William J. Phelan, IV | Philadelphia Family Law Attorney

William J. Phelan, IV

Lead Litigator

William Phelan

Philadelphia family law attorney William (Bill) J. Phelan, IV has a host of experience and accolades.

Both prior to and during his time at Cordell & Cordell, Mr. Phelan has appeared in hundreds of hearings on behalf of his clients and his efforts secured results that have provided both financial security and peace of mind for those who had little hope until he took their case.

Domestic relations matters offer a plethora of options and issues that Mr. Phelan is experienced to handle, whether he is helping his clients to understand their case, negotiating and communicating with the opposing side, or meticulously preparing for and litigating a case at trial.

Mr. Phelan is experienced in handling all manner of appeals for family law cases, specifically handling various matters in Pennsylvania’s appellate courts. He is a member of an elite team of Cordell Appellate attorneys and regularly works with counsel in the firm across the United States to consult and assist on family law appeals.

“I enjoy working with my clients, who are usually in a difficult position in their lives, to help them reach a resolution that is not only in their favor, but also allows them to put their minds at ease and continue on with their daily lives,” Mr. Phelan said.

Licenses & Admissions

Mr. Phelan is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


Mr. Phelan graduated magna cum laude from The Catholic University of America where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Civilizations and then a Master of Arts in Congressional and Presidential Studies (Politics). He earned his Juris Doctor, with a certificate in Law and Public Policy, from The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. During law school, Mr. Phelan served as a Senior Editor for The Journal of Contemporary Health Law & Policy. 

Mr. Phelan attended the American Bar Association Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute.

Professional Experience

Mr. Phelan was previously a partner with a small law firm where he represented individuals in family law, employment law, Social Security benefits, general civil litigation, and disability rights cases.

Mr. Phelan was appointed by D.C. Superior Court to serve on the Family Court’s Mental Health Panel and Mental Habilitation Panel, assisting individuals with disabilities in the civil court system, including those who have been involuntarily committed due to suspected mental health issues.

He was a former staff attorney for the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights, one of the nation’s premier organizations for disability rights and disability law.


Mr. Phelan is a member of the following professional  legal organizations:

  • Doris Jonas Freed Matrimonial American Inn of Court, President (2021-2022); Executive Board Member (2017-present)
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
    • Family Law Section
    • Disability Services Committee, Co-Chair (2020-2021)
  • Delaware County Bar Association
    • Family Law Section
  • District of Columbia Bar Association
  • Brehon Law Society  (a legal organization comprised of attorneys and judges of Irish ancestry)

In 2020, Mr. Phelan was appointed President of the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities Appeal of Greater Philadelphia. He served on this Board since 2016. Catholic Charities Appeal provides donated funds to services throughout the Philadelphia region to benefit over 180 ministries and programs, helping initiatives such as domestic violence support, childcare, retirement living, and homelessness prevention and assistance.

Mr. Phelan was selected to serve on the La Salle Leadership Council, a select group of alumni who volunteer to help further the mission and strategic objectives of his alma mater, La Salle College High School.

He sits on the board of advisors for Alpha Delta Gamma Educational Foundation, a national education non-profit organization, as well as the board of directors for Alpha Delta Gamma Capital City Alumni Association.


  • In 2019, Mr. Phelan was selected for the Irish Legal 100, an annual compilation of the most distinguished legal professional in the United States of Irish ancestry.

Irish 100


  • Mr. Phelan was named one of the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys’ Top 10 Under 40 Attorneys for the state of Pennsylvania for 2016.


  • In 2016, Mr. Phelan was named to The National Advocates Top 100 List. The list recognizes the Top 100 attorneys from each state or region who serve individuals and families needing attorneys to represent them in the American legal system.

The National Advocates


  • Who’s Who Among Law Professionals (Montclair), 2010-12
  • G.P. Smith Award for Exceptional Dedication to Journal of Contemporary Health Law & Policy

