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Support for Adult Children

In Pennsylvania, child support should terminate when the minor child is eighteen or graduate high school, whichever is later. However, in certain circumstances the obligation for support may continue past those milestones. One example would be if the child has a disability. Pennsylvania courts have held that the child support guidelines would continue to apply in the instance of a child who, despite age, remains unemancipated or unable to support themselves by virtue of a disability. The court is to determine if an adult child has a mental or physical condition that prevents the child from earning a living wage. Additionally, the court should look to see whether an order of continued support would result in undue hardship on the parents.

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Enforcement of Support

There are a number of remedies available to promote payment of support obligations within Pennsylvania. First, Pennsylvania does wage garnishment where possible to ensure payments are collected in full on a consistent basis. If a payor does fall behind, the court will call the party in for contempt proceedings. A payor who is able to catch up at the time of the contempt proceeding will usually avoid any further sanctions. Alternatively, if the court accepts a repayment plan offered by the payor there may not be any further enforcement remedies pursued. If a payor cannot make payment in full or offer a satisfactory plan for catching up on payments, they will have to go before a Judge to discuss their failure to keep up with their support obligations.

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Surrogacy

Surrogacy is the process whereby a third party is used to assist couples in having a child. Surrogacy may be traditional wherein the third party will have a biological tie to the child however has agreed to relinquish any legal rights as a parent. The other option is gestational surrogacy where the third party is just a carrier and the egg and sperm of the intended parents are implanted in the surrogate. Pennsylvania does not have a statute in place as it relates to surrogacy, however, case law has upheld a surrogacy contract. In J.F. v. D.B., the carrier mother attempted to keep the children following birth despite having entered a surrogacy agreement. 897 A.2d 1261 (2006). The court eventually held she didn't have standing for a custody action and turned the children over to the intended parents per the contract. The courts went a step further in In re Baby S, when it explicitly upheld a surrogacy agreement. 2015 Pa. Super. 244 (2015).

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Donor Agreements

Donor agreements are vital for identifying the legal rights of parties considering artificial insemination as part of assisted reproduction. An agreement should indicate that the donor does not have any rights subsequent to the donation. Specifically, the agreement should explain that no parental relationship is intended for the donor. It should be clear that donor's parental rights are terminated and that the donor forever forfeits the ability to file for any type of custody or visitation if a child is subsequently born. The agreement would allow the recipient to dictate what happens with the donation or any embryos created using the donation.

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Are You Too Broke to Get Divorced?

The financial implications of your divorce can be substantial and you may think you cannot afford to get divorced.  Friends and relatives may share war stories of losing a significant amount of their savings to their ex, paying unreasonable levels of child support and alimony, and paying exorbitant legal fees.  While the financial reality can be hard to face, staying in an unhealthy marriage can be harmful to you and your children. Being reasonable through the process can also reduce your legal fees and ease the impact of the process on your family.  

Your Teen and Your Divorce

All children process divorce differently and your teen will be no different.  They may be relieved if you and your spouse were constantly fighting or unhappy that mom and dad are no longer together.  They may experience a variety of emotions that they are unsure how to handle.  

Insurance companies prohibited from denying claims of victims of abuse

Under Pennsylvania's Unfair Insurance Practice Act, an insurance company may not deny a claim by an innocent co-insured where the loss was caused by the intentional act of another insured if the innocent co-insured is a victim of domestic violence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed this provision in Lynn v. Nationwide Insurance Company.

In this case, Husband and Wife owned a home, which was insured by Nationwide. Without Husband's knowledge, Wife contacted their insurance agent and requested that the insurance policy be cancelled. Wife then drugged the couple's children and set fire to the home while she and the children were inside. Wife's plan failed and she was arrested.

Costs of sale and taxes to be considered in equitable distribution of a business

In Carney v. Carney, a recent decision by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the Court held that costs associated with the sale of a business and related tax effects were relevant to an equitable distribution order.

The trial court entered an equitable distribution order, which gave Husband the couple's trucking business. Husband was required to make monthly payments to Wife for 10 years to offset the value of the business with the remaining marital assets, all of which were awarded to Wife. The monthly payment was calculated without accounting for costs associated with a potential future sale of the business and possible tax effects.

Assisted Reproduction

Assisted reproduction refers to a number of procedures that may be utilized to achieve pregnancy including fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. In vitro fertilization entails removing a woman's eggs from her body and implanting the eggs with sperm to create an embryo. Those embryos can be stored until ready for use. However, couples should be aware of what happens to the embryos if they subsequently separate prior to using them. In Pennsylvania, frozen embryos are considered marital property and hence, subject to division in a divorce. The Pennsylvania Superior Court stated its position on the marital status of frozen pre-embryos in Reber v. Reiss, 2012 PA Super 86. In Reber, Wife wanted to use the frozen pre-embryos in order to have children of her own whereas Husband wanted the frozen pre-embryos either destroyed or donated for research.

Prior to reaching its decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered how other states have dealt with this issue. Some states have focused on whether there is a prior agreement between the parties concerning disposition of the pre-embyros in the event of divorce and if so, will uphold the agreement as enforceable. Other states have held the enforcing such an agreement is a violation of public policy and have declined to do so. Another approach is a mutual consent model requiring both parties to agree on disposition, however, Pennsylvania did not find this model feasible since parties would not be in court in the first place if they could agree. The approach that was ultimately adopted in PA calls for the court to balance the interests of the parties.

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Dividing Property Outside of Divorce

A partition action is a legal proceeding to divide property amongst unmarried individuals that cannot agree what to do with the property. This may arise in a situation where two parties who were never married purchased a home together. It may also arise if real property is not properly dealt with at the time of the divorce action and the now divorced parties are still co-owners. Pennsylvania partition actions are governed by Rules 1551 - 1574 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. There are two options in a partition action. One option involves physically splitting the property, if possible. The alternative option, and more likely occurrence, involves the home being sold with the proceeds divided. As far as procedure, a complaint for partition should be brought in the county where the property is located and must include all co-tenants as parties.

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