The holidays are typically a joyous time spent with family, but following a divorce or separation, the idea of not being able to spend every minute with your children can put a damper on your holiday spirit.

Speaking from experience, Christmas with your children following a divorce doesn’t have to be that different.  And more importantly, both you and your children will make it through just fine!

Here are a few tips that may help to make this an easier transition for both parents and kids. Continue Reading Holiday Custody Issues

Back in 2015, I wrote a blog post asking “Is Co-Parenting Possible?”  The article highlighted one family’s path to co-parenting.  Slowly, I’ve begun to see more and more success stories about co-parenting.

Recently Lancaster Online featured a story about a local family that has decided that co-parenting is in their daughter’s best interest.  For the Hawkeys of Lancaster and Bankerts of York, co-parenting wasn’t always easy.  They struggled at the beginning, simply going through custody exchanges without much interaction.  But recently they realized they needed to do more for their daughter.  When a rare family dinner made their daughter so happy, they decided to do more.  In mid-March the family decided  to go on a co-parenting family vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida.

This is a great example that even if it takes a while for everyone to be in a place where they can work together, when they can, the children really benefit.  However, I will repeat my prior caveat – not all families can or should co-parent.  But when they can, it is remarkable what can happen.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.
Nala Blu
Nala Blu

Earlier this year, much to my husband’s chagrin, we drove over an hour to Maryland to spend a Sunday afternoon at the home of a stranger.  We left with our new four-legged baby- Nala Blu.  More and more people choose to open their homes to rescue pets.  I must admit, it is a pretty fulfilling feeling to know that you were able to save the life of an animal whose fate was once questionable.  Our girl happened to be thrown into a cardboard box with her 8 brothers and sisters and left next to a dumpster in Tennessee.

This Sunday, April 30, just so happens to be “Adopt a Shelter Pet Day.”  Each year, more than 3.2 million pets are rescued from shelters across the US.  Each one comes with their own special story and leaves with their own special place in their new families’ hearts.

If you have ever had a pet, you know that almost immediately they become an integral part of your family, and are treated just like (or maybe even better!) than children.  But what happens to our four-legged kids when a marriage falls apart?  Some may find it hard to believe, but people do fight over their pets.  And unfortunately, in 49 of the 50 states, courts will refuse to step in to help.  In fact, the courts have labeled our beloved pets as nothing more than property.  In its 2002 decision in DeSanctis v. Pritchard, the Pennsylvania Superior Court went so far as to equate a dog to a table or lamp.  I can’t imagine that analogy won the hearts of those who read it.

Under Pennsylvania divorce law, personal property is distributed between the parties as the court sees fit after analyzing a list of factors.  And because a pet is considered personal property, they will be lumped into the “equitable distribution” of all property.  So if you want to keep your furry friend, you may have to give up that new big screen TV. Continue Reading Pet Custody in Pennsylvania

As income tax season is quickly ramping up, I am commonly asked by clients which parent can claim the children as dependents when they are separated from the other parent. And like any good lawyer, I often say it depends.

So what exactly does it depend on? According to the Internal Revenue Service, in order to claim a child as a dependent he or she must be a qualifying child. Assuming your children are qualifying children, only one exemption can be claimed per qualifying child. The IRS has determined that the “custodial parent” gets the to claim the exemption. The IRS has its own definition of “custodial parent.” According to their regulations, a custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of overnights in the calendar year. Continue Reading Tax season – Who Gets to Claim the Kids?

Like most married couples, my husband and I argue occasionally.  Fortunately, we don’t have the knockdown, drag out, name calling kind of arguments, and we try not to argue in front of our kids.  However, we are not perfect parents, and at times, tempers will flare, patience will be lost, and we will have an argument in front of our kids.  Recently, one such argument occurred in front of my eight-year old son. Continue Reading Divorce: An Eight-Year Old’s Perspective

There are a lot of misconceptions and different definitions for a Notary.  In drafting this blog post I found several different definitions, including one from Google that says a Notary is “a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions.”  Wikipedia says “[a] Notary is a lawyer (except most of the United States).”  Neither of these are true in Pennsylvania.  So what is a Notary?  Why do you want something notarized? Continue Reading What is a Notary?

For the first time in well over two decades, the divorce process in Pennsylvania could be getting a major face lift.  Modern divorce as we know it came to Pennsylvania in 1980 when the legislature established a means through which a couple could divorce without one spouse being assigned fault or institutionalized.  A divorce can now also be obtained through consent, or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  When both parties consent and agree to the economic issues, a divorce can be obtained in a few short months.  Originally, in 1980, if one of the parties did not agree the marriage was over, the parties had to be separated for three years prior to obtaining a divorce.  In 1988 it was shortened to two years, which is where it currently stands.  When one party is unwilling to consent to the divorce, the two years can seem to move at a glacial pace.  Granted, I have seen some couples reunite during this two year waiting period, however, it is rarely after year one.  House Bill 380 was recently introduced proposing that the two year waiting period be reduced to one.  The bill passed a full House vote 191-6 and is now on its way to the Senate.  If this bill passes, it will put Pennsylvania in line with its neighboring states, all of which have shorter waiting periods.

One side note, while divorces through a finding of fault or institutionalization are rarely seen, both are still on the books and are an available remedy for those rare instances where a divorce through consent or irretrievable breakdown will not work.  Personally, I have dealt with one case where a divorce was obtained through a finding of fault and that is more than many family law attorneys will ever see.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

The PA Supreme Court recently denied an appeal by Manheim Township School District holding that the district is required to provide bus services to the homes of both divorced parents when the student spends time at both parents home overnight during the school year. While divorced parents rejoice at the ruling in their favor making split custody arrangements a littler easier, school districts will feel the financial pinch of additional costs and organization associated with having to provide students with transportation to and from different homes depending on the custody schedule. However, this ruling simply requires the schools to allow children to ride a different bus on an already established bus route.  It does not change the requirements for students living outside of the district.

After the recent ruling, school districts can no longer require parents to choose one parent’s home as the sole bus stop, nor can they require a parent to drive the student to a stop that is further away than what they would require a student to walk.  If this situation applies to you, contact your school and get a secondary stop set up for your child.  If you are not sure how this will affect you, we suggest contacting a trusted legal advisor.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

This headline recently caught my attention Co-Parenting Win: I Lived With my Stepson’s Mother.  The article, fashioned in the form of a letter to the mother of the author’s stepson, chronicles the evolution of the relationship between Mother, Father, and Father’s Wife.  It is a quick, worthwhile read that demonstrates it really is possible to move past the emotional baggage of a breakup to form a new, different kind of relationship that allows everyone to be actively involved in a child’s life.

The article doesn’t assume that everyone can or should co-parent like this.  In many cases, this type of situation would not work.  But, in a world of custody battles that can sometimes turn ugly, it’s great to see a positive story that reminds us of the unique possibilities for relationships between parents and step-parents.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

Recently, the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association supported the enactment of a Collaborative Law Act in Pennsylvania. This is an important step forward for the collaborative process and demonstrates that legal professionals recognize the growing popularity of collaborative law among the general public.  In addition, support from the Family Law section of the PBA reflects other attorneys’ approval of collaborative law as an alternative process to traditional methods of conflict resolution in divorce. Continue Reading Family Law Section Approves Proposed Collaborative Law Act