved in a worker’s compensation claim?

  • Our firm does not receive any fee from your case unless we obtain workers’ compensation benefits for you.  In the event we obtain those benefits, we receive a 20% fee.  If your claim is unsuccessful, we do not receive a fee.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Unemployment Compensation in Pennsylvania

How can I file for Unemployment Compensation Benefits?
To file for unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania click here: PA Portal

I’ve just received a Notice of Determination that my unemployment compensation benefit claim was not approved. Now what do I do?
Well, all hope is not yet lost, because you have an absolute right to appeal. After you’ve received a Notice of Determination, there are four levels of appeal which are:

  1. Referee (Judge): The referee has been appointed to hear testimony about your case. You will have a hearing, which will be audio recorded, where you will have the right to testify, and you can also subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf. You will also have the chance to cross examine your former employer and any witnesses who testify on behalf of your former employer. The Referee must then determine who is telling the truth, and once he or she does that, the referee will apply the law to determine whether or not a former employee is entitled to UC benefits. Clients are often nervous about this hearing, but if you have an attorney with you, there is nothing to be afraid of.
  1. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review: If you lose at the referee stage, you have the right to file an appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. At this point in your appeal, the only testimony will be what was testified to in front of the Referee. The Board does not hear additional testimony, but instead makes sure that the Referee properly applied the law to the facts of the case. You and your former employer will be asked to write a brief – which is just a written argument outlining why the Referee was right or wrong. At Kitay & Associates, we write briefs quite often and so we have lots of experience in handling Unemployment Compensation Board of Review appeals.
  1. Commonwealth Court: In extremely rare cases, a UC case will get appealed even beyond the UC Board of Review, up to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth Court is the appeals court in Pennsylvania that hears appeals from government agencies. Just like the UC Board of Review appeal, an appeal to the Commonwealth Court includes the writing of another brief, and the opportunity to argue your case in person, before the judges. At Kitay & Associates, we have a significant amount of experience arguing before the many different courts in the Commonwealth.
  1. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:Sometimes, appeals can go all the way to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, but not very often. The attorneys at the Law firm of Kitay & Associates have experience representing employees and employers at all levels of appeal in Unemployment Compensation cases.

Should I hire a lawyer for my unemployment compensation hearing?
Yes. You should at a minimum have a consultation with an attorney and the attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Depending on the outcome of that consultation, you may want to bring an attorney with you to the hearing. Most people are not used to being in a courtroom, a lot will be happening at once and you don’t want your nerves to get the best of you. There is no need to concern yourself with proper courtroom procedures or how to conduct a cross examination. What i’s important is that an experienced lawyer from Kitay & Associates is representing you, has a strategy, and will fight for your rights. Your only job is to be prepared and provide testimony which is truthful and accurate.

Who is supposed to complete the appeal forms?
An unemployment compensation attorney from Kitay & Associates, who is familiar with the appeal forms, procedures, and deadlines will patiently be able to guide you so that your documents say exactly what is necessary. This is a critical point in the process as writing the wrong thing can put your case at risk. It is a good idea to hire an attorney to not only complete your appeal forms, but even help you understand how to complete your initial claim for benefits. If you quit your job or were fired, it is especially important to speak with an attorney prior to completing your initial claim for benefits. The initial intake for benefits can actually be denied even if your employer does not fight it, if you don’t properly explain the situation.

I quit my job. Can I still receive unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
Yes, you are sometimes still eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits if you quit your job. However, it depends on the circumstances. If you voluntarily quit your job, you will have to show that you quit because of a “necessitous and compelling reason”. If at all possible, you should consult with an attorney before you quit, so that you know how to do it properly, so as to preserve your rights to unemployment compensation benefits. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you figure out whether or not you will be entitled to benefits if you quit your job. If you think you may need to quit for health or medical reasons, you should speak with your doctor – and an attorney – before you giving notice to your employer that you are quitting.

I was fired from my job. Can I still receive unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
Yes, it is possible to receive unemployment compensation benefits even if you were fired. Your employer must follow certain rules when firing employees if the employer wishes to contest an employee’s right to unemployment compensation benefits. Your employer must prove that you engaged in “willful misconduct”. Willful misconduct is a broad concept, generally considered an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interests. An employer may fire an at-will employee at any time, for any legal reason, but unless an employee has engaged in willful misconduct, the employee is entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. Furthermore, if your employer has a policy or handbook, which outlines its own rules for firing employees, the employer generally must follow that policy. The attorneys at Kitay & Associations will help you determine if your behavior will be considered willful misconduct by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Before you make your initial request for unemployment compensation benefits you should speak with an attorney. It is important to complete the paperwork accurately, to make sure that your side is properly presented. An attorney can help you draft your claim in a way that anticipates the response your employer may give when he or she is contacted to respond to your request for benefits.