Speeches, Seminars, & Publications

  • “Celebrating 30 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” moderator, Pennsylvania Bar Institute online CLE, November 12, 2020
  • Mr. Phelan appeared on RVN-TV’s program “Dr. Sue & You” on July 15, 2020 to discuss the various ways family law has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • “Family Law Clients with Disabilities: Identifying Issues and Providing Solutions,” 42 Pennsylvania Family Lawyer 50-52 (2020)
  • Mr. Phelan was on the faculty for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s 2018 Family Law Institute.
  • “United States Supreme Court, Citing Federal Pre-Emption, Blocks State Courts’ Ability to Indemnify Non-Military Spouse for Decrease in Share of Military Pension upon Military Member’s Receipt of V.A. Disability Payments; Case Note: Howell v. Howell, 137 S.Ct. 707 (U.S. 2017),” 40 Pennsylvania Family Lawyer 25-27 (2018)
  • “Recognizing and Respecting Disability Rights in Family Law Cases,” presenter, Doris J. Freed American Inn of Court, Feb. 13, 2018
  • “Contempt of Court and Family Law Cases,” presenter, The Bucks County American Inn of Court, Nov. 27, 2017.
  • Book review, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public, The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Vol. 41, No. 1 (2013)
  • “Issues on Qualifying for the Bar,” organizer and presenter, tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, National Federation of the Blind, Baltimore, MD, Apr. 19, 2012
  • “How to Represent Social Security Claimants with Mental & Physical Disabilities,” moderator, ABA online CLE course, August 24, 2011
  • “Kicking Down the Door to Employment I: Of Mentors and Schedule A,” presentation, American University Washington College of Law, “Assisting Law Students with Disabilities in the 21st Century,” Mar. 10, 2011
  • “Goal III Report: A report on the status of the participation of persons with disabilities in the American Bar Association and its divisions, sections, and forums.” (eds. 2008-2012)
  • “Comments from the American Bar Association on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities and Public Accommodations,” to U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 35 Mental & Physical Disability L. Rep. 15 (2011)
  • The Second National Conference on the Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities: A report from the American Bar Association for the Legal Profession (2009), Co-Editor; “Statistical and Other Information on Lawyers with Disabilities: A New Beginning Amidst Gaps and Unanswered Questions,” with John W. Parry
  • “Outreach to Lawyers and Law Students with Disabilities Essential to Profession,” The Young Lawyer, Dec. 2009
  • “Best Practices for Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Legal Staff,” presentation, National Disability Rights Network, Training and Advocacy Support Center Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD, Mar. 16, 2009
  • “Ignored No Longer: Contributions of the Common Law of Agency to Principal-Agency Theory and Congressional Leadership.” 45 Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 235-254 (2008); presentation, Pennsylvania Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Kutztown, PA, Mar. 2007
  • “Political Gerrymandering After LULAC v. Perry: Considering Political Science for Legislative Action.” 32 Seton Hall Legislative Journal 89-121 (2007)
  • “A Chronic Concern No More: How a Federal Medical Malpractice Cap Will Survive Under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.” 23 Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 168-199 (2006)

Mr. Phelan appeared on DadsDivorce Live to discuss how the Ashley Madison security breach could lead to an increase in the number of couples seeking divorce.

Mr. Phelan appeared on DadsDivorce Live to offer tips and advice on  how to prepare for a court appearance.

He has also contributed articles and Ask a Lawyer responses to Dadsdivorce.com and Mensdivorce.com.


  • J.C. v. K.C., 179 A.3d 1124 (Pa.Super. 2018) – In favor of Mr. Phelan’s client, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed and remanded a decision whereby the trial court denied his client statutory rights and a full and fair ability to litigate his case by neglecting its obligations under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, 23 Pa.C.S. §§ 5401-5482. The decision set proper precedent in Pennsylvania to protect parents who have custody actions open in Pennsylvania and another state.
  • Mr. Phelan assisted in the drafting of a lawsuit filed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a case regarding whether retired Department of Corrections officers should have the right to carry firearms for protection.


"Bill helps explains things and goes over in detail how the law relates to what is going on in my case. Bill takes extra time to point things out, and I feel [he] is very easy to work with ..."
"Bill is superb. Bill is right to the point [and] extremely focused. He is not a buddy-buddy kind of guy or glad-handler, but [he is] responsible for obtaining positive results that languished with another attorney for a very long time. He ensured I was ready for the hunt. ..."
"Bill helped me get though a difficult divorce as easy as possible. I had a lot of doubts and concerns when I picked a law firm. I was afraid that I was going to lose my sons at first, but Bill gave me confidence throughout my case and it ended well. I am really happy and fortunate to have worked with Bill. ..."
“William did a great job. My wife and I are actually working to reconcile and keep our family going. I thank you for all of your help. ..."
"I appreciate Bill's efforts. He was very knowledgeable and professional."
"I'm very happy and very pleased with the service I've received. Bill has been open with my options and our discussions. It's been everything I expected."
"Everything is being done exceptionally well. Bill has responded to any concerns or questions I have about my case with speed and courteousness."
"He was very informative, cared about my situation, and had great advice. He also kept me informed of ALL my options. He even asked me how would I like him to respond to the opposing attorney: strongly, defensive, or mild and meek. Very detail-oriented."

"Overall, this was a great experience! My ex wife and I were pretty cooperative with each other. I had a financial adviser and Bill worked seamlessly with him. The communication was always outstanding, even when Jamie stepped in for Bill while he was out of the office for the birth of his child. Bill picked things right back up and was extremely responsive to any questions I ever had."


"Bill was very smart and creative, and I felt very confident with each step he took. He was very cautious to care for my business and make sure that was taken into consideration in my favor."

"William was very responsive to phone call and emails."
"​I am very happy that I chose your law firm. I have been treated with the utmost respect and I always get any response to any issue I have immediately. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in my case and have total confidence in their continued representation."
"​Communication is exceptionally great. It's as if my attorney is apart of the family. He understands my situation entirely and is very flexible with times at which I can contact him. He responds almost immediately.  I never have to call twice. He's very knowledgeable and gives it 110% every time we have a hearing. I feel safe knowing he is on the case.​"
​"Client care has been done exceptionally well. Bill goes above and beyond to take care of me and my family & is the reason i am getting reunited with my son."

*Check out more Cordell & Cordell reviews of Mr. Phelan and the rest of our Pennsylvania attorneys.