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May 2014 Archives

New Rules for Montgomery County

Montgomery County has just adopted a number of changes to their local rules regarding divorce matters. Where there are pending claims for equitable distribution, the moving party should file a Motion for Entry of Grounds and Appointment of an Equitable Distribution Master. The moving party will now have to pay a $400 fee at the time the Motion is filed. The Motion should certify that all discovery is complete. A list of all the assets and debts at issue along with their corresponding values must also be included. Finally, the initial pre-hearing statement should be attached including a completed Inventory and Appraisement. Once the Motion and all its required accompaniments are filed, a copy of the same should be served on the other party. A Certificate of Service should then be completed and filed with the court. 

Same-Sex Marriage

Just short of a year following the US Supreme Court decision that the federal statute, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was unconstitutional, Pennsylvania has followed suit in recognizing its own marriage laws are also unconstitutional. In a decision rendered May 20, 2014, the Honorable John E. Jones, III, sitting for the US District Court in the Middle District on the case of Whitewood v. Michael Wolf, ruled that two of Pennsylvania's laws regarding marriage were unconstitutional on the basis that they violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. 23 Pa. C.S. 1102, limiting marriage to heterosexuals, and 23 Pa C.S. 1704, prohibiting recognition of homosexual marriages even where the couples were legally married elsewhere, are no longer enforceable. 

Self Support Reserve

The self support reserve is the amount of money a parent paying support needs to have available to support themselves. It is intended to ensure low-income parties can meet their own basic needs as well as provide an incentive for continued employment. In Pennsylvania, the self-support reserve is presently $931 a month. This number reflects the federal poverty level for one person. In calculating a support award when the party to pay support has income equal or less to the self-support reserve amount, the court can only award support after consideration of the parties' actual financial resources and living expenses instead of a strict adherence to the guideline amount. 

New Custody Rules for Chester County

Chester County has just approved a number of changes to their local rules regarding custody matters. For all custody orders, it must be stated within the order that neither party will relocate with minor children without proper consent or court approval as required under Section 5337. For all initial complaints for custody or petitions for modification, the criminal history affidavit must be included. The non-moving party should file their criminal history affidavit within 10 days following service. After filing of the complaint or modification petition, the parties must attend an approved parenting class and provide proof of their attendance. Presently, the court approved parenting program is "Children in Between." In some instances, the parties may also be ordered to attend a mediation session. 

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care month. Foster parents play an important role in providing stability for children in their transition from their natural parents to a permanent home. Bucks County Children and Youth Social Service Agency oversees the foster care program for the county. The Agency offers informational meetings throughout the county on various dates for interested volunteers. Bucks County presently has a need for additional volunteers. Approximately one-third of the children in need of foster care in Bucks County are placed out of the county due to the shortage of available foster parents.

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