What if I am the employer? Should I fight an employee’s claim for unemployment compensation benefits?
As an employer you are technically not even required to respond to the inquiry from the Department of Labor and Industry, which will be sent to you when an employee requests unemployment compensation benefits. If you do not wish to contest your employee’s request for benefits, you don’t need to complete the form. If you wish to contest it, you can complete the form to indicate the reasons for why you do not feel your employee is entitled to benefits. The attorneys at the Law firm of Kitay & Associates can assist you in determining the best course of action should you believe you want to contest your former employee’s request for benefits.

As an employer, if a former employee receives unemployment compensation benefits, will my unemployment compensation insurance tax increase for my current and future employees?
This really depends on how long you have been in business and the number of former employees who end up getting benefits. The Department of Labor and Industry reviews rates every two years. If you have been in business for 2 years and let one person go, who ended up getting benefits, you will see a negligible increase in your tax rate, if you see one at all. However, if you are a seasonal employer, and you routinely let your employees go over the winter, for example, your rate can increase significantly. The Department of Labor and Industry can also decrease your tax liability if you have a long period of time with no former employees getting benefits. Every two years your rates are adjusted. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates can assist you in deciding whether to fight a former employee’s request for benefits.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability Law

What is Social Security Disability (SSD)?
Social Security Disability, usually referred to as “SSD”, provides financial support to people who are physically or mentally impaired to that extend that their disability prevents them from working for one year or more.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income?

Both Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide monetary compensation and medical benefits to those who are disabled from gainful employment.  For both programs, you must have physical or mental impairments that make you disabled under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines.

To qualify for SSD in most cases, you must have worked long enough and earned enough wages to be eligible, i.e. earned enough “work credits” to be insured.  As long as you have enough credits to be eligible, and have sufficient impairments, you may qualify for benefits.  Those benefits include monetary compensation each month, as well as eligibility for Medicare health benefits.  The monthly compensation provided by SSD is generally higher than that provided by SSI.

SSI is similar to SSD in that you must again have sufficient impairments to be found disabled from gainful employment.  SSI also provides monthly monetary compensation.  However, you may qualify for SSI even if you have never worked.  Instead, to be eligible you must meet certain income/asset requirements.  While some assets can be excluded from the calculation, you generally cannot have more than about $2,000.00 in assets to be eligible to receive SSI.  This threshold can be updated periodically by the Social Security Administration.  If approved, you become eligible for health benefits through your state’s Medicaid program.

Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability (SSD)?
Those who qualify for SSD benefits need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Must have a qualifying disability, and
  2. Are unable to work for 12 months or longer

A “qualifying disability” is defined as:

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process to determine whether an applicant should receive disability benefits.  During Step 3, SSA will examine how your medical conditions affect you.  SSA maintains a list of many medical conditions that could cause disability.  They will determine whether you have a condition on their list, and then examine how your impairments affect your ability to work.  If you have a medical condition that is on their list, or is equivalent to one of those conditions, and it sufficiently impairs your ability to work, then you would have a “qualifying disability” and be entitled to benefits.

What do I do if my SSD benefits are denied?
You have the right to file an appeal and there are deadlines in which to do so, so you should make sure you are aware of those deadlines. An experiences attorney at Kitay & Associates can assist you with the appeal forms.

Why should I hire an attorney to help me with my claim for Social Security Disability?
The Social Security Administration is more likely to approve an SSD applicant who’s represented by legal counsel than one who isn’t. An attorney from Ken Kitay & Associates will know how to strategically present your case through the hearing level and beyond, if needed. At your hearing, if there is one, your lawyer will be well prepared and be able to submit important medical evidence, including documentation from your doctor, which will explain your medical condition and why you are unable to work. You will be called to testify at your own hearing. Your attorney will prepare you for the judge’s questions at the hearing. Sometimes an SSD case may be forced to the next level of appeal to the Appeals Council and possible Federal Court. This level of the justice system is highly sophisticated and your attorney will handle all of the details.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Law

What’s the first thing I should do if I am injured in an accident?
The most important thing is your health, so be seen by a doctor immediately so that your injury is treated and you are provided care. Next, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible as Personal Injury cases must be investigated quickly. If you wait, you may cause very important evidence to be lost forever, which could have negative effect on your potential case. You should always call the police and have an accident report filled out.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit if I am injured?
The time period calculation is generally two years from the date you become aware of the injury. However, you should never wait that long to speak with an attorney. There are rare instances where the time period can be longer than two years, so even if you are past that time-line, you should contact an attorney to help you determine the exact date of your deadline. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you determine what your deadline is, called the “statute of limitations” deadline, and they will make sure your case is filed timely and properly.

