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April 2019 Archives

Warning Signs of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is defined as the programming of a child by one parent, consciously or unconsciously, to damage or destroy the child's relationship with the other parent. It is most commonly found in high-conflict divorces and often directed at the non-custodial parent, but this is certainly not always the case. Sometimes the custodial parent is the target, and sometimes it even happens in intact families.

When Will My Child Support Payments End in Pennsylvania?

The answer to this question seems straightforward: According to PA law, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, unless the parents have agreed in writing to continued support or it has been ordered by the courts because of the special needs of the child.

The 4 Keys to Repairing Credit after Divorce

If your credit has been damaged during your marriage, expect to take some time to repair it. The first step, of course, is to obtain a credit report. You can receive one free report each year from a free report agency, or check with your bank. Assess your situation and then make a plan of action. There are four key steps to repairing your credit: close current joint accounts, restructure your debt, develop a budget, and take positive steps to repair the damage.

Modifying Your Divorce Agreement

While an appeal to a divorce decree must be completed within 30 days, a modification to a divorce agreement can be requested at any time after the divorce. It is not uncommon that, after significant time has passed, circumstances have changed enough to warrant an alteration of the divorce agreement.

Contested Adoptions

If the natural parent(s) do not agree with the adoption, there is a hearing to determine if their rights should be involuntarily terminated. In this situation, an attorney must be appointed to represent the interests of the adoptee(s). An attorney may also be appointed for the parent contesting the adoption. When presiding over a petition for involuntary termination, the court must first consider whether grounds for involuntary termination have been established. Grounds for termination include instances where a parent has failed to perform any parental duties for at least six months, where a parent has demonstrated incapacity, abuse or neglect, or the child has been removed from the care of the parent(s) by an agency and parents have not been able to successfully remedy the situation which led to removal.

Notice Requirements for Adoption

It is always necessary to give all interested parties proper notice of pending adoption proceedings. A copy of the adoption petition should be served on all interested parties, e.g. persons with parental rights to the minor child(ren) involved. Acceptable methods of service include personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery. With personal service, an affidavit of service would then be filed with the court detailing date, time and place of service. With service via mail, verification of delivery would come back from the post office with the signature of the party served. Proof of service should be filed with the court and/or submitted at the time of the hearing.

Overcoming the Stress of Divorce

Stress after divorce is to be expected. You're embarking on a new stage of your life, but things will be different socially, emotionally, and financially. Looking at the big picture can cause anxiety, but by allowing yourself time to adjust and by taking things one at a time, you can manage the stress and anxiety and come out stronger on the other end.

Surrogacy Contracts

Surrogacy is the process whereby a third party is used to assist couples in having a child. Surrogacy may be traditional wherein the third party will have a biological tie to the child but has agreed to relinquish any legal rights as a parent. The other option is gestational surrogacy where the third party is just a carrier and the egg and sperm of the intended parents are implanted in the surrogate. Pennsylvania does not have a statute in place as it relates to surrogacy, however, case law has established courts are willing to uphold the provisions of a surrogacy contract. In J.F. v. D.B., the carrier mother attempted to keep the children following birth despite having entered a surrogacy agreement. 897 A.2d 1261 (2006). The court eventually held she didn't have standing for a custody action and turned the children over to the intended parents per the contract.

Adoption Fees

There are a number of costs involved in an adoption action. The total amount of expenses will vary depending on the nature of the adoption. For example, a kinship or family adoption where the natural parent(s) are cooperating with the adoption will have different costs than a case where the adoption is contested by the natural parent(s) or if the adoption is not kinship. There is a filing fee due to the court for an adoption petition. Other filings that may be necessary depending on your circumstances can include a request for a home study, notice of intent to adopt, petition for involuntary termination and/or confirmation of consent. Each county will determine which pleadings require a filing fee as well as the amount. On average, it can be several hundred dollars just in filing fees. This may be something to consider if you have multiple options available in terms of counties with proper venue for your adoption case.

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