In my previous post I discussed the steps leading up to the adoption hearing.  In this post I will talk about your testimony and completing the finalization of your adoption.

Adoptive parents testimony is typically a recitation of the information contained in an Adoption Petition, and is simply comprised of each parties’ own biographical information, including your name, address, date of birth, age, place of birth, occupation, religious affiliation, racial background, date of marriage, and the first names and ages of any other biological or adoptive children.  The adoption then requires confirmation of additional information, which I always refer to as “the silly questions.”  They are silly because they are obvious, but the law requires that they are affirmed on the record. Those questions include the following:

  1. Have you received the medical history information with regard to your adoptive child, and is there anything in that information that would cause you to not proceed with this adoption?
  2. Does the proposed adoptee own any property of value? (toys don’t count)
  3. Is it your desire to continue the parent-child relationship you have established with the proposed adoptee, and if so, are you willing to assume the parental duties with regard to this child?
  4. Do you understand that if the Court grants your Petition today, the proposed adoptee will have all the rights and obligations as if they were your biological child? (duh – everyone knows that there is no distinction in the law between adoptive children and biological children)
  5. Have you had any out-of-pocket expenses related to this adoption that would not be reimbursed to you?
  6. This one is my favorite – What name would you like the proposed adoptee to assume?

Continue Reading Finally – the Finalization of an Adoption Part II of II

Last week, a new law was passed that allows municipalities to prohibit Video Gaming Terminals (VGT) in truck stops. If a municipality wants to opt out of allowing VGTs, it must pass a Resolution that prohibits VGTs before September 1, 2019. This new law reverses the 2017 gaming law that forced many municipalities to permit VGTs, provided certain conditions were met. This bill was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Senators from Lancaster County, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument.

In 2017, Pennsylvania amended its gaming laws to permit “mini casinos” and VGT arcades. The law gave different rights to counties depending on whether a casino was located in the county. If the county had a casino, the municipalities in that county could prohibit VGTs. If the county did not have a casino already, the municipalities could opt out of mini casinos, but were not allowed to prohibit VGT arcades in “truck stops.” A truck stop was given a very broad definition in this new gaming law. Practically, many convenience stores could be built or converted to meet this definition. Continue Reading Lancaster County Municipalities May Opt Out of Video Gaming Terminals

If you have been paying attention to what is happening in the brewing industry in Pennsylvania, you’ve noticed that there has been much discussion about the imposition of sales tax on beer manufactured in Pennsylvania and how that might affect consumer prices.  There was a lot of uncertainty about how new regulations from the Department of Revenue will be instituted and how sales tax will be charged on beer produced within the state. You may have read my post Sales Tax on Breweries back in the fall when we knew that it was coming but nobody was certain how it would ultimately be implemented. Now we have some guidance. As part of the 2019-2020 budget for Pennsylvania, the General Assembly was able to include some language that clarifies from a legislative standpoint (as opposed to internal regulations that the Department of Revenue was applying) how sales tax will be charged.

The issue that made this particularly difficult was the potential for inconsistencies in the amount of tax imposed, based on how the beer was sold.  For instance, in my previous post, I used the example of a $40 keg of beer that is sold at wholesale.  For a restaurant or other brewery buying that keg at wholesale, sales tax is paid and remitted to the Department of Revenue based on the $40 wholesale price, so $2.40 would be remitted for sales taxes.  Contrast that with the same keg of beer that is sold on site by the brewery that produced it.  If that brewery does not wholesale beer, under the guidelines issued by the Department of Revenue, the brewery would have to impose sales tax on each pint of beer sold from that keg.  Assuming approximately 120 pints of beer are sold from that keg and each pint is sold for $5.00, the brewery would have to charge and remit a total of $36.00 in sales tax.   With this new legislation, there should now be some consistency in terms of how sales tax is charged, regardless of whether a brewery wholesales its beer or whether they sell it entirely at their own property. Continue Reading Sales Tax on Beer

Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP is pleased to announce that Mikayla Godwin has earned a Certified Paralegal credential from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).  In addition to being a certified paralegal, Mikayla holds an Associate in Arts in Paralegal Studies from Harrisburg Area Community College and has worked as a legal assistant since 2011.  She currently provides support to Attorneys Julie Miller and Julia Vanasse and works closely with many of the firm’s clients on a daily basis.

NALA certification is earned after successful completion of a Knowledge Exam and a Skills Exam and requires continuing education and recertification every five years. Following is an excerpt from the NALA website regarding the certification:

Use of the CP credential signifies that a paralegal is capable of providing superior services to firms and corporations. The credential has been recognized by the American Bar Association as a designation which marks a high level of professional achievement. The CP credential has also been recognized by over 47 legal assistant organizations and numerous bar associations.

Congratulations, Mikayla!

Many of my families who are fostering to adopt children through the Dependency System spend months to years waiting for the day when their foster child is legally free for adoption. Many of those families have experienced pain, turmoil, disappointment, frustration, and always, the joy of raising a beautiful child. However, when they meet with me to move forward with the finalization of their adoption, they simply cannot believe that the process of doing so is as easy as I tell them that it is.

