Before a divorce can be finalized in PA, the parties must have completed the process of equitable distribution, or the division of marital assets and debts. If the parties can come to an agreement, one way to accomplish this is through a Marriage Settlement Agreement, more commonly referred to as an "MSA."
The Pennsylvania custody statute does not define "in loco parentis," but Pennsylvania courts have found a person to stand in loco parentis to a child when they have taken on parental responsibilities and duties, with the consent of the biological parent. For example, in T.B. v. L.R.M., 753 A.2d 873 (Pa. 2001), the court implied that in loco parentis standing is granted for the benefit of the child, stating that if a "child has established strong psychological bonds with a person" that the child views that person with "a stature like that of a parent," the third party is provided "the opportunity to litigate fully the issue of whether that relationship should be maintained, even over a natural parent's objections."
It's that time of year again when Pennsylvania residents start thinking about New Year's Resolutions and how we can improve ourselves in 2018. The new year is a chance for a fresh start; some of us vow to start getting our recommended 8-hours of sleep each night, some vow to lose those extra pounds packed on over the year, but no matter what, we are vowing to ourselves to be happy.
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.
This week the story of Bradley Moss and Amy Bzura and their engagement ring has received plenty of attention due to the price of the ring and the confusing question: who keeps an engagement ring if the engagement is called off? Moss and Bzura were a couple who called off their wedding for unknown reasons, and Mr. Moss has since initiated legal action looking to recover the $125,000 ring or its value.
Pennsylvania law permits parties to a divorce action to proceed as a no fault-based or fault-based divorce. No fault divorce means that you file and assert the "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage, meaning that the marriage is broken beyond repair. In this type of divorce, neither party has to prove fault. Fault-based divorce means that you have to prove one of fault grounds to have the divorce be allowed to proceed. The fault-based divorce grounds include adultery, abandonment, cruelty, bigamy, conviction with imprisonment for over two years, and actions that make the marriage intolerable.
A bill has been sent to Florida Governor Rick Snyder that provides a detailed formula for determining an alimony award. A specific formula for determining an alimony award is a significant departure from how Florida previously determined alimony, and significantly different than how Pennsylvania determines it. Alimony is payments for the support of the dependent spouse (the spouse who earned less money during the marriage) after a divorce has been finalized. In Pennsylvania, alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis based on 17 factors provided by statute. Some notable factors in Pennsylvania are: the relative earning capacities of the parties; the length of the marriage; the contributions of one party to the education, training, or increased earning capacity of the other party; the standard of living the parties established during the marriage; the relative needs of the parties; the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker.
On Sunday, December 27, 2015, China's National People's Congress passed the country's first law prohibiting domestic violence. The law as passed protects unmarried people who cohabit but does not protect gay couples. The new law will take effect in March of 2016.
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.