Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
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Who May Adopt?

An adoption petition can be filed by anyone. Pursuant to 23 P.A. CS 2312, any individual may become an adopting parent. There is no requirement that a prospective parent be married or in a relationship. An adoption can take place in any county where the natural parents of the child reside. It may also take place in any county where the child to be adopted resides or in the county where the prospective parent resides. Background clearances must be obtained for the prospective parent as well as any other adult household members. If not already resolved, the rights of the natural parents of the child need to be addressed in connection with the adoption proceeding. The natural parents can cooperate in consenting to the adoption and or voluntarily relinquishing their rights. There are also circumstances in which a prospective parent can petition for the involuntary termination of the natural parents' rights.

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Impact of Criminal Background on Adoption

Background checks are required for all prospective parents in an adoption matter. In Pennsylvania, there are three background checks that are required: Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. New Jersey requires state, federal and local criminal history checks. These background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside.

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Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the answer?

Well, it depends on what question you are asking.  Chapter 7 is designed to give a person a new start.  It is designed for people who have consumer debts, credit cards and medical debt. However you must attend credit counseling before you are able to file to see if there is any other kind of debt consolidation program that may help.  You are also requried to go to Debt Education Counseling after the bankruptcy is discharged to make sure you don't get yourself back into the same predicament. 

Bankruptcy Chapter 7 can be the answer, if you qualify. You have to pass a test.  Not like a test at school, but the "means" test.  The "means" test has two parts.  First, it looks at your annual income to see if it is below the state median income.  If you are below, you pass the first part of the test.  The second part of the test looks at your regular monthly expenses versus your income to see if you have any disposable income at the end of the month to give to the creditors to pay them back.  If at the end of the month, you have money left over, then you may be a candidate for a Chapter 13 repayment plan.  If you have very little at the end of the month left over, you can qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge. 

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Termination of Parental Rights due to Abandonment

Many parties inquire as to whether they can terminate the other parent's rights on the basis of abandonment. The answer is not a simple yes or no. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Two of the grounds are as follows: (1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.

(2) The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well‑being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.

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Post-Adoption Contact Contract

It may be possible to remain in touch with your child subsequent to the termination of your parental rights and their adoption. Act 101, which became law in 2010, allows post-adoption contact by agreement of all the parties. Specifically, a birth relative by blood, marriage or adoption can contract with the new adoptive parents in terms of continued contact with the adoptee. In each adoption case, all parties are required to be notified of the possibility of entering a contract for continued contact. The parties should sign to acknowledge they received notice of the options available under Act 101 and their signed acknowledgment would then be filed with the court. If the parties do not sign an acknowledgement, then proof that they were served with the notice should be filed to the court. A sample of the Act 101 notice is included below.

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Will My Divorce Affect My Green Card Status or Citizenship Opportunity?

Whether or not your divorce will affect your immigration status depends on the stage of the process you're in. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) vigilantly watches for possible fraudulent marriages, entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. There are ways to demonstrate your marriage was entered into in good faith, but their effectiveness depends on your stage in the process. 

Can My Former Lawyer Represent My Spouse in Our Divorce?

While it is common and even preferable for a divorcing couple to utilize the same attorney in mediation, there are clear guidelines that generally prevent one spouse from hiring the other spouse's former attorney in a trial divorce case. 

Dividing the Family Cars in a Divorce

When couples begin the divorce process, all assets and liabilities need to be listed and valued in order to determine division between the spouses. Negotiation often involves one spouse being given certain assets in exchange for other assets of the same value - and greater need or emotional attachment are values along with cost that can be weighed in the negotiation process. 

Guardianship

A guardian can be appointed by the court to make decisions on behalf of an adult individual who has been deemed incapacitated or incapable of making sound decisions on their own. The court must determine whether the individual for whom guardianship is sought can adequately manage their financial resources and/or meet basic essential requirements for their own health and safety. If you are the party filing for guardianship, the first step is to file a petition with the court. A hearing will be scheduled after review of the petition establishing a potential need. The petitioner (filing party) should secure expert testimony to corroborate the extent of the incapacity of the subject individual and the necessity for a guardian as the Petitioner has the burden to prove incapacity by clear and convincing evidence. At least ten (10) days prior to any scheduled hearing, notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition must be served on the individual for whom guardianship is sought (Respondent) explaining in plain language the possible ramifications of the forthcoming legal proceedings. Notice must also be given to any additional interested parties such as other family members or individuals that could serve as guardian.

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Forms of Service for Adoption

All interested parties, including natural parent(s), shall receive proper notice of pending termination and/or adoption proceedings. A copy of the relevant petition and subsequent hearing notice should be served on all interested parties, e.g. persons with parental rights to the minor child(ren) involved. Acceptable methods of service include personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery. Proof of service should be filed with the court and/or submitted at the time of the hearing.

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