What are my rights if I’ve been injured?
If someone’s negligence has caused your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries. You may be entitled to lost wages both past and future, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. Every case is different, and based on the facts, the attorneys at Kitay & Associates will work to discover the legal rights and limitations that may apply to your case and advise you regarding your best course of action. At Kitay & Associates we believe that clients are entitled to attorneys who are experienced enough to gauge what a client is entitled to, based on the facts of that client’s case. We can help you determine what settlement options are available to you and whether you should accept a settlement offer at all, or go to trial. We will be with you every step of the way, always keeping your best interests in mind.

What if I am contacted by an insurance company or another investigator?
Any documents you sign or settlements you agree to prior to speaking with an attorney could affect your ability to recover full compensation for your injury. You could end up signing away your rights to sue at all, or agreeing to an amount that is significantly less than you might be entitled to receive. These contracts are extremely difficult to overturn, and therefore once signed, there is virtually no way to cancel them. The insurance companies use their lawyers to draft these contracts such that they are in the insurance companies’ favor. You should have an attorney who is on your side explain your right to you, and review any settlement offers. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates are experienced in evaluating settlement offers and in reviewing, revising, and drafting settlement contracts. A personal injury case is not the time to try your hand at representing yourself; let us help you.

How much will this cost? How do I pay for your services?
The good news is that at Ken Kitay & Associates for most personal injury cases, “if we don’t win, you don’t pay.” Our fee is based on a percentage of any cash settlement we are able to obtain for you. We put our fee agreement in writing, and review it with you, to make sure you understand how we get paid.

Will my case go to trial?
Many cases are settled before trial, but if a settlement offer is not enough in relation to how serious your injuries are, the lawyers at Ken Kitay & Associates have the experience to fight for your rights during the trial process, so that you can get the large cash settlement that you deserve.

How much is my case worth?
Until your case has been fully investigated and your medical condition has stabilized, you should be wary of anyone who tries to tell you the value of your potential claim. But you can rest easy knowing that Ken Kitay & Associates will fight to get you full compensation, which may include payment of medical bills, lost wages, and/or diminished earning capacity due your injury, in addition to physical pain, emotional suffering, mental anguish, and loss of ability to enjoy life.

How soon after a settlement is made will I get my check?
As soon as possible. In a lot of cases, the funds relating to your personal injury claim are received within about 14 days after the settlement agreement and release are signed. However, cases involving a very large settlement, the State, private individuals, or out-of-area insurance companies can take longer. In addition, Kitay & Associates may need to obtain a Court approval before a settlement is finalized. However, we will keep you updated as to the status of your settlement and will send your funds to you quickly after we receive them.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense Law

Which types of Criminal Defense does your firm handle?
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Kitay & Associates handle every kind of criminal case: traffic/summary, misdemeanor, and felony charges. These cases include, but are not limited to: Fraud and Identity Theft, Domestic Abuse, Traffic offenses, Drivers License Suspension Issues (including Penn DOT appeals), Sexual Abuse, Possession of Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia, Possession with Intent to Deliver Drugs, Drug Delivery, Probation and Parole Violations (including Gagnon hearings), Driving Under the Influence, Homicide by DUI, Robbery, Theft, Burglary, Person Not to Possess a Firearm, Possession of a Firearm without a License, Attempted Criminal Homicide, and Criminal Homicide. We also assist clients with getting prior arrests expunged, as well as Governor Pardons.

Do I need to hire an attorney if the police say they want to speak with me, but they have not arrested me?
Yes. The police are your friends – until they suspect you have committed a crime or believe you may be involved. Speaking with an attorney before you meet with the police does not necessarily mean you won’t meet with the police at some point. But you should speak with an attorney to make an informed decision. Anything you say to the police can and will be used against you. Everyone knows that, but they don’t always believe it. If the police have a enough to arrest you, they will arrest you even if you speak with them. You will not be able to talk them out of arresting you if they believe they have probable cause to arrest you. If the police do not have enough to arrest you, anything you say to them runs the very high risk of giving them enough to arrest you. Innocent people do sometimes get charged with a crime. And innocent people do sometimes confess to crimes they have not committed. You should never speak with the police without an attorney present. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you make the decision of whether or not to speak with the police. If you have committed a crime, the attorneys at Kitay & Associates can negotiate a plea even before you speak with the police, or work out a deal for your cooperation. If you go in alone, without an attorney, you are missing an opportunity to use the leverage you have – which is giving the police information they want from you – to your benefit.

