One of the most important things to the day to day practice of the law is keeping up on the ever changing cases and statutes that govern the lives of attorneys and clients. Whether it's making sure you have an up to date copy of the state Rules of Civil Procedure establishing a deadline for filing your inventory and appraisement in an equitable distribution hearing or new decisions from the state appellate courts, as lawyers if we don't keep abreast of changes in the law, we will be left in the dust by our opposing counsel. It's also important that the clients stay updated as well so that they have the best impression of the merit of their case. Because of this, we are excited to announce a new monthly feature to our blog. On the last Monday of each month, we will be providing a list of the most recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decisions related to family law and brief summaries of these cases. This feature will be supplemented in-depth reports on some of the most important cases and how they will impact you.
Without further ado, October/ November's Superior Court Round Up:
T.W. v. D.A.- In this case, a Father who exercised shared physical and legal custody of his child filed a petition seeking to amend the three-year-old child's birth certificate to include his surname. The Allegheny County court denied Father's request because he failed to prove that it was in the child's best interest to have his Father's surname added to his legal name. The Superior Court agreed with Allegheny County arguing that the parent seeking to amend the child's birth certificate bears the burden of proving that the change would be in the best interest of the child.
Edward T. Egan v. Rachel McGraw Egan- In this case, the Superior Court considered for the first time whether an agreement to modify a pervious order setting alimony payments is modifiable by the court. Husband and Wife were divorced in Maryland and an order directing the Husband to pay alimony and child support was entered by that court. A few years later, the parties registered the order for enforcement in Pennsylvania and agreed to modifications of the alimony order. The agreement specifically stated that it could not be modified by the court. However, Husband sought to modify his alimony obligation several years later. The court determined that under Pennsylvania statutory law, agreements such as these would not be modifiable by the court, and the parties would have to agree to change the alimony obligations outside of court.
In re: Baby S- Former The View co-host, Sheri Shepard brought this suit against the surrogate who carried her child seeking to nullify the surrogacy agreement that she entered when the child was conceived. Shepard and her then husband entered into a surrogacy agreement with the Pennsylvania surrogate agreeing that their names would be placed on the child's birth certificate and that she would not be legally considered the child's mother. Following the decline of Shepard's marriage, she refused to sign the petition to put her name on the birth certificate arguing that the surrogacy agreement was not valid and that there was no "maternity by estoppel". The Superior Court upheld the validity of the surrogacy contract and Shepard's name will be placed on the child's birth certificate.
E.R.L. v. C.K.L- In this child support case, the Father appealed a county court determination that an inheritance of approximately $600,000 which he inherited during the support litigation should be considered in determining his support obligation. The Superior Court made clear that though this inheritance could not be considered income available for support, it could be considered for an upward deviation or increase in the support obligation. Because the trial court did not consider the inheritance as income but rather provided an explanation as to why they felt the upward deviation was appropriate, the Superior Court determined that it would be inappropriate to modify Father's support obligation.
In the Interest of: :L.V., a Minor- In this case, Mother appealed a determination by the trail court that the she had committed child abuse and the suspension of her visits as a result of "aggravated circumstances." The Superior Court affirmed the trial court's findings that Mother had committed child abuse as a result of Mother's failure to seek medical treatment for the child who was severely abused by Father. Furthermore, Mother's failure to adequately cooperate with Child Protective Services indicated some kind of complicity. The Superior Court determined that the facts proved that Mother was responsible for severe neglect of the child and upheld the opinion of the trial court.
Watch our blog over the next several weeks for more in-depth reports about some of these cases!