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

Job Postings


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.


HB 1984 passes: PA Legislature protects single, survivor parents

In October, the Pennsylvania General Assembly unanimously enacted House Bill 1984 (Benninghoff, R-Center and Mifflin). This bill advances the rights of survivors of sexual assault in Pennsylvania.

#RethinkCredibilty in Family Court

Its time we #RethinkCredibilty in Family Court to treat survivors of violence with compassion and respect. 

Power Moves: Susan Pearlstein Named Senior Attorney, Violence Prevention and Policy Strategist

Philadelphia Legal Assistance is excited to announce a change in leadership within our Family Law Unit! Susan J. Pearlstein, Esquire is now a Senior Attorney, Violence Prevention and Policy Strategist.

Rising Leaders: Gabriela Rodriguez and Leslie Allen Named New Supervising Attorneys of the Family Law Unit

Philadelphia Legal Assistance is proud to announce two new Supervising Attorneys for the Family Law Unit: Gabriela Rodriguez and Leslie Allen. Gaby and Leslie are both rising from Staff Attorney positions in the Family Law Unit at PLA, and we are excited to see the new directions their leadership will take us.  

Make Sure Your Contact Information is Up to Date!

Philadelphia Family Court Update July 17th, 2020

Philadelphia’s Domestic Relations Court is scheduling Protection from Abuse, Support, Custody and Divorce proceedings to take place over remote video conferencing using Ring Central.  

It is essential that you update the Court with your current mailing address, email address, and telephone number.   

Update the Court by:  

Family Court Updates: Physical Closures and Virtual Hearings

Current Philadelphia Family Court Closures (June 2020)

The Family Court building at 1501 Arch Street will remain closed for all in-person Domestic Relations proceedings through December 31st, 2020, meaning most custody, support, protection from abuse, and divorce proceedings are cancelled

If you have not received a new notification from the Court that was issued after June 1, 2020, you should not go to any in person hearing.

Philadelphia Family Law Court COVID-19 Update May 17, 2020

Philadelphia Family Law Court COVID-19 Update!

As of May 17th, 2020 All Philadelphia Custody, Support, Divorce, and PFA's proceedings that were previously scheduled through December 31, 2020 are canceled and will be rescheduled, except for protracted hearings. Protracted hearings are hearings scheduled for a full-day.

If your hearing was scheduled between March 18- December 31, 2020 it will be rescheduled and you should not go to court.

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.


Kristy Lopez - Paralegal

Justice for Families Grant Family Court Help Center Advocate

Leslie Allen - Attorney

Leslie Allen is a Supervising Attorney of the Family Law Unit.

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

Emilia Golanska is a Managing Attorney at PLA.

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 Senior Attorney, Violence Prevention and Policy Strategist at PLA.

Gabriela Rodriguez - Attorney

Gabriela Rodriguez is a Supervising Attorney of the Family Law Unit.


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.

Abbi Stoltzfus - Paralegal
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.