Q: I am in a high conflict custody case where the father is constantly in contempt for support and continuously tries to force his way back into our lives. He has several debts with me, most recently for an accident he had while driving one of my cars. I’m just trying to get him to acknowledge his debt or negotiate a way he will pay for the repairs. In doing so, he continuously tells me I am harassing him via email. And I constantly get emails from him that he is going to engage the ADA so we can talk about my problems which is comical at best. I continue to go out on a limb to support his relationship with his daughter – thanks to the courts forcing him on us in the first place after he was absent for 2 years. I shouldn’t have to babysit his time with her so giving him a car is seemingly my best option. I have recently filed for relocation with the court and will hopefully be able to put more distance between us and ultimately accountability on him where it belongs, but these threats of harassment are simply ridiculous. Any advice on how I can get in front of it by sending him a certified letter or anything? (Pitcairn, PA)
A: Keep the communications between the lawyers. If there are no lawyers, do what makes sense. Harassment requires communication for no legitimate purpose. If your emails are purely for legitimate reasons you should not have a problem. Save all your emails. If you need to send an important document, send it both certified mail, return receipt, and regular mail. Keep all copies of correspondence.
Q: An ex-girlfriend told me that I was her child’s father after almost 13 years later. She had her previous boyfriend paying child support for all those years, and I guess they’re separated now. I heard she was saying her support wasn’t enough because he was on SSI and now I’m next in line because I have a good paying job. I’m married now with a family and didn’t see this coming. (Bridgeville, PA)
A: If you never signed the birth certificate, or signed an acknowledgment of paternity form, held yourself out as the father or paid child support, you may have a defense. If you are served with a child support complaint, take it to a lawyer. The boyfriend may be estopped (barred) from not paying child support because under the law he may be deemed the putative father.
FAMILY LAW, CHILD SUPPORT, PATERNITY, ESTOPPEL
Q: My ex left my residence on May 11, 2016. I filed a PFA against him. It went into effect then and it is a three-year order. I still have his clothes. I spoke to him after he vacated my apartment and told him I was going to get rid of his stuff. He said to me ” do what you have to do” and I haven’t heard from him since. It will be a year in July. Can I throw it out or donate his clothes?
A: If it is just clothes with no real value, one would think who cares? However, with an active PFA, he really cannot talk to you. If you want to be super cautious, I would pack it up and make it available for pick up for a certain time period. Have a 3rd party write him, call, email, whatever way of contact you have, to convey the pick-up dates and place. Save the letters and emails as evidence. If he wants to exhibit controlling behavior like suing you at a magistrate you will have evidence.
Q: I have a domestic relations case in the family courts and would like to find out if opposing party’s new attorney has been court appointed. (Cecil, PA)
A: You just need to dig a bit. You can probably find out by looking on the Department of Court Records (dcr.alleghenycounty.us) website. You can then check to see if there is an order of court appointing counsel. There should also be a Praecipe for Entry of Appearance for this attorney. It will list a name and address. If you cannot get this information on line, go in person to the Department of Court Records in the City County Building at 414 Grant Street and look it up manually. If you are a defendant in a PFA action, the other party will likely have court-appointed counsel.
Q: Me and my fiancé have been taking care of my baby brother. My mom really doesn’t help. He has been at my house most of his life. For three months going on four months he hasn’t been at her house at all. She lost my two siblings to CYF. I have another brother who is with an uncle. She is supposed to go to drug classes and doesn’t because she feels she shouldn’t have to (that’s the only way she can see him). She comes over here and leaves and doesn’t take him, but when she gets mad she says give me my son or I’m filing kidnapping charges. I text her and ask her if she has food and diapers for him and she says no, she must go to the store (which she has been to plenty of times). She texts me and tells me she wants to die. I tried to 302 her but it was denied (I have no idea why) I need to keep my brother safe. What should I do? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: I am wondering how she has custody of your brother with her CYF history, based on what you are saying about her condition and history. Perhaps you should try to reach out to CYF to see if they have an active case, or perhaps talk to the caseworker for the other children who apparently were dependent and in CYF care. If you can get their interest, and you want to put yourself forward as a potential placement resource, you need to have a suitable home and situation for a child. If CYF will not get involved for whatever reason, you might be able to file a petition for dependency and request that the child be placed with you. You can also seek the advice of a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, call the Allegheny County Bar Association. They may be able to advise you or refer you to an appropriate agency. If an emergency ever arises, you can also go to motions court through the pro se (self-representation) process and file an emergency motion for custody.
Q: My husband and I have a 27 years old autistic son, I took care of him until he was 18 years old. He has been living with my husband since then. My husband wants to get divorce now and hired a lawyer to sue me for child support. My son receives SS and PPL. will I have to pay him? He makes more than 300,000 a year. I make $1,000 a month. (West View, PA)
A: Just because one parent earns much more than the other does not necessarily mean that the lower earning parent will not owe child support. The net incomes, in addition to other information (i.e. other support obligations, household income, unusual debts and expenses) are computed under the state child support guidelines. However, this is quite a disparity of income and should give your attorney much to work with to lower your support as much as possible.
Q: I am in mediation for child custody. It is getting me NOWHERE! I am asking for spit custody, I end up with one weekend a month. How do I appeal the mediator’s decision? Do I file DE NOVO? What motion would I submit?
A: If you are referring to Allegheny County custody mediation, yes. The mediator only makes a recommendation. If you agree with it, you can enter a consent custody agreement with the other parent which is presented to a judge to sign off on. If you do not agree, you need to file a Praecipe for a Conciliation. The case will now be in the pipeline to a judge for conciliation first, then trial. I suggest that you hire a lawyer to navigate this for you.
Q: I was given guardianship of my niece and no longer want it. I believe she is better with her mother and I want to give my sister back full guardianship of her child.
A: I would consult with an attorney with whom you could share all the information needed for someone to thoroughly respond to this question. Was this a guardianship through Orphan’s Court or Family Court? It matters as the procedure to transfer guardianship to someone else would be different. In any event, you will need to petition the court, either Family Court or Orphan’s Court assuming that an order of court placed her with you.
Q: My daughter was taken away and kept from me pretty much her whole life and never knew me. She is now involved in DFS or Child Protective Services in the state of Florida she is currently in Pennsylvania in a shelter waiting for transport to Florida. her mother doesn’t want her but there is no proof of that. when she gets to Florida she will be placed in a youth facility.
A:The family courts and Children Youth and Families (CYF) are directed to find relatives for children in placement. They call it “family finding”. Since this child is physically in PA, you can try a few things. Call CYF and tell them you want to be a caretaker and want a paternity test. They may work with you but there is a possibility that the child is on her way to FLA where it appears there is jurisdiction? An attorney experienced in Juvenile Dependency law can help you immensely. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should call the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, Juvenile Court Project. 412=391-4467. If you qualify for representation, you will have an excellent attorney at no cost. The idea is, if you are serious, is to get involved now.
Q: My son’s mother always file mendacious, vituperous and false PFA’s when I don’t give her what she wants financially and she uses the PFA system to obtain custody as well.
A: Some say women are favored in PFA (Protection From Abuse Act) hearings. That has not been my experience. When the allegations in the PFA petition are questionable, I have always found the judge’s to be fair and where justified, deny the PFA petition. If there are no injuries, the story is suspicious and the man has a credible explanation, I find the judge’s to be pretty fair. Perhaps your son has not been represented by a lawyer and if so you may want to hire counsel for his next PFA.