Do I need to hire an attorney if I have been arrested or charged with a crime?
Yes. For all the reasons stated above, it is extremely important to at least meet with an attorney as soon as you are arrested or know you will be arrested. See above for more information on why you need to speak with an attorney if you are arrested or charged with a crime.

What is bail and how do I make arrangements for bail?
The purpose of bail is two-fold: protection of the community and insuring a defendant appears for all court hearings. The experienced attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help the district justice magistrate know all the reasons why you are not a threat to the community, and why you are not a flight risk. We can help you get the lowest bail possible, from ROR (released on your own recognisance), meaning no money needs to be paid, or unsecured bail, and if secured bail is required, the criminal defense attorneys at Kitay & Associates can work to keep that bail as low as possible. A bail bondsman can assist you to posting bail.

What is the ARD Program?
ARD, or Accelerated Rehabilitative Program, is a program put together by the District Attorney’s office in each county. It allows people who have been charged with a crime to participate in a probation period, pay costs and sometimes a fine, and have their charges dropped and the arrest expunged. Every county’s District Attorney is different as to what kind of cases will be accepted into the ARD program, and what the procedure is. Some counties have very strict requirements for the application process, including deadlines for filing the application. Let the attorneys at Kitay & Associates help you apply for the ARD program. If you are eligible for this program, you don’t want to make a mistake that would hurt your chances of getting accepted, as successful completion will prevent you from having a criminal record if you have no other convictions. Generally, misdemeanors like DUIs, Drug Possession, Theft, Retail Theft, Simple Assault, and Harassment are common charges faced by ARD applicants. However, in some cases even a person charged with a felony can enter the program. This is why it is important to hire an experienced attorney to help you submit the best application possible, and increase your chances of acceptance into the program.

If I get a DUI, will I have to go to jail?
It depends on the level of alcohol in your system, and whether you have any illegal substances in your system, and how many prior DUIs you have, if any. If this is your first DUI, the ARD program may be available to you. You might have arguments you can make about whether or not the stop was legal and whether or not the evidence against you can be suppressed. You should speak with an attorney at the law offices of Kitay & Associates; we can help you determine the best way to proceed, tell you whether you qualify for the ARD program and help you complete the application should you desire to apply, or file any necessary motions to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of an illegal stop or search. I can create a chart of the different tiers of DUI and jail time etc if you want.

What is the process of getting charged with a crime (other than a summary offense)?

  • Complaint: A criminal complaint will be filed against you and served on you thorough the mail.
  • Arrest Warrant: For serious charges, in addition to a criminal complaint, you can be served with an arrest warrant, where you will be taken to Central Booking and may need to post bail. You may not know an warrant has been issued for your arrest until the police find you and take you into custody.
  • Preliminary Hearing: This is the initial hearing, to see if there is a “prima facie case” against you. See the following question for more information on preliminary hearings
  • Arraignment: This is where you plead guilty or not guilty. It is extremely rare to plead guilty at this stage of the proceeding and you should speak with an attorney before doing so
  • Pr-Trial Conference: this is a “meeting” with the judge, counsel, and you, in open court, to determine if your case is ready to go to trial. If you are going to plead guilty, it is usually done at the pre-trial conference
  • Guilty Plea, if applicable: this is where you plead guilty. You can plead pursuant to a plea agreement, or you can do an open plea. See the question below for more information on pleading guilty
  • Trial: Except for certain kinds of misdemeanor cases, you have the right to a jury trial. Your case must be brought to trial within 360 days or it will get dismissed. However, if you ask for a continuance during that time, it stops the clock on that year for as long as the continuance lasts
  • Sentencing, if convicted or plead open: If you plead guilty, you are generally sentenced right there, at that time. Often, but not always, the judge will give you a specific date to prison, if you are currently out on bail and are sentenced to jail time. You should speak with your attorney about how to prepare for the possibility to going to jail the day you are sentenced. After trial, or after an open plea, there is almost always a pre-sentence investigation completed by the Probation Department and you have the right to put on testimony. In addition, if you are out on bail, but are found guilty after trial, there is a strong possibility you will be “remanded”, meaning your bail will be revoked, the day the verdict comes in, even before you are sentenced. See below for more information on Sentencing
  • Appeal: You may have appeal issues you can raise after your sentencing. You should speak with an experienced attorney at Kitay & Associates about what appeal rights you have

