Family Law Unit

The Family Law Unit helps clients in matters involving, custody, protection from abuse, and related family law matters.  It does not handle divorce matters, child support or spousal support matters.

Practice Areas: Family Law   Relocation   Child Custody   Paternity   Protection From Abuse

Intake Procedure:

Call the Family Law Intake Line at 215.981.3838 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between the hours of 09:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.  Callers are not able to leave a message.  The Family Law Intake Line may be closed early if call volume is high.

We recommend calling at least three weeks before your court date before a Master and at least six weeks before your hearing before a Judge.

PLA's Family Law Intake Line does not accept applications for assistance with divorce, child support, or spousal support.

Assistance for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is available from PLA's Immigrant Women's Legal Assistance Hotline, which assists callers with legal problems including divorce, custody, child/spousal support, protection from abuse, and immigration.  Speakers of languages other than English and Spanish may leave a message with the Immigrant Women's Legal Assistance Hotline by calling 215.981.3838 at any time.

Eligibility Requirements:

Applicant must be LSC eligible and must be a resident of Philadelphia, or must be seeking custody of a child living in Philadelphia.

The Family Law Unit does not represent defendants in protection from abuse proceedings.

Funded By: Legal Services Corporation, Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women, Pennsylvania IOLTA, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network


Social Worker Appreciation Month

When folks come to legal aid organizations such as Philadelphia Legal Assistance they are often experiencing several legal needs, including anything from experiencing violence at home, to lacking money for groceries, to facing a mortgage foreclosure. In 2017, a national report found that 1 in 4 low-income households has experienced 6+ civil legal problems in the past year, including 67% of households with survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Attorneys Must Cede Power to their Clients

Samantha DiGiuseppe, a Certified Legal Intern and Student Advocate at PLA's Family Law Unit, wrote the following reflection on the importance of survivors of violence to maintain agency in their legal cases and how attorneys must consider the power dynamics of their role as legal experts.

Key takeaway: Clients are the experts of their own lives and are best suited to make decisions about their family law case. 

All Sexual Assault Survivors Deserve Independence

All sexual assault survivors deserve independence and autonomy as they build a life of their choosing, yet outdated PA laws make it difficult for single parents to do so.

Arly Smith-Pearson, Staff Attorney in our Family Law Unit, represents survivors of sexual assault and other forms of violence in child custody and protective order cases, often in collaboration with advocates from our partners at WOAR and WAA. To recognize April as sexual assault awareness month, Arly highlights how challenging the legal system is for survivors—even as they “win” their criminal and civil suits.

Philadelphia Family Court Has Moved!

Philadelphia Family Court is no longer located at 34 South 11th Street or at 1801 Vine Street.  The court is now located at:

1501 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

For information about where to go in the building for different services, see the court's web site.

Job Postings

Family Law Unit Paralegal/Project Coordinator

Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) seeks to immediately hire a full-time paralegal for its Family Law Unit. PLA is a non-profit legal services organization primarily funded by the Legal Services Corporation.


Kristy Lopez - Paralegal

Justice for Families Grant Family Court Help Center Advocate

Leslie Allen - Attorney
Emily Blakeslee - Paralegal
Brittany Chung - Paralegal
Emilia Golanska - Attorney

Emilia Golanska is the co-supervisor of the Family Law Unit.

Deeya Haldar - Attorney

Deeya Haldar is currently on leave from Philadelphia Legal Assistance.  She is teaching a civil litigation clinic at Villanova Law School.

Susan Pearlstein - Attorney

Susan Pearlstein is the co-supervisor of the Family Law Unit.

Gabriela Rodriguez - Attorney
Diane Rosario - Paralegal

Senior Paralegal

Angela Ruan - Attorney
Arly Smith-Pearson - Attorney

Arly Smith-Pearson is the supervisor of the Drexel Civil Litigation Field Clinic.

Lawrence Szmulowicz - Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I file for a protection from abuse order?

A protection from abuse order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or someone with whom you have a child in common.

You can file your petition for a protection from abuse order with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you live (permanently or temporarily), where you work, in any county where the abuser can be served (i.e., where s/he lives or works), or in the county where the abuse took place.