Modern Families
April M. Townsend, attorney at Karen Ann Ulmer P.C., helps clients navigate the often murky nuances of family law in the digital age
by Leigh Stuart

The myriad issues pertaining to family law—relationships, marriages, births—are among the most common in the world. Yet, as ubiquitous as such family-building joys are, so are the issues that impact them. Fortunately, there are skilled, caring attorneys, such as those of the law offices of Karen Ann Ulmer P.C., who can guide clients through troubled times in an incredibly complex, increasingly digital age.

Karen Ulmer Pendergast, the firm’s principal, leads a team of attorneys that includes April M. Townsend. Townsend considers family law a highly rewarding field, as it is not only challenging from a professional standpoint but also as a field in which a skilled practitioner can truly make a difference for individuals and families. “It’s an area of law that’s constantly evolving,” as Townsend says.

One way in which the field of family law is evolving, Townsend explains, has to do with social media—namely, what some people choose to share on such platforms as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. In matters of custody, divorce and support, the information an individual chooses to share about their own personal life on social media can have a profound impact on a case.

“We’ve had custody cases where we advise clients not to post too much on Facebook but unfortunately, that advice is not always heeded,” she says. “If a person is out partying or drinking and posts those photos on Facebook, those could potentially come up at trial.

“The rules of evidence still apply,” she continues. “The authenticity of the social media post has to be established to bring it into evidence, but depending on the judge, the other attorney and what objections they might raise, some [such evidence] have gotten in. It’s touch and go, and case by case, as to how much gets in. It is good advice to try and lay low when [a client] has hearings coming up.”

While it is clear why such advice would pertain in custody cases, the same advice holds up in matters of support. Townsend notes that she knows of some cases where one party would brag online about their shopping and/or lavish expenses, then say in court that they can’t afford their lifestyle; suffice to say, this was poor planning on the part of the person seeking financial assistance.

While this and many other technology-borne issues are relatively new to the family courts system, relationships themselves are much like they’ve always been. For that reason, there is some advice that is as old as the issues themselves—even if it does apply in new ways.

“With all custody cases, a person should not disparage the other parent [on social media],” she says. “Certainly don’t talk bad about the other parent where everyone can see it.”

In fact, “Try to avoid posting at all if you can,” she continues. “It’s interesting how hard that is for some people to do, but there’s no benefit to venting online.”

And, while Townsend does recommend avoiding a great deal of personal sharing online, she still recognizes the irreplaceability of the Internet as a tool. She writes a weekly blog, found online at, which features information on a host of topics including divorce, property division, protection from abuse issues, support and other matters related to family law.

“It’s not necessarily a ‘win-lose’ game when you’re talking about family law cases,” Townsend says. “Outcomes [aim for] best-case scenarios. … It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve done the best you could.”

Townsend, who practices family law in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, earned her Juris Doctor from the prestigious Beasley School of Law at Temple University. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, where she majored in both criminal justice and government and politics.

She says that it was during her time at the University of Maryland that her interest in justice truly blossomed. “Halfway through college, I started having attorneys as professors, and that sparked my interest in going into law,” Townsend explains.

Originally from Mercer County, N.J., Townsend garnered real-world experience via an internship with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, as well as a two-year part-time clerkship for a judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Major Criminal Trial Division. Townsend then joined the firm of Karen Ann Ulmer P.C., where she has been for almost five years. Townsend handles the firm’s New Jersey family law cases in Princeton as well as in Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association and the Bucks County Bar Association.

Karen Ulmer Pendergast describes Townsend as an extremely dedicated employee who works hard and truly cares about her clients. “She has a passion for family law,” Pendergast says. “She really cares about the clients and the outcomes of their cases.”

Pendergast, who founded the firm in 2001, has a great deal of experience in all matters of family and matrimonial law issues, including mediation. She also possesses training above the J.D. she earned from Widener University in the form of an advanced degree in securities law from Georgetown University Law Center.

In addition to Townsend and Pendergast, the team of attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer P.C. includes Shane Dilworth and Michael D. Raisman. Dilworth, who, like Pendergast, is a graduate of the Widener University School of Law, represents parties of both genders in matters such as divorce, custody, support, adoption and protection from abuse orders, as well as matters such as the preparation of wills. Raisman, who earned his J.D. from Syracuse University’s School of Law, focuses on areas including estate administration and real estate law, in addition to handling family law matters. Townsend works diligently on cases including those pertaining to paternity, grandparents’ rights and military cases—and, of course, working to ensure the firm stays at the forefront of family law in the digital age.

Karen Ann Ulmer P.C.
“We are on your side”

Three Convenient Office Locations:

In New Jersey:
475 Wall Street
Princeton, NJ 08540

In Pennsylvania:
The Lofts at Oxford Valley Mall
174 Middletown Blvd., Suite 300
Langhorne, PA 19047
44 E. Court Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

Photograph by Allure West Studios