Should I hire an attorney to represent me at a preliminary hearing at the District Justice Magistrate’s office?
It is advisable to hire an attorney to represent you at any and all stages of a criminal case. The Preliminary Hearing is the place where the District Attorney’s office puts on the case it has against you. At that time, the police will put witnesses on the stand to testify. The preliminary hearing is a great opportunity to cross examine the Commonwealth’s witnesses, learn about the case they have against you at a very early stage, and in some cases get the case dismissed. Also, bail is often set at the preliminary hearing. You have the right to hire a stenographer for the hearing, and you also have the right to have an attorney present. The importance of the preliminary hearing is often overlooked by clients, and sometimes even waived without speaking with an attorney first. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you decide whether you should waive your prelim or have it, and help you if you do decide to have it.

What is a motion to suppress and can I get the evidence in my case suppressed?
There are many motions an attorney can file on behalf of a client in a criminal proceeding. One such motion is called a motion to suppress. A motion to suppress is filed when evidence has been obtained in violation of a person’s fourth or fifth Amendment rights. The fourth amendment is the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The fifth Amendment is the right against self-incrimination (the right remain silent). The police are required to read a person his or her Miranda warnings (“You have the right to remain silent, but anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you”) before they ask you any questions while you are in police custody. If the police have not told you that you are “Free to leave at any time”, you should assume you are in police custody. But even if the police do NOT read you your Miranda warnings, if you are not in police custody, and you still give a statement, that statement can be used against you. It is important to discuss all the facts of your case with your attorney, so that a decision can be made about what kind of motions should be filed in your case. Note that there are often very strict deadlines about filing such motions, and if you hire an attorney, you want to give that lawyer enough time to investigate your case and not miss those deadlines. Which is why, if you are charged with a crime, you should immediately contact the experienced defense attorneys at Kitay & Associates.

Will I get to find out everything the police know about my case?
Yes. The District Attorney must provide defendants and their counsel with all relevant information about their case. This is called “discovery” and you must make a discovery request to obtain this information. Failure to properly and timely request discovery could delay your case or even prevent you from having the information you need to file motions on a timely basis.

What is the difference between parole and probation?
Probation is when you are under the supervision of the county, either after serving a portion of your county prison sentence, or after being sentenced to just straight probation. Parole is when you are under the supervision of the state, after serving a portion of a state sentence.

Is there a difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge?
Yes. A felony carries a greater sentence, and also a greater offense gravity score and prior record score than a misdemeanor. A felony can also affect your ability to find work, get or keep a security clearance, and prevent you from holding certain professional licenses (like insurance, attorney etc). If you are charged with a felony, it is extremely important that you speak with one of the criminal defense attorneys at Kitay & Associates, to make sure your rights are protected. A felony conviction can have drastic negative effects on your life.

What is the difference between charges being dropped and having charges expunged?
When charges are dropped, the Commonwealth has agreed not to pursue them and all that will show on you record is the arrest. You can petition the court to have the arrest expunged if the charges were dropped. An expungement is when your conviction is expunged. Except in certain juvenile cases, the right to expungement in adult cases is so narrow that is might as well not exist at all. The only real way to get rid of a conviction is through a governor’s pardon. The experienced attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you prepare the petition to request a pardon.

Can I get a finding of “not guilty” expunged?
Yes. You can also get the arrest itself expunged. We can assist you in clearing up these blemishes on your record.

Will my case go to trial?
You always have the right to go to trial. Many criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements, and therefore there is no trial. Deciding whether to plead guilty or go to trial is a huge decision that you should make only after meeting with an attorney who has reviewed your case thoroughly. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates have the experience to review the evidence against you, determine if there are any pre-trial issues that need to be addressed, such as motion to suppress evidence or statements, and help you make a decision about whether or not to go to trial. Even if the District Attorney’s office does not offer you a plea deal, you always have the right to plead guilty at any time before trial starts. Pleading guilty without a deal is called an “open plea” and the judge will sentence you. You will have a sentencing hearing, where you will be given the opportunity to put on witnesses and also make a statement yourself. It is highly recommended that you have an attorney represent you at your sentencing hearing if you are pleading open.

