Can a stepparent get any form of custody as to a step-child? The simple answer to that question is yes. Assume for a minute that a father has custody of his daughter. Mother is, for whatever reason, out of the picture; she has either moved across the country, has mental health or substance abuse issues, or just plain does not care to be in her daughter’s life. Father enters into a relationship with another woman and they eventually marry. This woman, the stepmother, becomes more of a mother to the child than the birth mother. A few years later, the father and stepmother split up and divorce. Initially, the father lets the stepmother spend time with the child but, when the father enters into a relationship with a third woman, the visits with stepmother are shut down.
This is essentially the fact pattern in Liebner v. Simcox, 834 A.2d 606 (Pa.Super. 2003). In that case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the finding of the Dauphin County of Common Pleas that the stepparent stood in loco parentis to the child, meaning the stepparent had acted as a parent, and that visits between the stepparent and the child were in the child’s best interest. The courts overlooked the lack of a blood relationship between the child and stepmother, instead of focusing on the best interest of the child.
Lawrence J. “Skip” Persick handles various issues concerning stepparents such as third party custody, stepparent adoption and the implications of stepparent relationships on child support. Should you find yourself or know someone in a similar position, please reach out to Skip Persick at 610-278-1503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Weber Gallagher Partners Presented at the Pennsylvania Bar Association Annual Summer Family Law Meeting
During the Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section annual summer meeting which took place in Orlando, Florida, two lawyers from Weber Gallagher, Carolyn R. Mirabile and Lawrence J. (“Skip”) Persick were invited to speak about trending topics in the practice of family law across the Commonwealth. Ms. Mirabile participated on a panel which presented an ethics program to family law attorneys. While Mr. Persick provided a legislative update and discussed new and pending Pennsylvania family law legislation. Both partners are also members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section Council which is responsible for membership, programming, legislative initiatives and business function of the Section.
Ms. Mirabile is past-president of the Montgomery Bar Association and is past co-chair and current member of the Association’s Diversity Committee. This year, Ms. Mirabile will receive the Robert E. Slota, Jr. Award in appreciation of her leadership and dedication to promoting diversity within the Montgomery Bar Association. At Weber Gallagher, Ms. Mirabile is Chair of the Family Law Group and concentrates her practice on all aspects of divorce, support, custody, property distribution and drafting of marital settlement agreements and prenuptial agreements.
Mr. Persick is co-chair of the Family Law Section’s Legislative Committee and former co-chair of the Chester County Bar Association’s Family Law section. At Weber Gallagher, Mr. Persick concentrates his practice on resolving complex family law issues such as divorce, custody disputes, child support matters and adoptions.
To find out more information about Carolyn Mirabile and Skip Persick, please visit the Weber Gallagher website.
Individuals who have been convicted of crimes often face many barriers in their lives including completing their education, purchasing a home and securing a job. Often the crime is a result of a difficult time in the person’s life perhaps while they were fighting an addiction or were in their 20’s. A prior conviction may in turn affect a parent’s ability to obtain meaningful custodial time with his or her child. Pennsylvania has just passed the new Clean Slate Act which will allow automatic record-sealing of certain offenses beginning June 28, 2019. The new Act will help individuals clear their prior records without going through a costly expungement or pardon process. Automatic record-sealing will apply to non-convictions, summary convictions and many nonviolent misdemeanors. Clearing a past criminal record will allow opportunities, including successful employment and financial independence, for a parent seeking custodial time. Our Family Law Department can discuss these options with you and assist you in your efforts.
Carolyn Mirabile Chair of Weber Gallagher’s Family Law Group Presented to the Montgomery Bar Association Family Law Section
Carolyn Mirabile, Chair of the Family Law Group, presented “The Sixteen Factors a View from the Bench and the Bar” to the Montgomery Bar Association Family Law Section on Wednesday, June 5th. She moderated and presented the program with the Hon. Carolyn Carluccio and the Hon. Kelly Wall on how to prepare and present your custody trial. They discussed how to select and prepare your witnesses, focusing on key testimony and dealing with difficult issues such as mental health and addiction.
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.