Pennsylvania abides by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in terms of determining where a custody case should be handled. The preferred method for establishing jurisdiction is based on the home state of the child. The homes state is defined as the state where the child had been living for at least six (6) months prior to the custody action or since birth if the child is less than six months old. If jurisdiction is not clear based on an analysis of the home state, the courts then look to see where there are significant connections and substantial evidence relevant to the custody action. Significant connections is more than just mere presence in any state.
Parties other than parents and grandparents may be able to file for custody. Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws discusses who has standing to file for legal and physical custody. First, a person who stands in loco parentis may file for custody. In loco parentis status means you are acting as a parent even though there isn't the biological connection. It has been defined as an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between a natural parent and child. This requires more than just a frequent care-taker role.
Emotions run high in any child custody discussion. When you are fighting with your soon-to-be-ex, in person or through your attorneys, that arguing adds extra pressure to the process. When violence and abuse are already present in the relationship, there is added urgency along with a fear of you or your children being victimized.
If you are seeking to move to a distance that makes your current custody schedule difficult or impossible to follow it classifies as a relocation. In the event of a move that does classify as a relocation the party looking to move should obtain the written consent of the other parent or court approval. Previously, New Jersey courts primarily focused on if there would be any harm to the child in allowing the move. In a recent decision (Bisbing v. Bisbing) the New Jersey courts have shifted their focus to considering if the move is in the child's best interests. This standard puts the burden on the party looking to relocate to demonstrate how it benefits the child. It also allows for a better look at how the move affects both parents.
Enforcement of an international custody order is addressed by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Signatories to the Hague Convention are required to immediately return children if taken or retained in violation of a custody order. All countries who are parties to the Hague Convention must establish a "Central Authority." This office is responsible for dealing with any Hague Convention violations. For children removed from the United States, a petition for return should be filed through the U.S. State Department, Office of Children's Issues. From there, the petition is transmitted to the Central Authority for the other country involved and ultimately adjudicated there. It is important to begin the process as soon as a violation occurs for the best likelihood of having the child returned.
Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be 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 grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home. However, in a 2016 decision, D.P. and B.P. v. G.J.P. and A.P., No. 25 WAP 2015, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the Western District, held that Section 5325(2) intruded on the constitutional rights of the parents.
Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be 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 grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home. In a decision from September 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the Western District, held that Section 5325(2) intruded on the constitutional rights of the parents.
Fall is on its way and the school year has begun. Now is a good time to review your custody agreement to ensure a smooth school year. Your schedule may have changed from the summer and you should make sure you and your children are familiar with the new schedule. If you have shared legal custody, you will need to consult with the other parent regarding any decisions concerning the children's schools. If you have sole legal custody, you may still be under an obligation to keep the other parent informed and should refer to your custody order to double-check. It is generally a good idea to have a consensus about extracurricular activities for the children as well. If practices and games will occur on the other parent's custodial time, you will need their cooperation in getting the children to their events.
If you are seeking a divorce and you and your current spouse are parents you need to lay the foundation for a happy and healthy future for yourself and your children. When divorcing there are both emotional and financial issues to consider. Issues surrounding children can be extremely contentious during a divorce, but a skilled attorney can help bring together to start working on issues together for the sake of the children.
Pennsylvania does not have a statute in place as it relates to surrogacy, however, case law has upheld a surrogacy contract. There are two types of surrogacy. A traditional surrogacy is where the carrier has a genetic relationship with the child. For example, the carrier's eggs are used along with a sperm donor. A gestational surrogacy is where the carrier has no genetic relationship. With a gestational surrogacy both the egg and sperm are implanted into the carrier. 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. The courts went a step further in In re Baby S, when it explicitly upheld a surrogacy agreement. 2015 Pa. Super. 244 (2015).