Can you tell me if I am facing jail time?
Yes. In Pennsylvania the Courts use something called the “Sentencing Guidelines”, which is a set of rules about what kind of sentences are fair for each criminal offense. The Guidelines provide for a range, so that a suggested sentence for a specific crime could be just probation or up to 3 to 6 months in jail, for example. The Guidelines also take into consideration your prior record, by using your Prior Record Score. Prior convictions carry points, including prior convictions of felony offenses you may have received if you were 16 or 17 years old. The larger your Prior Record Score, the higher the sentencing range will be under the guidelines. Keep in mind that the Guidelines are just that- guidelines. A judge is not required to follow them and he or she can make a sentence shorter or longer. As such, it is important to have an experienced attorney help you prepare for your sentencing hearing. If you accept a plea agreement with the District Attorneys office, then the judge must accept the terms of the offer, or you will have the right to withdraw your plea. It is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney, who has a good working relationship with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office, to help you negotiate a plea if you would rather plead guilty than go to trial.

Can I be deported if I am not an American citizen and I am convicted of a crime?
Yes. Which is why it is important to speak with an attorney who understands both criminal defense law and immigration law. Not all crimes can lead to a person being deported. There are options, such as ARD, which can prevent a conviction of the kind of crime that leads to deportation. The attorneys at Kitay & Associates have experience handling criminal cases which could cause a person to be deported. Let us help you protect your right to stay in this country.

If my child is charged with a crime, should I hire an attorney?
Yes. Parents often make the mistake of thinking that children cannot suffer real, life long consequences as a result of criminal behavior. However, in Pennsylvania, a juvenile over the age of 14 can be charged as an adult for many crimes, and if convicted, sent to a real prison – not a detention center. In addition, even if not charged as an adult, a juvenile over the age of 16 who is adjudicated delinquent will have that adjudication count as a conviction when calculating that juvenile’s prior record score, if he or she ever got in trouble as an adult, making the sentence he or she receives as a result of that adult conviction, harsher. The very last thing you should do is make your child “tell the police the truth”. You should instead have your child to tell his or her attorney the truth, and once that is done, a decision can be made about whether or not to speak with the police. Until your child has a chance to speak with an attorney, he or she should not speak with the police. When your child is charged with a crime, it is not the time to teach him or her a lesson. The effects on his or her life can be severe and therefore every effort should be made to lesson those effects. It is possible to have juvenile records expunged in certain circumstances, and we can help you with that process.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Immigration Law

What kinds of immigration cases does the law firm of Kitay & Associates handle?
The immigration attorneys and Kitay & Associates handle family-based immigration petitions.

Who from my family can help me obtain permanent residence?
A permanent resident (green card holder) or U.S. citizen can petition to help a family member get a U.S. immigrant visa, which leads to a green card, or lawful permanent residence.

What exactly is a family-based petition for immigration?
Family-based petitions are classified into two categories: “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” and “family preference” relatives. The “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” category includes the spouses (same-sex or opposite-sex) of U.S. citizens and their unmarried children younger than 21 years of age, their parents (after the U.S. citizen child has turned 21), and orphans adopted in or out of the States.

It there a limit to the number of family-cased petitions that one family member can make?
Yes, there is a limit. Those petitioning under the “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” category are limited by the number of immigrant visas (green cards) given out each year. However, those who fall into the “family preference” category are subject to annual quotas in visas, according to the country of origin where the person seeking U.S. residency was born. In some countries, the waiting period is short; in others, the wait can spans decades.

What are the family preference categories for immigration?
The “family preference” categories are as follows: First Preference (F1) – The person seeking residency must be an unmarried son or daughter of U.S. citizens at the time when the petition is filed, and he or she must remain so until receiving the green card. If a beneficiary obtains a good-faith divorce during the long years of waiting for the visa, he or she will become eligible for an immigrant visa as an F1. Second Preference (F2) – The person seeking residency must be a spouse (same-sex or opposite-sex), minor child, or an unmarried son or daughter (age 21 and above) of permanent residents. Third Preference (F3) – The person seeking residency is a married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, and their spouses and minor children. Fourth Preference (F4) – The person seeking residency is a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, and their spouse and minor children. Half-brothers, half-sisters and adoptive siblings are also eligible under this category.

If I am convicted of a crime, will that affect my immigration status?
Yes, it can. Convictions of “crimes of moral turpitude” can affect your ability to stay in this country. If you are trying to obtain legal status, and you are charged with a crime, you should contact one of the experienced criminal defense/immigration attorneys at the law firm of Kitay & Associates. We understand both of these areas of the law and can assist you. Do not just assume that there is nothing you can do.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce Law

How do I get divorced in Pennsylvania?
To get divorced, one spouse must file a divorce complaint. A divorce complaint is just a document that gets filed with the court, asking the court to grant a divorce. It can also include a request that the court divide up property. A divorce complaint can also include a request for custody or alimony, as well as other relief. The complaint must state the “grounds” for divorce. There are several different grounds for divorce, as stated in the answer to the question below.

