Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

June 2014 Archives

Is it Legal to leave your Child Home Alone in Pennsylvania?

We have all seen the classic movie "Home Alone" in which eight-year-old Kevin McCallister is accidentally left home alone while his family goes on Christmas vacation. In reality, the McCallister parents should have probably been charged with negligent supervision. Of course, that was just a movie. In Pennsylvania, there is no set age limit that allows a child to be legally left home alone. However, if a parent decides to leave a child home alone, that child is still the parent's responsibility. So that means if anything happens to the child, the parents can be charged with neglect.

Supreme Court Rules Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones Illegal

The Supreme Court released another opinion in which the Justices unanimously voted that it is illegal to have 35 foot "buffer zones" around abortion clinics. The decision refers to a Massachusetts law that required protesters to be at least 35 feet away from the entrance to any abortion clinics. Massachusetts, however, is not the only state affected by the ruling. Several states across the country had similar laws, which have all been overturned by this ruling.

Update: Supreme Court Rules on Cell Phone Searches

The Supreme Court announced today that police officers will now need warrants to search through a person's cell phone. The vote was unanimous. The Court made it very clear that digital privacy in today's technological world is extremely important, and that American's have a constitutional right to digital privacy.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

The Philadelphia City Council has voted to work toward decriminalizing marijuana. If they are successful in getting this bill enacted into law, police officers will be able to issue tickets, rather than arrest individuals, for $25 dollars for possession of up to an ounce of weed. Basically, it all comes down to what the mayor decides to do in September, if he waits until then. He has the option to sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing (doing nothing would result in the bill becoming law, without his outward notion of endorsement). Therefore, the bill will have a potential three-month waiting period before it can become an official law. Advocates of the bill are pushing the mayor to give them a decision now, as they would like to know what the future will hold. 

Marriage Licenses and Applications in Pittsburgh, PA

The first step in the path of marriage is applying for a marriage license. In Pittsburgh, this can be done in two different ways. You can either apply online with the online marriage license application (as long as you have a valid email address) or you can go into the office to fill out a paper application. The office is located in the Department of Court Records, Wills/Orphan's Court Division, Marriage License Bureau, which is in Downtown, Pittsburgh. 

The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in PA Custody Cases

Sometimes, during a PA custody case, the court will appoint a Guardian ad litem ("GAL") to the case. A GAL is appointed to represent the best interest of the child. Basically, the GAL is the child's advocate. The GAL also functions as a caseworker for the child. The GAL will observe the child and report any findings back to the court just like a caseworker in a dependency case would do.

How Text Messages, Emails, and Social Media Posts can Cost you in Family Court

These days, most people communicate through some form of written communications. Whether is a text, and email, or a Facebook post, these communications can spell trouble for anyone in family court. Many people are under the impression that these types of communications can never be brought to court. This is not necessarily true. Some of these communications do in fact make their way to a judge, and this could really make or break a PA Family Court case.

Marriage and Divorce Statistics in Pennsylvania

Marriage and divorce statistics are available for each state, as well as the US in general. The most recent report for Pennsylvania shows the rates of marriage and divorce from 2012. In Pennsylvania, there were about 70,000 marriages and roughly 36,300 divorces or annulments.

Courtroom Procedure in Allegheny County Family Court

Going to family court in Pennsylvania can be a stressful and scary experience. No matter what issue a person in going to court for, we have a few tips that can make the courtroom experience a little easier. It does not matter if you have a lawyer or not, there are some basic rules that every courtroom follows in Allegheny County.

Third Party Custody: Issues with School Districts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Below is a very realistic hypothetical dealing with children, custody, and school districts in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. 

Melanie Griffith Prepared to Fight Antonio Banderas for Custody...of Their Dogs

Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas are separated after 18 years of marriage. They claim their divorce will be handled amicably. Melanie apparently already prepared for a custody battle, but this fight does not involve the couple's daughter. Their daughter, Estella, will be turning 18 in September, so there will not be a lengthy custody battle over her. Melanie has asked the court for primary custody, but this is seen to both parties as a non-issue. Melanie is however calling herself a better parent to the couple's three dogs. Melanie has apparently even said it would be in the dog's "best interest" to live with her, a standard which is usually reserved for child custody matters.

Pittsburgh Mayor Marries Same-Sex Couples Downtown

Sunday, June 15, 2014, was a very special day for some same-sex couples in Pittsburgh. Mayor Bill Peduto presided over several same-sex marriages downtown. Sunday was also PrideFest in Pittsburgh, so these marriages were met with a huge celebration. Some of the couples who were married even rode on floats in the Pride Parade. The Mayor wanted to be a part of the annual Pride celebration in Pittsburgh, and certainly found a memorial way to participate in the weekend.

Mark Anthony Ordered to Pay His Ex $26,000 a Month in Child Support

Mark Anthony was recently ordered to pay his ex-wife Dayanara Torres $26,800 in child support for their two children. The couple divorced over ten years ago, however Torres believed that her ex-husband should be paying more in child support and thus dragged him back into court. Torres additionally asserted that Anthony was "hiding his millions" when he claimed he couldn't calculate his actual net worth due to his extremely high income. The judge was not satisfied with Anthony's subpar income calculation and therefore ordered he submitted all of his financial and accounting information to him. 