So, when you finally get to that magic moment when your foster child is legally free for adoption and your caseworker says now it is time to proceed to a finalization hearing, here’s what you can expect:

Many County adoption workers will provide the information necessary for me to prepare your Adoption Petition. Each County varies a bit, and when a County Agency and an affiliated Agency are involved, we all work as a team to get the information necessary to prepare your Petition. That can include information provided from your County caseworker, from your affiliated Agency caseworker,  and directly from you.  Once all the information I need to prepare the Adoption Petition has been provided, I prepare the Petition and schedule a time to meet with you to review the Petition and discuss the finalization process.  Fortunately, that process is relatively simple when considering what many families have already been through to get to the place where they are sitting down with me to review and sign their Adoption Petition. Continue Reading We Can Finally Finalize Our Adoption: What Now? – Part I of II

Just because your terms of service say you’re not liable, doesn’t mean you aren’t. Like the fine print at the bottom of a contract, website terms of use are a place for businesses to protect themselves. But they are not a substitute for thinking carefully about how you interact with your customers – particularly if you collect any information from those visiting your website (which chances are, you do).

Take YouTube, for instance. Buried deep within YouTube’s Terms of Service is the following paragraph (quoted as of the date of this post):

You affirm that you are either more than 18 years of age, or an emancipated minor, or possess legal parental or guardian consent, and are fully able and competent to enter into the terms, conditions, obligations, affirmations, representations, and warranties set forth in these Terms of Service, and to abide by and comply with these Terms of Service. In any case, you affirm that you are over the age of 13, as the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.

Why is there language about being over 13? Because collecting information from children without parental consent violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA. (For a deeper dive into COPPA and how it applies to you, see Part I and Part II of the Lancaster Law Blog’s series on COPPA).

Now you might be thinking, “I don’t collect any user information”. But if you’re measuring your marketing, you are probably wrong. Collecting information includes things as simple as tracking where a user is from (i.e. geolocation data) or a user name that can be tracked across multiple websites (like a Google account). Either of these features may come built into the tools you use to monitor your website traffic.

So… is YouTube safe from COPPA by including this boilerplate disclaimer? The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t think so. YouTube is currently under investigation because some of its content is obviously geared towards children. And like many statutes designed to protect the public, COPPA’s standard looks beyond the disclaimer to other factors like the subject matter, the use of cartoons or child-like activities, and advertising directed to children. Just as you cannot evade your legal duties an employer merely by calling someone an independent contractor, you cannot evade COPPA’s duties with a disclaimer.

Does that mean you shouldn’t bother with a COPPA disclaimer? Not at all. An appropriate disclaimer is an important piece of evidence in establishing your intent. But you need to back that up by making sure your content and advertising are not geared toward children. And if your content is geared towards children, embrace it! Just make sure your website collects information only from users whose parents have provided consent.

This is yet another example of when copying language you found online can fall short. Take the time to consult with your legal counsel so your terms match what you do and how you do it.

Brandon Harter is litigator and technology guru at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from William & Mary Law School and advises clients on issues of Civil Litigation & Dispute ResolutionMunicipal Law, and chairs the firm’s Tech Law Group.

All digital evidence, whether emails, computer files, or text messages, comes with metadata. Metadata is nothing more than “data about data,” i.e. things your phone or computer keeps track of about a digital file. Some of the most common examples are the “last accessed date” (when a file was last opened) and its “creation date” (when a file was first created).

Great, so metadata exists. So what? I get this question all the time. Particularly from opposing counsel when I’ve demanded that he or she reproduce a set of documents with metadata, usually after he or she has already provided a PDF copy. But I’m not asking for metadata in a fit of gamesmanship or to drive up litigation costs. I do it because metadata can be as valuable as the content itself. Continue Reading Metadata is NOT an Excuse to Make Your Lawsuit More Expensive

Up until April 26, 2019, short-term vacation rentals (like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) were probably allowed in zoning districts where single family homes are permitted. In April, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that a short-term vacation rentals are not permitted as a single family use.

What do municipalities do now?

First, we should review how the Courts got to this point. It is an interesting development. The first case (Marchenko) dealt with a homeowner who rented her home for less than 25% of the year. The second case (Shvekh) had homeowners who rented their home for about half the year. The third case (Slice of Life) has an owner who bought the property solely as an investment, and never lived there at all. The Commonwealth Court said the first was OK, and then the next two cases built on that decision.  Continue Reading New Ruling Says that Short-Term Vacation Rentals are NOT Permitted in Single Family Zoning

Did you know that Pennsylvania law requires corporations and fictitious name registrations to “officially publish” advertisements in order to be effective? This requirement applies to domestic and foreign business corporations and nonprofit corporations, as well as fictitious names registered in Pennsylvania.

The advertising requirement is a nuance of entity formation that is often missed and could prove costly in the long run. For example, in the context of a corporation, failure to follow corporate formalities can be used as an argument to pierce the corporate veil, which could impose personal liability on the shareholders of the corporation. Continue Reading Advertising Requirements for Corporations and Fictitious Names in Pennsylvania

When “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018, her family thought she died without a Will. There were many questions about what would happen to her estate and what Aretha’s wishes were upon her death.

In legal terms, it was believed that Aretha died intestate, or without a Will. You can read more about Pennsylvania’s intestate laws and how an estate is handled when someone dies without a Will here.

In many cases, when someone dies without a Will, it can cause controversy in an already grieving family. For Aretha Franklin, we can only assume that the vast size of her estate and the legacy attached to it left her heirs wondering Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Continue Reading Oh Me, Oh My It’s Time to Get Your Estate Plan in Order: Lessons from Aretha Franklin’s Death and Her Handwritten Wills