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October 2015 Archives

Contested Name Change

When requesting a name change of a minor, in addition to the publication requirements for all name change petitions, you must also prove service on the non-petitioning parent. If the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court must decide after hearing from the parties. There is no standard in the name change statute as far as what the court should be considering. Instead, a standard has been established through case law on prior name change matters. Similar to custody matters, a name change of a minor should only be granted if it is in the child's best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child's best interests.

APL vs. Spousal Support

APL is short for alimony pendente lite which translates to alimony while the divorce is pending. Spousal support can be sought when the parties are separated and potentially before a divorce matter is pending. Often, these two terms for support between spouses are used interchangeably. This is due in large part to the fact that they are calculated the same way. Both forms of support are based on the difference in the spouses' incomes. Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-4, without children, spousal support or APL is 40% of the difference of the net incomes of the parties. If there is also a child support order, spousal support or APLwill only be 30% of the difference of the net incomes. Additionally, both forms of support are generally retroactive to the date of filing. However, the underlying purpose of the support award and potential defenses available distinguish APL from spousal support.

Divorce Based on One-Year Separation?

Earlier this year a bill was introduced to the Pennsylvania General Assembly which would affect the Divorce Code. House Bill 380 proposes amending Section 3301(d) of the Divorce Code to allow divorce on the basis of separation for a one year period as opposed to the current law which requires a two year separation period. Representative Tara Toohil proposed the bill and cites several reasons for the change. First, reducing the duration for divorce will reduce the turmoil for minor children. There is consensus in the psychological field that continued conflict of the parents is the primary influence on the well-being, or lack thereof, of the children. Second, longer divorces allow for additional litigation and prolonged emotional strain. The third reason offered in support of the bill is the lack of any economic benefit by continuing with a two year separation period. For example, any alimony award will generally be reduced by the period of support received while the divorce was pending such that there is no benefit to a longer separation period.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Parental rights can generally only be dissolved in conjunction with an adoption matter. A biological parent can consent to an adoption, voluntarily relinquish their rights or be subject to involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights:

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