What types (or grounds) of divorce are there?
There are three ways to get divorced in Pennsylvania, called “grounds” for divorce. One is called “fault” divorced, and the other two are different types of “no-fault” divorce. Fault Divorce: Back in the early 1980s, the only way to get divorced in Pennsylvania was by saying that your spouse was “at fault”. He or she had abandoned you or committed adultery, for example. As I am sure you can imagine, many people wanted to get divorced, not because of fault, but just because of “irreconcilable differences”. They just didn’t want to be with each other anymore. People were making up reasons for fault divorce, because there simply was no other way to get divorced. So in 1985, the Pennsylvania Legislature amended the Divorce law to allow people to get divorced without claiming fault. The Legislature created two kinds of “no-fault” divorce.

  • No Fault Divorce: With a no fault divorce, you don’t have to say your spouse did anything wrong. You just have to say you don’t want to be married anymore. There are two different kinds of no-fault divorce, and the difference is really just the time it takes to get one over the other, and whether or not your spouse is willing to sign paperwork or not.
  • 90 Day Divorce: A divorce complaint is filed and served on the other spouse. 90 days from the date the other spouse receives the complaint, both parties can sign what are called “consents and waivers”, consenting to the divorce, and waiving any other rights (for property division, alimony etc.). The consents and waivers can be signed at any time after the 90 days – they just can’t be signed before. This is because the Legislature wanted to give people a “cooling off” period. It’s important to note that for this kind of a divorce, it is not necessary for the parties to be separated for any length of time and they can be living in the same house for the entire 90 day period (or later) and still get divorced under this part of the divorce law. Once the consents and waivers are signed, the clerk sends the file to the judge to sign the divorce decree. Sometimes the judge signs is quickly, but sometimes the judge is backlogged and may not sign it for several weeks. You can still get this kind of a divorce, even if you have property to divide, if you reach an agreement to divide up that property prior to the divorce getting finalized. There are times when you can “bifurcate” your divorce, so you can get divorced, but still preserve your right to divide up property at a later date
  • Two Year Separation Divorce: A divorce complaint is filed and served on the other spouse. Once the parties have been living “separate and apart” for at least 2 years, the divorce can be finalized under this part of the divorce law. In Pennsylvania, spouses can be separated even if they are not physically living separate and apart, as long as at least one of them has communicated an intent to get divorced to the other, and the spouses have separated themselves as much as possible (separate bank accounts, sleeping in separate rooms) while in the same house. Note that it does not matter when the divorce complaint has been served as it does in the 90 day divorce; the “two years” are about how long the parties have been separated, not when the complaint was served. However, before the divorce can be finalized, the party who filed the divorce complaint must serve a written notice on the other side, informing the other spouse of his or her rights under the divorce law. If the other spouse does not respond in 20 days, the divorce can then be finalized when the clerk sends the file to the judge to sign the divorce decree. Sometimes the judge signs is quickly, but sometimes the judge is backlogged and may not sign it for several weeks.
  • In any of the divorce types, if you cannot reach an agreement regarding property division or alimony, you will need to have a hearing before the Divorce Master in your county. Divorce Master hearings are complex, with a lot of specific procedural rules, and you would benefit significantly if you had an attorney with you.

Do I need to be a legal resident to file for divorce?
Not necessarily, but you should speak with the experienced attorneys at Kitay & Associates about how your legal status affects your rights to get divorced.

Can I get divorced in America if I was married in another country?
Yes. But if your spouse lives in another country you will have to serve him or her with the divorce complaint, and that is more expensive than serving someone here in the United states.

Does Pennsylvania recognize legal separation?
No. There is no such thing in Pennsylvania as “legal separation”. In Pennsylvania, spouses can be separated even if they are not physically living separate and apart, as long as at least one of them has communicated an intent to get divorced, and the spouses have separated themselves as much as possible (separate bank accounts, sleeping in separate rooms).

What is the difference between equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony?
There are three parts to a divorce: The actual dissolution of the marriage; the division of property, like real estate, furniture, bank accounts, retirement accounts; and the division of income, through an award for spouse support or alimony pendente lite, or alimony.

