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August 2015 Archives

Benefits Paid to Children

Benefits payable to the children can affect the child support award. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(b) discusses the treatment of public assistance, SSI benefits, certain Social Security payments and foster care payments in regard to calculation of support. Per sub-section (1) public assistance and SSI payments cannot be considered. SSI is a federal means-tested benefit. It operates as more of a welfare benefit similar to public assistance. Examples of public assistance include cash assistance or food stamps. Sub-section (2) addresses social security derivative payments for children. Any social security benefit as a result of a parent's death, disability or retirement should be addressed in the child support calculation. It should be added to the income of the party receiving the benefit.

Breast feeding in Custody Disputes

Breast-feeding alone is not a reason to grant custody to the Mother over the Father in a custody dispute. In J.R.M. v. J.E.A., 33 A.3d 647 (Pa.Super. 2011), the court granted Mother primary physical custody based exclusively on the fact that the parties had poor communication and Mother continued to breast feed the child. Father was subsequently able to successfully appeal the trial court's order. Father pointed out the court's failure to consider all the factors as listed under Section 5328 of the custody statutes. Section 5328 mandates that courts consider all of the listed factors relating to the best interests of the child when entering a custody order.

Great-Grandparent Custody

Great-grandparents are able to pursue partial custody just as grandparents are. Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations Statute indicates great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation where one of the following conditions is met: (1) a parent of the child is deceased; (2) the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months; or (3) the child has lived with the great-grandparent(s) for at least 12 consecutive months and a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home.

Post-Divorce Healthcare Options

Once a divorce decree is issued, entitlement to health benefits as a spouse terminates. COBRA was enacted in 1986 and allows temporary healthcare continuation at group rates for ex-spouses. The ex-spouse is responsible for the entire premium. In that regard, it will likely be more expensive than the rate for the employee who is likely receiving an employer contribution toward the premium. Employers with 20 or more employees are required to offer COBRA coverage. The maximum coverage period in the event of divorce or legal separation is 36 months.

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