By: Carolyn Mirabile
Is travel during the holidays safe? Many parents who usually would travel over the holidays may have to change their plans. Parents should observe all quarantine rules and restrictions specific to each state. Make sure to research any and all locations you plan on visiting, and the relevant restrictions associated with these destinations, before making travel plans. You can view all travel restrictions for each state on the CDC’s website here.
Whether you’re traveling with a child or not, it’s important to share your travel plans with the other parent as soon as possible. Doing so may help you eliminate the uncertainty relating to custodial issues. If you’re able to document this communication, even better. Having a trail of communication that proves you did your part to clearly and consistently notify the other parent of your travel plans will only benefit you in the long run.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Your child’s safety is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, parents should consider if flying, driving, or taking a train with children on a trip is safe. Which mode of transportation is best for you and your family? You have to weigh the pros and cons of all transportation options to make the decision that’s right for you. If traveling out of the country, a COVID-19 test with pre-quarantine measures may be required before leaving. Parents should ask whether this can be easily facilitated while exercising custody.
Restrictions related to COVID-19 are constantly changing at a local, state, and international level; and as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continues to rise, greater restrictions are being implemented and enforced. Therefore, above all else, parents need to be flexible when it comes to travel plans. When in doubt about the safety of you or your child, a staycation is the best option. It may not be as fun as you’d like, but quality family time at home and in your neighborhood does offer many benefits.
If you have questions regarding your custody order and the holidays, Weber Gallagher’s Family Law attorneys are here to help!
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How are child custody orders being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic? Family law attorney John Zurzola discusses custody litigation during the lockdowns, the timeline of cases, how lockdown ordinances affect custody agreements, and quarantine requirements. This episode provides examples of child custody procedures for Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. John also discusses invoking legal custody and emergency custody due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
By: Carolyn Mirabile
We live in unpredictable times. Schools are opening, schools are closing. One week they’re using a hybrid model for learning, the next week it’s completely virtual — forcing us to be resilient and adapt on the fly. This constant state of flux has parents asking themselves a variety of questions. Is your child’s school opening back up? Are you trying to decide if your child should be virtual or return to the classroom? Do you share custody and need to make important educational decisions with the other parent? Many parents are weighing their options, and shared custody can have an impact on the end decision.
Shared Legal Custody
Parents who share legal custody have a right to participate in making joint decisions regarding school. Some parents believe children need socialization and they think in-person learning is better than virtual learning on a screen. Others think children should remain at home and learn virtually. Each family has different circumstances impacting their decision.
Is it Safe to Return?
One major question is at the center of it all: is it safe to return? Parents should consider whether they have any vulnerable people in their homes, such as elderly grandparents, or someone with an immune-compromised condition. Parents should also seriously evaluate the types of protocols the school will have in place. How will social distancing be maintained? Will students be wearing masks the entire day? Will the school provide transportation? What cleaning remediations will be in place? What if a student or teacher tests positive?
Here When You Need Us
If parents disagree on whether a child should return to school, Weber Gallagher’s family lawyers can assist with filing a Petition to the Court or reviewing your child custody order. You don’t have to go it alone when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We’re here to help you and your loved ones navigate this treacherous terrain, and we always have your best interests in mind.
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There are different avenues to adopt, such as step-parent, birth, grandparent, international, juvenile dependency and adult adoptions. Each family’s road to adoption looks a little different. Join Weber Gallagher partner Lawrence “Skip” Persick as he sits down with partner Caitlin Goodrich to learn more about adopting. Caitlin provides a unique insight as an adoptive parent and her road to adoption through fostering. Skip and Caitlin also discuss what potential adoptive parents should consider, expectations, and the process through the court.
By: Carolyn Mirabile
Domestic violence is always a serious issue, but during a pandemic, when people are trapped at home, away from work or school, and have little ability to leave, the situation worsens. Domestic violence victims should be aware that there are free resources to help, even during these difficult times.
Below are several resources for victims in the five-county area in need of help:
- Bucks County: A Woman’s Place
- (800) 220-8116
- Chester County: The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County
- (888) 711-6270
- Delaware County: The Domestic Abuse Project
- (612) 874-7063 x232
- Montgomery County: Laurel House
- (800) 642-3150
- Philadelphia County: Women Against Abuse
- (866) 723-3014
While some of these organizations have “women” in their names, domestic violence works both ways. These organizations also provide aid for men or a person in a same-sex relationship with an abusive partner. Anyone can be a victim of a domestic violence.
These wonderful organizations are here to assist victims in any way they can. Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Laurel House in Montgomery County can provide counseling, schedule appointments with doctors, and even find a safe place for you to stay. The Domestic Abuse Project’s (DAP) client services include therapy, advocacy, and case management. DAP’s case managers offer holistic support services to all members of the family, aiding program participants with basic needs, including referrals to support for food, shelter, transportation, employment services, legal aid, mental and medical health, and chemical dependency, among others. I encourage you to look into the services provided by these organizations because they offer much more than most people realize.
As always, Weber Gallagher’s Family Law attorneys are here to assist and discuss your options. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. We’re here to help you however we can.
Every so often, I meet people who feel financially and emotionally trapped by a former girlfriend or boyfriend. They have a child by this person, and the other person has no interest whatsoever in the child. Sometimes the client is or was married to the person, but most of the time, the two parents were never married. Sometimes the child was conceived as a result of the classic one-night stand. Most of the time, the parent talking to me just wants the child to have a second parent and certainly would appreciate the benefits of child support payments.
