Over the recent weeks, we have discussed the concept of paternity in Pennsylvania courts. However, we have yet to answer the question. How does one obtain a court ordered paternity test in as Western Pennsylvania court? As you may be aware, there are over the counter drug store paternity tests that can prove with reasonable certainty whether someone is or is not the father of a child. However, these paternity tests much like other out of court resources do not usually stand up in court. Often the court will discredit these tests as hearsay or question their validity as a result of problems with the chain of custody. Sometimes parties will agree to obtain a paternity test through a respected lab and stipulate that the results are correct.
Last week we addressed the issue of the presumption of paternity in married couples in Pennsylvania. This week, we will address the "myth" of paternity by estoppel in Pennsylvania child custody and support cases. Many people believe that paternity is based on the genetic code, and, in most cases, it is. However, Pennsylvania courts have developed the concept of paternity by estoppel in cases where it would be more detrimental for the child to learn their father was not their father than it would be to have someone who is not the biological father have standing to seek custody or to pay support.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled last month that Civil Unions should be treated like divorces in Pennsylvania. The court decided this after reviewing a Philadelphia court's decision in Neyman v. Buckley. In this case, the appellant appealed the decision of the court to dismiss her complaint for divorce seeking dissolution of her Vermont civil union. The Superior court held that "the Vermont civil union creates the functional equivalent of marriage for the purposes of dissolution and that Neyman had the right to proceed with her divorce in Pennsylvania.
One of the common issues in Pennsylvania custody litigation relates to paternity. That is who is the father and who has rights to seek custody. Many first time litigants assume that this determination is made through a DNA test that proves that the child is or is not the biological child of one individual or the other. However, that is not always the case in Pennsylvania. We will be presenting a series of blogs about paternity issues in Pennsylvania. The first question we tackle is whether it is possible to gain custody rights of a child that is the produce of an affair.
Were you holidays ruined because of a fight with your spouse or the lack of clarity in a custody schedule for your children? Did you pass on holiday parties to avoid having family and friends see the tension between you and your significant other? Are you ready to start fresh for 2017? Are you tired of fielding questions at the holiday dinner table about why you're never allowed to spend time with your family? Did you notice a present on the joint credit card statement that didn't end up under the tree this year? If any of this is true about you, it might be time to consider speaking to an attorney about a divorce or other family law proceeding. In a way, we suggest making it your New Year's resolution to give yourself a fresh start and a fresh outlook on life in 2017.
In our modern world, it is very rare that one parent works when the other does not. However, sometimes this issue occurs in a custody case. During the relationship or marriage, one parent stayed home to take care of the children or only worked part-time while other parent worked full time to provide for the family. Sometimes, the stay at home parent will assume that they are entitled to primary custody of the child or children because they are available more often to take care of the children. Although one of the considerations in a custody action is who is more likely to provide for the child's daily needs, and the court favors having parents provide care for children instead of third parties, the fact that one parent works, absent additional concerns will not bar them from sharing custody or even exercising primary custody of the child or children.
We have all heard the story of the evil step-mother, and when it comes to custody cases in Pennsylvania, often times one parent's new "paramour" causes tension and leads to litigation. Sometimes, as a result of hurt feelings, lingering resentment or lack of closure, one parent will use the other parent's new relationship as a scape-goat for the problems with custody and co-parenting. However, with the holiday season kicking into high gear, it is almost inevitable that people who have begun new relationships will want to introduce their new significant others to their families. This includes their children.
Recently a court in Massachusetts ruled that a rapist had the right to seek custody of the child conceived from the crime. Although it should be noted that this decision does not mean that the rapist will obtain custody of the child, the idea of having to go to court and fight for your rights against the the person who attacked you is a concern of people in Pennsylvania too. In Pennsylvania, the legislature has debated multiple laws to prevent or restrict rapists from obtaining custody of their children. Currently in Pennsylvania the parental rights of a rapist can be terminated if you are able to prove that a rape occurred to conceive the Child. However, there is no law officially barring a rapist from gaining custody of the product of their crime unless you are able to prove that a rape occurred.
As noted above, however, allowing a rapist to have rights to seek custody of a child does not in and of itself allow a rapist to have custody of the child. Even if they are permitted into the court system to seek custody of the child, the Best Interest of the Child would still apply, which means any criminal record or abuse that one parent has would be considered by the court. Because the standard of proof in Pennsylvania family court is the preponderance of the evidence, there is less of a burden to prove that these events occurred than there would be in a criminal court. Also, one of the things that the court takes into consideration when making a custody decision is the criminal record of both parents. Although this is not one of the statutory custody factors, that court requires that each parent submit a criminal and abuse history affidavit for themselves and their household, which requires them to disclose whether they have been convicted or plead guilty to any of thirty crimes that the legislature has determined may pose a threat to to children. If you have any further questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact our Pittsburgh office today!
On October 4, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that potentially affects pending Divorce cases all over Pennsylvania. Previously in cases of divorce where one person wants the divorce and the other party does not, the party who wants the divorce cannot obtain one until two years after the date of separation. The mandatory two-year waiting period has created a lot of problems for people wishing to get divorced, including legal fees for attempting to move the process along quicker. The initial goal for the two year waiting period was to allow people the chance to reconcile. On the contrary, the requisite waiting period has arguably in many cases, only served to cause more resentment towards the party who will not consent.
The presumption for a physical custodyarrangement varies significantly depending on the distance between the parties and various other factors. However, in almost every custody arrangement, the parties will exercise shared legal custody. This means that both parents will be involved in making educational, financial, religious and medical decisions and allowed to access all documents related to these decisions. Usually the expectation is that unless there is an emergency, both parties will be involved in making these decisions and will keep each other updated about daily decisions.