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April 2016 Archives

Pennsylvania Victims of Domestic Violence May Have Easier Road to Divorce Under New Law

On April 21, 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill which essentially simplifies the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain a divorce. Currently, under the Divorce Code, even in the case of domestic violence, if a spouse refuses to consent to the divorce after 90 days, the divorce cannot proceed until there has been a two-year separation. In the new law that takes effect in sixty days (around June 22, 2016), a victim of domestic abuse can file for divorce and the law presumes consent of a party if they have been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party.

Child's Relocation

Pennsylvania's custody relocation statute, 23 Pa C.S. 5337, requires the party seeking relocation to get court approval or the other parent's permission prior to relocation. A relocation is defined as any move that would "significantly impair the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights." Case law has established that when neither parent moves but the child is moving, Section 5337 is not triggered. In D.K. v. S.P.K., 102 A.3d 467 (Pa. Super. 2014), the Father was located in Pittsburgh, PA with the children and Mother was located in North Carolina. Mother was subsequently awarded primary custody resulting in the children moving to North Carolina. This was not considered a relocation since neither parent had moved, however, the court did state that certain factors in Section 5337(h) should be considered due to the impact on the children.

Treatment of Veterans Benefits

Former military members may be eligible to receive a number of different veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Possible benefits include disability compensation, pension benefits, life insurance, educational benefits and more. Title 38 of the U.S. Code addressing veterans benefits dictates that the benefits are off limits to creditor claims. However, Title 38 has special provisions regarding the support of family dependents. Accordingly, receipt of veterans benefits can be counted as income for support purposes.

National Alcohol Screening Day

Today is National Alcohol Screening Day. The day is intended to raise awareness and highlight treatment options. It was first observed in 1999 and falls under the category of mental health screenings. Alcohol abuse is a frequent issue in family law matters. Often times, excessive alcohol consumption can be a trigger to aggressive or violent behavior. It is not unusual for Protection from Abuse matters to include allegations from the victim that the other party was drinking prior to the incident resulting in the petition. Alcoholism is also a factor in custody matters.

Updating your Will after Divorce

After your divorce it is very important to update your estate planning documents, most importantly your will. If you leave your old will in place your financial assets, property and even the care of your children may wind-up in the hands of those who you no longer want - your former family members or ex-spouse.

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