While neither the parent talking to me, nor I, can make the person on the other side do the right thing, some things can be done to address the financial burden of raising a child alone.
The obvious reaction is to file for child support.
While some people are fearful that filing for child support will encourage a custody complaint coming from the other side, others feel pursuing support is a pointless endeavor because other parent is either continuously unemployed, mentally ill, has a substance abuse issue, or some combination of all three. Basically, what is the point of getting a support order the other side will never pay?
I always suggest to these people to file for support anyway because you just never know. It might be that tens of thousands of dollars in support arrears accumulate with no payments being made for years, but that is the point. In Pennsylvania, various lump sum financial awards are subject to attachment for child support arrears. These include IRS refunds, federal economic stimulus payments, lottery winnings, worker’s compensation awards, personal injury settlements and awards, proceeds from real estate; basically, any monetary award is subject to attachment for back child support. What would be a better prize for a single parent who has financially struggled for years than to get a payment on support arrears of $25,000.00 because the other parent just hit the lottery?
In some of these scenarios, the support obligee does not need to do anything; in some, the obligee may need to reduce the back support lien to judgment and transfer it to another state. The common prerequisite for this is that the person needs to have first filed for child support.
I recently received a telephone call from a woman I met almost ten years ago. She had a child with a guy who could not have cared less. He had no contact with the child, lost his professional license and then bounced from menial job to menial job, never making any money. When we first met, I told her to file for support. She did not because she did not want the aggravation. Her child is now 17. The father’s mother just died, leaving him several large tracts of land and other assets.
He suddenly has money. Since the child is now 17, she has a right to a year of child support, but wouldn’t it have been nice for her to finally have gotten the financial help she always deserved, even if it has been long-delayed?
The family law attorneys at Weber Gallagher are familiar with the issues surrounding the collection of back child support because, as I say above, you just never know. So should you need any assistance, please reach out to our office at 610.272.5555.
With all due respect to Yogi Berra, I write this as a follow up to an earlier blog on updating beneficiary designations after you are divorced. I encourage you to read that blog as well; the title is “Looking for Something to do Today?”
My family law colleagues at Weber Gallagher and I have become involved in a legal services website called Avvo. One of Avvo’s features is a question and answer page where people searching for a lawyer can post a question, and then a lawyer, like me, can post an answer. The questions run the gamut of all areas of the law. Family law is particularly well represented with questions.
A large number of the questions fall into some twist on the following fact pattern: The parties have been divorced, one party is obligated to do something under the marital settlement agreement or equitable distribution order, doesn’t do what he or she is supposed to do, and an amount of time goes by and the other side ends up getting screwed. Examples include one side refinancing the mortgage on the former marital residence, signing a deed, transferring stock, signing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), maintaining life insurance, putting money aside for the kids’ college; the list goes on.
My point here is that everyone, the parties as well as the lawyers, lets out a big sigh of relief when a divorce decree is entered, but as the title of this post says, “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over.” It’s not over when the divorce decree is issued; it’s over when everything in the marital settlement agreement has been completed, and both sides are fully satisfied there’s nothing left to do.
Clients, and divorce lawyers for that matter, tend to lose interest in the case after the decree is issued, but after the decree is when the parties start to see the benefit of the months of work getting all of those provisions into the agreement or equitable distribution order. Ultimately, the client has to be diligent and ask the other side for proof of life insurance or proof of refinancing the mortgage or having money deposited into the kids’ 529 accounts, or whatever other obligation the other side is supposed to do.
If something has not been done or if you have been asking the other side for proof that something has been done and it has been ignored, it is time to call your lawyer and get the lawyer involved by either leaning on the other side or by filing a Petition to Enforce the Agreement.
Because if something was supposed to happen and didn’t, you, the client, are the one with the mortgage in your name you didn’t think was there, no life insurance to cover for lost child support or alimony and no money to pay for college.
On May 8, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law HB 360, which sets Pennsylvania’s minimum age for marriage at 18. In so doing, Pennsylvania joins just two other states, Delaware and New Jersey, in adopting a hard limit of 18 years of age; by hard limit, I mean no exceptions. Like many other states, under prior Pennsylvania law, a child between 16 and 18 could marry with parental consent, and a child under 16 could marry with court approval. Previously, therefore, Pennsylvania had no age minimum for marriage.
The passage of the new law is seen as a victory for the protection of children in Pennsylvania. Without the new age minimum, children, usually girls, could be forced into arranged marriages with adult men with almost no legal recourse.
Child marriage is seen as a global problem and a violation of human rights rooted in gender inequality. Girls who enter into marriages at young ages suffer disproportionately higher incidences of early pregnancy, social isolation and mental health issues, interruption of educational and employment opportunities and physical and psychological abuse. There are also immigration issues when an arranged marriage between a young girl, who is an American citizen, is used to gain resident alien status for a foreign national seeking entry into the United States.
While the tradition of child marriage has diminished significantly in western cultures, it still remains in certain Asian and African cultures. As immigration from these areas continues into Pennsylvania, it has become an issue here as well. Both Houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature should be applauded for unanimously approving HB 360 and Governor Wolf for quickly signing the Bill into law.