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.
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.…
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.…
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?…
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…
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 …
Most people know that grandparents have some custody rights under Pennsylvania law. What they may not know is what exactly those rights are. What happens when a grandchild is taken out of the grandparents’ custody when the parents have already agreed that the child could live with them? Can grandparents have primary physical custody when there is still one parent in the picture? The Pennsylvania Custody Act answers these questions and gives grandparents rights to intervene in a custody action in certain circumstances.
According to the Pennsylvania custody law, grandparents have standing (the right to legally intervene) in a custody action to ask for periods of partial physical custody or supervised physical custody of their grandchildren if certain criteria are met. These criteria include the death of a parent, separation/divorce proceedings between the parents or a situation where a child has already been living with a grandparent or great-grandparent for over a year. Even if the criteria are met, grandparents should consult a family law attorney when they are seeking custody so that they are aware of their rights and the steps they need to take.
Partial or Supervised Physical Custody
One situation where grandparents are allowed to intervene for partial custody or periods of supervised custody is when a parent of a child is deceased. Grandparents may also seek partial custody when the parents of the children are separated or divorced. If either parent has filed for divorce or if the parents have been separated for at least six months, grandparents have legal standing to seek custody.
Sometimes, grandparents already have had physical custody of a child for a period of time, and suddenly a parent decides to remove the child from their home. There are rights for grandparents in these situations too, as long as the child has been living with the grandparents for a period of at least one year. If that is the case, the grandparents must file an action for custody within six months of when the child was removed from their home.
Custody can be a tricky issue no matter what the child’s age. When you add a teenager into the mix, it can be even more difficult to navigate the correct procedures for custodial parents and non-custodial parents to follow. Teens often have strong opinions on which parent they prefer to live with, opinions that can change rather often or unexpectedly. The issue becomes even more clouded when a teen is close to age eighteen. Parents often wonder to what extent they should treat their teens like adults in making major decisions such as which parent to live with.
In my family law practice, I have encountered situations where a non-custodial parent wants to follow the wishes of a teenager and allow him or her to move into their home. For example, the question may be, “Can my sixteen-year-old daughter just move in with me? Even though the Custody Order gives my ex primary physical custody, isn’t she old enough to decide where she wants to live?”
I always caution parents in this situation. Do not allow your teenager to just move in with you on a whim or because he or she is upset with the other parent. The existing Custody Order is an enforceable legal document and non-compliance could result in contempt proceedings being brought against you. Regardless of the fact that the teen could be only months away from the age of majority, a Custody Order is a directive from the Court, and both parents are obligated to comply with it.
As family law attorneys, we often encounter the issue of relocation in custody situations. I previously wrote about the top custody myths in Lancaster County and addressed a common myth that parents have in custody situations — "I can move wherever I want and take my children with me." This assumption, as I point out and as Holly Filius expands on in her blog post about changes to the Pennsylvania Custody Act, can be hazardous for parents who do not understand or know about the notice requirements of the law. These requirements are discussed frequently in family law sites and blogs, but what many clients wonder is how far a move has to be in order to trigger the notice requirements required by law. Is it okay to move to the next neighborhood? The other side of town? What about 30 miles away?
The Custody Act defines relocation as any move that significantly impairs the non-custodial parent’s ability to exercise custodial rights to the children. Any move that falls under this definition requires the custodial parent (the parent who has physical custody of the child or children the majority of the time) to follow the notice procedures of the Act. This begs the question, how far can a move be before it "significantly impairs" the other parent? Here in Lancaster County, a move is usually considered relocation if the custodial parent proposes to move with the children to a different school district. Changing districts could make it difficult for the other parent to complete the necessary custodial exchanges and take the children to any events or appointments they have while under their care. Although there are some Pennsylvania school districts that are geographically small, rural ones can be spaced far apart so that even moving to the "next district over" could create a significant distance to travel.
I once had a client call me on Thanksgiving Day because she had a custody dispute with her ex-husband about who was to pick up their child at 4 p.m. The police were called and actually intervened, their child was distraught and the entire holiday was ruined for everyone, extended families included.
Without fail, every …