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Overcoming the Stress of Divorce

Stress after divorce is to be expected. You're embarking on a new stage of your life, but things will be different socially, emotionally, and financially. Looking at the big picture can cause anxiety, but by allowing yourself time to adjust and by taking things one at a time, you can manage the stress and anxiety and come out stronger on the other end.

Surrogacy Contracts

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 but 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 established courts are willing to uphold the provisions of 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.

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Adoption Fees

There are a number of costs involved in an adoption action. The total amount of expenses will vary depending on the nature of the adoption. For example, a kinship or family adoption where the natural parent(s) are cooperating with the adoption will have different costs than a case where the adoption is contested by the natural parent(s) or if the adoption is not kinship. There is a filing fee due to the court for an adoption petition. Other filings that may be necessary depending on your circumstances can include a request for a home study, notice of intent to adopt, petition for involuntary termination and/or confirmation of consent. Each county will determine which pleadings require a filing fee as well as the amount. On average, it can be several hundred dollars just in filing fees. This may be something to consider if you have multiple options available in terms of counties with proper venue for your adoption case.

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Wills for Heroes

Wills for Heroes is a program in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Bar Association that provides free wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders and their families. Appointments are required along with proof of military or public service. There is also a limit on the size of the estate to utilize this service. Appointments can be made online at the Pennsylvania Bar Association website. Each appointment slot is one hour. Each participant will have their final, notarized documents to take home with them by the conclusion of their appointment. If a spouse or significant other is also participating, their appointment will be immediately following that of the first responder. The program is made possible through the time of volunteers including attorneys, reviewers and witnesses.

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Blended Families

Divorce and remarriage is fairly common and can include new children in your life. Adoption may be an option to make those children your own legally. An adoption by a stepparent qualifies as a kinship adoption such that some of the statutory requirements for adoption are waived. As the prospective adopting parent, you will need to have three background checks completed prior to filing an adoption petition. Presently, the required background checks for Pennsylvania include (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. Your spouse and natural parent of the children would join as a petitioner in the adoption matter.

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Interstate Adoptions

There are additional requirements to satisfy if you are adopting a child out of state. The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children, which has existed for more than forty years, addresses adoptions where a child is to be transferred across state lines. It creates uniform legal and administrative procedures for interstate adoption matters. All U.S. states are members of the Compact and follow the same procedures. The state where the child presently resides must approve of the transfer across the state lines for placement. A copy of the approval is then submitted to the court for filing in the state where the adoption will ultimately take place. In order to get approval, a packet must be created with relevant information on the child or adoptee, the prospective parent(s) and the intended place of residence.

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Adoptions for Same Sex Couples

Now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriages, same-sex partners can also benefit from the simpler process of a kinship or step-parent adoption. This means no home study is required. The adopting parent would still complete the requisite background checks. At the adoption hearing the court will verify that all requirements for an adoption have been met. The adopting parent(s) should be prepared to indicate their understanding of the responsibility they are taking on as parents.

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Where to File for Adoption

An adoption petition can be filed in a number of places depending on the circumstances of your case. Pursuant to 23 P.A. CS 2302, an adoption may be brought in the county where the parent(s) reside, where the adoptee resides, where an office is located for an agency having custody of the adoptee, or with leave of court, where the adoptee formerly resided. Section 2301 dictates that each county shall exercise jurisdiction through the appropriate division for adoption matters. In Pennsylvania, it is the Orphans' Court that regularly handles adoption matters. In New Jersey, it is the Surrogates' office.

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Adoption Hearing

One of the final steps in the adoption process is the adoption hearing. The hearing is often ceremonial in nature. It is common for family and friends to attend along with the prospective adoptee parents. The adoptee(s) must be present as well. At the hearing, the Petitioners should be prepared to show all legal requirements for an adoption have been met. Any documents that were attached to your original petition or subsequently filed with the court should already be in the court file (i.e. original birth certificate, background checks, home study report.) Additional requirements may include service on the opposing party in which case you should be sure to have valid proof of service with you for your hearing.

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What If Your Ex Hid Money During the Divorce?

While the law requires both spouses to disclose all assets and liabilities with an accurate estimation of value for distribution between spouses, it's not uncommon for someone to try to hide the actual worth of their property.

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