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June 2018 Archives

Starting Probate

After a family member's death, the first step should be to determine if they had a last will and testament. If so, you will want to locate the original will and make sure it has been properly signed and witnessed. The named executor will need to go to the Register of Wills with the original will, photo identification, and some method of payment to open the estate. If the named executor does not want to act they can sign a renunciation which would allow someone else to take on the role. The Register of Wills will give the executor a short certificate of letters testamentary. This document authorizes the executor to handle the decedent's estate. If a loved one has passed away without a will, the Pennsylvania laws on intestacy will govern how their estate is handled. The closest kin can apply to the Register of Wills to be designated as the administrator of the estate. They will also be granted a short certificate as proof of their authority to handle the estate.

Grandparent Adoptions

It is not uncommon for grandparents to take on a more active role in the lives of their grandchildren and serve as their primary guardian. Adoption is an option for cases where all interested parties desire to make this arrangement permanent. Some of the statutory requirements for adoption are waived in the case of a grandparent adopting a grandchild. A standard adoption requires a home study to be completed by the local Children & Youth services agency. This process is somewhat expensive and takes a number of months to complete. A home study is not required for a grandparent adoption. Grandparents do need to complete the requisite background checks. Presently, there are three background checks required: (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

A pre-nuptial agreement is a private contract between the parties entered into prior to their marriage that outlines how assets and debts will be handled if the parties subsequently divorce. A basic and straight-forward pre-nuptial agreement could provide that each party retains anything they came into the marriage with as well as anything they acquire in their own name and that anything acquired jointly during the marriage will be divided equally or pursuant to their jurisdiction's divorce laws. A pre-nuptial agreement can also be much more specific and detailed in how it addresses pre-marital and marital property, regardless of how it's titled. An agreement may also address support for a spouse in addition to division of assets. For example, an agreement could provide for an increasing amount of support to a spouse based on the number of years married or number of children produced. It could also act as a waiver to any future support such that neither party could subsequently request any form of spousal support.

Can You Pay Child Support Directly To The Child?

Child support is designed to allow the non-custodial parent to share the financial load for food, clothing, shelter, and other expenses of raising a child. Some parents wonder if it would be easier, wiser, or more beneficial to pay child support directly to the child. In almost every case, the answer is...no.

Divorce and Your Retirement

As a family lawyer for Bucks and Montgomery County, we help clients just like you through the complicated process of divorce. When clients walk in our door, they are usually very concerned about paying and receiving alimony and child support and then working out a schedule for their children.  During the initial meetings and discussions, we remind them of the importance of looking down the road a few years to retirement. 

Alimony

Alimony is support paid to an ex-spouse following the divorce decree. The amount of alimony is based on the incomes of the parties but may also be affected by the distribution of other marital assets, if any. The length of alimony is directly attributable to the length of the marriage. For example, a party may expect approximately 1 year of alimony for every 3 years married. For marriages of over 25 years, an indefinite term of alimony may be appropriate. Unless otherwise stated by agreement, alimony may be subsequently modified due the changed circumstances of either party. The changes must be substantial and of a continuing nature. Parties to a private agreement may stipulate that alimony is non-modifiable in amount, duration, or both.

Steps for Custody Relocation

Section 5337 of the Domestic Relations statutes sets out the procedures and standards for relocation requests. All parties to a custody action are required to follow the procedures outlined in Section 5337 if they are moving to a distance which would make any existing custody arrangements difficult or impossible to follow. E.D. v. M.P., 2011 PA Super. 238, was one of the first cases to apply the new relocation law. In E.D. v. M.P., Mother appealed after the lower court granted Father's relocation on the grounds that Father didn't comply with the provisions of Sec. 5337.

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