  • Equitable Distribution: The Court looks at about 17 different factors to decide how to divide up the property (like real estate, retirement accounts, cars). Some of the factors used are: the age and health of the parties, the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of the parties, the contributions a spouse may have made to the marriage other than through income (a stay at home parent for example), the earnings of the parties, the other property a party may have that is not subject to being divided by the divorce court. The Court does NOT automatically divide the property 50%/50%. It is extremely important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney at Kitay & Associates, who can help you understand your rights regarding property division. “Fault” does not matter in dividing up property. A spouse who commits adultery, for example, is not going to get less property merely because he or she has committed adultery.
  • Spouse Support, Alimony Pendente Lite, and Alimony: Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) are calculated the same way: using the Pennsylvania support guidelines. To obtain spousal support, you must be separated – physically in a different location – and you must make less than your spouse. Child support payments are considered as income to you, or deducted from your income if you are paying child support. Spousal support continues until the parties are divorced. However, a spouse who is co-habitating, or who has committed marital misconduct – meaning he or she did something that would be grounds for a fault divorce – is generally not entitled to spousal support. But you must raise that issue to preserve it and therefore it is extremely important that you discuss your right to receive spousal support, or your obligation to pay it, with an experienced divorce attorney at Kitay & Associates.
    APL is awarded to the spouse making less money (after child support payments are considered on both sides) and even a spouse who committed marital misconduct can receive APL. However, to continue to receive APL, that spouse must agree that if the grounds for a no-fault divorce have been met (90 days since the service of the complaint, or 2 year separation) that he or she will not fight the divorce and will either enter into an agreement, or allow the case to move forward to the Divorce Master. If he or she refuses both, the APL will stop if the other party petitions the Court.
    Alimony is the division of income after the divorce, but you must ask for it before. It is not calculated the same way as spousal support or APL, but instead factors similar to the factors stated up for property division are used. Fault can prevent a spouse from getting Alimony. Unless the parties agree otherwise, alimony ends if the party receiving it co-habitates (lives with another person in which he or she is in a relationship) or remarries. APL continues regardless of whether there is co-habitation.

What is a “Property Settlement Agreement”?
When the parties agree on how to divide up their property, and whether there will be support or alimony and for what amount.

My spouse served me with a divorce complaint. What should I do?

Do we have to go to Court if my spouse and I are in agreement with everything?
No. If you are able to agree on everything, there is no need to go to Court.

What are the fees for a divorce in Pennsylvania?
The fees depend on the county in which you live. You should speak with at attorney at Kitay & Associates to determine the costs of filing for divorce. There is a filing fee that goes to the court when you file the divorce complaint. There can be additional fees if you are requesting the Court to divide up property or determine child custody. If it is necessary to attend a hearing at the Divorce Master because you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement as to divide up property and income, there are often filing fees associated with having the divorce master appointed.

Can I do a divorce myself?
Yes. In Pennsylvania you are never required to use an attorney to get divorced, but we strongly believe that, at a minimum, you should contact Kitay & Associates for a consultation, so that you are informed about what your rights are.

How do I get child support?
Contact your local Domestic Relations Office.

If I am sued for divorce, should I contact an attorney?
Yes. You can lose important property rights through divorce if you fail to respond.

Can I re-marry and continue to receive alimony?
Only if you and your spouse agreed to that as part of your settlement agreement.

Why do I have to wait for a 90 day divorce to go through?
It is considered to be a “cooling off” period, so that you make sure you really do want to get divorced.

What if I lose my job and have child or spousal support obligations?
Immediately file for a modification of support through the Domestic Relations Office. Until you file for a modification, your support will stay the same, even though you lost your job.

How is child support calculated?
There are guidelines used to determine base support, but it is important to have an attorney with you to make sure your income is calculated properly, you are afforded all the appropriate deductions, you understand your rights to both spousal support, mortgage assistance, health insurance, and child support.

What documents should I bring to my support hearing?
You need tax returns from the last full calendar year as well as a minimum of six (6) months of pays tubs. Some counties have income and expense forms you must complete. If you are self-employed you will need to bring three years’ worth of tax returns. For child support hearings, you should be prepared to prove the cost of daycare, health insurance, and any other significant expense of the child (private school tuition, for example). If you are married and seeking spousal support, you should be prepared to discuss the reason for the separation. Furthermore, you may be entitled to a mortgage deviation if you are still residing in the marital residence. A mortgage deviation is additional support you can receive to help you cover the cost of the mortgage. The amount is calculated using a complex formula that takes into consideration your income, any child support or spousal support you receive, and the cost of the mortgage in relation to those figures. The experienced family law attorneys at Kitay & Associates can help you properly prepare for your support hearing.

Is the child support calculation different if the parents share custody 50/50?
Yes. There are very specific rules about how child support is calculated under those circumstances. It is not simply that the support amount is split equally. At Kitay & Associates, we can calculate your support obligations and rights ahead of time, so you know what to expect.