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July 2014 Archives

Residency for Jurisdiction

Under Pennsylvania law, specifically 23 Pa. C.S. 3104(b), one of the parties to the divorce action must have been a bona fide resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to the commencement of the divorce. Bona fide residence is defined as actual residence with domiciliary intent. Domicile denotes the place where a person has his or her true, fixed, permanent home with the intention of returning after any absence. In other words, where an individual sleeps, takes her meals, receives mail, and stores personal possession. Members of the military are considered to be residents of their home state even if they are stationed elsewhere at the time a divorce is commenced. The home state would be the state where they intend to return to and reside in following any term of active duty.

Counseling in Adoption Cases

Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This may occur via consent, voluntary relinquishment or involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa C.S. 2505, each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing termination of parental rights. The court must inquire of the natural parent(s) if counseling services were utilized prior to any decree terminating their rights. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court may briefly postpone a decision on the termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling. 

Landlord-Tenant Basics

A lease is the typical agreement outlining the arrangement to occupy property between the tenant, who will become the occupant, and the landlord, who is the legal owner of the property. Leases between landlords and tenants can be oral or written if the lease is for a period of less than three years, although written is always preferable. Lease agreements must be in writing for terms greater than three years. A tenant should make a careful review of the property prior to signing a lease. For example, a tenant should check to see if all appliances are in working order, if there are any plumbing issues, if the electric is properly wired and all light fixtures and outlets are in working order, whether the walls or ceilings have any cracks, holes or other damage, if the floors, railing and bathroom fixtures are in good repair, whether there are any rodent or insect problems, and whether the windows and doors are functional and secure. A tenant should be sure to note any existing damages to the landlord prior to signing a lease as the tenant is obligated to leave the property in the same condition at the termination of the lease. 

Retirement Plan Distributions in Divorce

Retirement plans are often one of the significant assets up for distribution in the course of a divorce. Careful attention should be given to the type of retirement plan at issue to avoid tax penalties and/or early withdrawal penalties to the extent possible. First, retirement plans must be distinguished between qualified plans and non-qualified plans. Qualified plans include defined contribution plans such as 401Ks as well as defined benefit plans such as pensions. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will be necessary to distribute a qualified plan. Non-qualified plans include individual retirement accounts or IRAs. A QDRO is not needed to distribute these plans. 

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