In 1996, I was a legislative research analyst in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives when the General Assembly enacted the statute specifically prohibiting the recognition of same sex marriages.  That statute provides as follows: 

It is hereby declared to the strong and longstanding public policy of this Commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman. A marriage between persons of the same sex which was entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction, even if valid where entered into, shall be void in this Commonwealth.

I recall listening to the floor debate in my office on the day of the Bill’s final passage and discussing it with other staff members.  While I was not involved with the drafting or passage of the Bill, I very clearly recall the urgency among the elected members of the House to move the Bill quickly because there was a great fear that some judge in Hawaii could force the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to recognize a marriage between same sex couples. And so it passed, unremarkably, and moved to the Senate for final approval before enactment.

But Tuesday was a remarkable day for same sex couples in Pennsylvania who have been governed by that 1996 law.  Pursuant to Whitewood v. Wolf, 2014 WL 2058105 (U.S.M.D., May 20, 2014), the statute has been declared unconstitutional and same sex couples can now marry in Pennsylvania.  There are headlines in every newspaper and on-line media outlets and videos on the internet and the news.  There was a line at the Dauphin County courthouse yesterday morning when it opened of same sex couples wanting to apply for licenses. In Lancaster County, the first same sex couple to apply arrived at the Register of Wills office around 8:45 a.m.  It’s historical, no question, and it is now the law of the Commonwealth.  


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I read in a Fox News article a few weeks ago that Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Chris Martin, attended a party together, even though they have publicly announced their separation, which they have referred to as “conscious uncoupling”.  When the pair announced that they were “consciously uncoupling”, there seemed to be a lot of public questions (and skepticism) about what this is, and, if it exists, whether it can be accomplished successfully.  I, too, raised an eyebrow, wondering why it is headline news and why any of us care what happens between them in the privacy of their own relationship. In part, the story generated so much interest because of the use of the term uncoupling in place of divorce.

The term and idea of the “uncoupling” of married people is one that I have heard used in collaborative divorce cases.  In my experience, many people are drawn to collaborative law because they desire to end their marriage and resolve their economic issues in a process and a timeframe that they control together. Generally, they value what’s left of their relationship with their spouse, namely the joint parenting of children and often, that reason is their primary factor in selecting collaboratively-trained counsel to assist with the divorce. Collaboratively-trained professionals, particularly coaches and therapists, refer to the term “uncoupling”, as a way for both spouses to envision themselves moving forward with their lives, independent of each other.  Because the collaborative process is based on the parties’ development of their individual needs, concerns and interests, it necessarily requires them to think about their future and how their financial settlement and parenting plans will be structured to enable them to achieve that.


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In previous posts, we have discussed various estate planning documents and how they differ, but many times there is confusion as to what takes effect and when. Or, you may wonder why you can’t just appoint an agent (power of attorney) in your Will.  I have provided a simple review of each document, its purpose, and when it takes effect in hope that I can quickly dispel the confusion.

Generally, when clients meet with me for estate planning, three documents are prepared and executed: the Financial Power of Attorney, the Durable Health Care Power of Attorney/Advanced Health Care Directive, and the Will. 

The Financial Power of Attorney allows your agent to access your financial accounts, pay bills and make transfers on your behalf immediately upon signing.  It is important to select someone you trust as they have access to all of your financial accounts.  There are ways to protect yourself and ensure that the agent you have appointed is acting in your best interests.  One way is to appoint co-agents so they act as a check on each other.  However, this can lead to disagreements between the agents and defeat the purpose of the document itself.  Another way is to request an accounting of your agent’s activity if you suspect something is amiss.  The agent is bound to follow certain fiduciary duties while acting as your agent.  If your agent fails to act in your best interest, they can be brought before the court and made to remedy their actions.  However, the best way to be proactive is to appoint someone that you trust implicitly from the beginning. 


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As you update your Facebook page, have you ever wondered how your beneficiaries could obtain access to your “digital assets” upon your death?  Indeed, could they access your digital assets if you were incapacitated during your lifetime?  Prudent people plan through financial powers of attorney for incapacity during lifetime, or for the disposition of their

The IRS issues its Standard Mileage Reimbursement Rate each year. The rate determines the amount that can be used as a deduction for business travel and serves as a guideline for employers who reimburse their employees for the same. It reflects not only fuel costs, but also factors in average wear and tear on a

The Pennsylvania Legislature this week passed a bill that, for the first time in Pennsylvania, allows bars, restaurants and other similar establishments to conduct small games of chance, daily drawings and raffles. The bill will now go to the Governor for final approval. It is expected that the Governor will sign the bill into law.