All lawyers and judges in Pennsylvania are required to complete twelve (12) hours per year of continuing legal education. These last few weeks I have been busy making presentations to various groups of lawyers to help them fulfill this obligation.
On April 23, 2019, I made two ninety-minute presentations as part of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s Family Law Institute at PBI’s facility in the Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia. The first was on the intersection of child custody and child welfare law, and the second was an update on case law and new family law legislation that was enacted during the 2018 calendar year.
Also, on May 6, 2019, I participated in a panel that gave a 90-minute presentation to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Family Law Section on adoption from both the child welfare and private perspective. I am always happy to answer questions from either individuals or other lawyers on the areas of child custody, child welfare, termination of parental rights and adoption.
Jeff Bezos’ Divorce is Final by Donna Marcus, Family Law Attorney at Weber Gallagher
On April 4, 2019, the most expensive divorce in history ended when Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced their divorce was final. It brings their 25-year marriage to an official and legal end. The couple decided to part ways and filed for divorce in January of this year. Since that time, there has been much speculation and concern about how the parties’ assets would be divided. Particularly concerning was how the parties would divide stock shares of Amazon, the billion dollar company the couple built together during their marriage.
As part of the settlement, Jeff Bezos will retain 75% of Amazon stock and he will retain sole voting authority over the shares which should settle any fears about Amazon ownership. MacKenzie Bezos will retain a 25% stake in the company which is worth approximately $35 billion and makes MacKenzie Bezos one of the top five wealthiest women in the world. In addition to Amazon stock, Jeff Bezos will also retain ownership of the Washington Post and Blue Origin (a space exploration company). The couple also owns at least 6 properties, but since Washington state does not require divorcing parties to file property settlement agreements with the courts, we may never know the full details of the settlement.
New Rule allows Attorneys to be more persuasive and permits citing of Unpublished Appellate Decisions
There is a New Rule of Appellate Procedure going into effect on May 1, 2019, that permits attorneys to cite non-precedential Superior Court and Commonwealth Court decisions for their persuasive value. This Rule applies only to unpublished Superior Court decisions filed after May 1, 2019, and unreported Memorandum opinions of the Commonwealth Court filed after January 15, 2018. This new Appellate Rule is an invaluable tool for family law attorneys to help persuade the lower court for positions the Superior Court has already considered and provided some direction on but were not previously permitted to be relied on.
New Rule: http://tinyurl.com/yyu7lcnj
New Rule effective April 10, 2019 changes the Notice and Order regarding Protection Orders in Pennsylvania
New Rule effective April 10, 2019 changes the Notice and Order regarding Protection Orders in Pennsylvania. The new Order states a Protection Order entered by the Court may be considered in subsequent proceedings under the Child Protective Services Law. The new Order also addresses Contempt sanctions of fines of to $1,000 and/or six months in jail, and the right to call witnesses on the defendant’s behalf, including subpoenaing witnesses to testify on the defendant’s behalf. The PFA also requires a reporting of whether there has been an indicated finding of abuse under the Child Protective Laws. The PFA Order also allows the State Police, municipal police or sheriff to accompany the Plaintiff to his/her residence to retrieve personal belongings.
If you have questions regarding this new rule, please call our offices at 610.272.5555.
See the fully revised Order here: http://tinyurl.com/NewRulesPFA
Child Custody Vacation Planning by John Zurzola, Partner at Weber Gallagher’s Family Law Group
The holidays have come and gone and, believe it or not, Spring Break and Summer Vacation are right around the corner. In families with separated or divorced parents that can’t get along, or even in blended families where the level of contention is manageable, vacation planning is an absolute necessity.
Families that are operating (or should be operating) under the terms of a court-ordered child custody order or agreement often have strict deadlines to give notice of vacations, dates, and itineraries. In most cases, the notice requirements for alerting the other parent of the time that you are planning on going on vacation with your children are spelled out. Some situations call for as little as a 30 day written notice to the other parent, but as a rule of thumb, the sooner, the better. With hotel and airline reservations needing to be made, waiting until the last minute or the stated time in your order or agreement may not allow for any disagreements as to dates, activities, itineraries or length of stay that always seem to come up. Adding to that; parents often find out too late that there may be actual travel issues like passport issues or fears of parents and children traveling to counties not respecting the “The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” that can only be determined by court intervention. On a more benign level, often simple issues like children’s sports and activity schedules can be hurdles just as high to overcome.
When real disagreements over holiday and vacation planning arise, they may need to be brought to court on an expedited or emergency basis. It is important to recognize that it is solely up to the courts to determine whether your issue rises to the level of an exigent circumstance or emergency which often, travel issues do not.