Sperm Donor Law in Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania sperm donation is a growing industry for men. Often, one of the main concerns men have is that after donation occurs, they will find themselves being sued for child support even though they never intended to "parent" the child. Twenty years ago, this may have been a more significant issue for prospective sperm donors. As technology has expanded in the area of assisted reproduction in PA, so have the laws regarding these topics.

Tips for Coping with Life after your Pennsylvania Divorce

Divorces can be a devastating experience for all parties involved. The adjustment to new lives and lifestyles can add mountains of stress to an already stressful situation. This blog presents a few helpful tips in adjusting to your new life in Pennsylvania and accepting and moving past your divorce. 

Can Grandparents Participate in Custody or Dependency Proceedings in Allegheny County, PA?

To participate in custody or dependency proceedings in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, one must have what is known as standing. Standing is the term used to acknowledge a legal basis and right for an individual or individuals to sue in a court of law. For example, a biological mother always has standing to sue a biological father for custody. Her legal basis and right comes from her standing as a parent. 

First Time DUI Penalties in PA

In a Pennsylvania DUI case, there can be very severe penalties associated with a conviction. These penalties can range from fines, to suspension of a license, to jail time. There are three categories of impairment under PA DUI law: General, High, and Highest. Each of these categories is defined as having a certain BAC level, and each category carries different penalties.

Same-Sex Divorce in PA

Now that same-sex marriages can be legally performed in Pennsylvania, and gay marriages performed in other states are recognized in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples can also be divorced in PA. Gay divorces in Pennsylvania will be exactly the same as heterosexual divorces, and will follow all the same rules.

Why do you need a custody order in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, custody orders between parents who are no longer or not together are an absolute must when protecting yourself and your child. 

Making the Most Out of Your Initial Consultation with a Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney

Having an initial consultation with an attorney is an important first step in any Allegheny County family law case. This is a time to explain your whole story to your attorney, and to let them know exactly what your goals are for your case. It is also a good time to find out what the attorney can do to help you reach your goals in Pennsylvania Family Court. Since most consultations in family law are paid consultations, we have put together a list of tips to help you get the most out of the consultation.

Establishing Paternity in Allegheny County

The presumption of paternity in Allegheny County has evolved over the years. Originally, paternity was presumed if a man and woman were married and the woman gave birth to a child. Unless the man had no access to the woman or had been proven to be sterile, the child would be legally presumed to be his. Because of this presumption, no third party could assert their own claim of paternity to the child. 

Gestational Surrogacy Contracts in Pennsylvania

Gestational Surrogacy is becoming more common in Pennsylvania. Recently, there have been more numerous discussions and even depictions of struggles with infertility and conception depicted in pop culture. For example, Giuliana and Bill Rancic, of E! Network fame, have publicly documented their struggles with having children on their hit reality show. They currently have one son, Duke, who was delivered via gestational carrier. Unfortunately, their most recent attempt at having another baby was unsuccessful. The Rancics have always been open to sharing their struggles so they can help people start proactive conversations about fertility. The Rancics are lucky to have found a compatible surrogate who is willing to work with them throughout their attempts at expanding their family. Although gestational surrogates do not have standing to sue for custody of a child in Pennsylvania, it is still a good idea to have a written contract between the parents and the surrogate.

Right to a Speedy Trial in Pennsylvania

All Citizens of Pennsylvania are guarenteed a right to a speedy trial. By now, most people have probably heard about the judge in Florida who threatened to, and allegedly assault an attorney who refused to waive his client's right to a speedy trial. The two men exchanged heated words in the courtroom, and apparently had an altercation off camera. In any event, the right to a speedy trial is an important right granted to defendants in criminal cases. This right ensures that the judicial process is swift and effective. The right to speedy trial can be found in both the United States Constitution, and in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent in Pennsylvania

Becoming a foster parent in Pennsylvania is a temporary position. In order to potentially qualify as a foster parent you must be at least 21 years old and you must pass a very intensive background check. Additionally, anyone else living in your home with you who is over the age of 14 must also pass a background check. The background check process includes an in depth look at criminal history, the dynamic of the family (if there is a family living in the home), and an individuals or family's income. The physical quality of the home must also be in top shape and be suitable for a child to live in. Additionally factors heavily considered are availability of supervision for the child, the network of family members in the community, and the ability to provide for a special needs child.

ARD in Allegheny County

ARD, or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, is a Pennsylvania program that is usually available to first time DUI offenders in Allegheny County. In some limited circumstances, an individual charged with a different minor crime may be eligible for the program. ARD is primarily a rehabilitative program, which allows for expedited court proceedings. However, there may also be certain suspensions or costs associated with ARD. This program is not meant to replace convictions completely, but it may be the right option for a first-time DUI offender.

Cell Phone Searches after Arrest: Recent Supreme Court Case may change rights in Pennsylvania

Oral arguments were recently given for two cases dealing with whether the police, after arresting an individual, can search the individual's cell phone without a warrant. This issue arose due to the ability of the police to search an individual post arrest and evaluate their findings--therefore, the question became, can they also go through the detained individual's cell phone, or is this too much of an invasion of privacy? 

Life Changes and Wills in Pennsylvania

Often people ask about how certain life changes can affect a will that is already in place in Pennsylvania. Typically, these life changes include having children, getting married, or getting divorced. This can be a very confusing area of the law for people who have changing families. This is also a good reason to do an annual will review. That way, it is more likely that the right beneficiaries are getting the correct inheritances.