As such, as the vacation season will be here before you know it, every parent planning to travel with children should review any applicable custody agreement and order and follow it to the letter. Should the other parent’s consent or affirmation of vacation plans not be promptly received, it may be necessary to consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
John A. Zurzola, Esq. is a Family Law attorney practicing Divorce, Child Custody and Child Support, Pre-Nuptial Agreements, Domestic Violence and Adoption in, Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Chester Counties. Please call 610-272-5555 for more information.
Jeff Bezos and the Billion Dollar Divorce
By Donna Marcus, Associate in the Weber Gallagher Family Law Group
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and his wife, MacKkenzie have decided to divorce after 25 years of marriage. Bezos founded Amazon about a year after the couple wed. MacKenzie is successful in her own right as a novelist. Her financial success pales in comparison to that of her husband, though, who is reportedly worth $137 billion. Bezos is also the majority shareholder of Amazon holding 16% of the shares.
The couple is from Washington which is a community property state. That means that without a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the assets created during the marriage could be split equally between Bezos and his wife. It is reported that the couple did not have either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Since most of Bezos’ wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, he may need to transfer shares of his stock to his wife in order to pay her divorce settlement. That could diminish his ownership interest and overall role with Amazon. The Bezos divorce is just at the beginning. How much MacKenzie Bezos will receive as her settlement and how the assets will be divided are still up in the air. One thing remains clear, though; if MacKenzie Bezos does receive 50 percent of the estate, she will walk away with over $60 billion based on the company’s current value and would become one of the richest people in the world.
Beginning March 1, 2019 important new Rules go into effect regarding Parent Coordination. The new Rules implement specific guidelines who may be a parent coordinator as well as the necessary training. The new Rule also addresses the role of the parent coordinator and addresses specific issues a parent coordinator may and may not address with the parties in a custody action. More importantly, the parties to a custody action may not utilize a parent coordinator before a Court Order is entered ensuring the role of a Judge is not circumvented in a custody action. For a complete listing of the new Rule please see: http://tinyurl.com/yczjw8hn
Contact the Weber Gallagher Family Law Department at 610.272.5555 to see if a parent coordinator is the right choice for your custody case.
Effective January 1, 2019 Pennsylvania is implementing new Support Guidelines. Important issues which are addressed by the new Guidelines include the tax treatment of alimony pendent lite and alimony, new formulas for spousal support, alimony pendent lite, and alimony and new formulas for high income child support cases. For a complete discussion of the new Guidelines in Pennsylvania please see:
Contact the Family Law Department at Weber Gallagher to see if your support case will be affected by the new Guidelines.
New Year, New You!
By Skip Persick, Partner of Weber Gallagher’s Family Law Group
I have some theories on why, but the busiest time of the year for family law attorneys is the first week of the new year. The next busiest is the rest of January and right around Labor Day when school starts. Talk to any family law attorney and they will tell you the same thing, there is something to the so-called January Rush.
I have never seen any psychological research on any of this, but my theory as to why January is so busy for me is the concept of a new year bringing a new you. Most people do not go to see a divorce attorney on a whim, it’s a difficult decision based on months, if not years, of thinking. In a lot of situations, the flipping of the calendar is just the impetus a person needs to get to a place where he or she can initiate a significant change in his or her life.
The same thing happens at the end of every summer. There are two times per year where everything resets and starts anew, the beginning of the calendar year and the beginning of the school year.
Two qualities I believe I bring to the practice of family law are patience and understanding. I understand that those first few steps are difficult and the person sitting with me has been thinking about coming to see a lawyer for some time. If you would like to speak to me, I am available by phone at 610-278-1503, email at email@example.com, or in person in either Norristown or West Chester, Pa.
My name is Skip Persick and I’m new to the Weber Gallagher Family Law Practice. I spent 29 years at Lamb McErlane, PC, in West Chester, Pa., practicing all aspects of family law including divorces, child custody, and support cases. I also handle adoptions, guardianships, juvenile dependency, and school discipline cases.
I’m excited about joining Weber Gallagher in that it’s a win-win situation for me and for my new firm. Weber Gallagher gives me the support I need to handle larger more document intensive cases and I give Weber Gallagher considerably more visibility in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I have always taken pride in my ability to get clients through one of the most stressful times in their lives as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible and assure that they have the best possible financial foundation to move forward with their lives.
Should you want to discuss a family law issue, please call me at 610-278-1503, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also be happy to schedule a face to face meeting in either Norristown or West Chester.