Category Archives: Family Law

Must I let my ex in to see my new home that I am relocating to?

Q: I have a basic custody agreement with my ex-husband. I have primary physical custody, and he gets our daughter every other weekend. We always meet in a neutral place for drop off and pick up. I recently got engaged and am moving in with my fiancée and his children. The relocation puts us closer to my ex, so it does not interfere with the current visitation schedule. I sent him an email and formal letter, giving him the information outlined in the agreement necessary for relocation: 30-day notice, address, phone number. He emailed back stating that I need to make arrangements for him to come and see the new home where she will be living. He is extremely disparaging towards me and barrages me with text messages that are downright mean. I do not want him in my new home, whatsoever. Neither does my fiancée, due to his behavior. Do I have to let him visit? My ex seems to think that I do. Nowhere in the custody order does it state that this is a stipulation. Please advise. (Baldwin Twp., PA)

A: I know of no such rule and inspecting each other’s home is not in your agreement. It is a tough question given his interest in ensuring the new home is suitable for the child balanced against your concerns of his controlling behavior. If you don’t want to let him in, don’t do it. The risk is that he may withhold custody, which may cause you legal fees, but which is a battle you should ultimately win. Is there a middle ground? Does he have a normal person in the family, like a sister, who can inspect your new home and report back to him?

Can I file for divorce in Pittsburgh and not owe my wife anything?

Q: I was married 5/20/17 in WA to a woman who was living at home and not employed. She contributed nothing to the marriage, although her mother assisted her with moving costs to Pittsburgh. I just started a surgical residency. On 9/5/17 she disappeared when I was at work and went back to WA with her mother, back to exact same situation she was prior to marriage. I attempted over next month to reconcile, and she has remained unreconcilable. She did not work during the 3 months she lived with me. I bought a house with no down payment, only in my name. My bank account is only in my name. I only have 6k in my checking. Is there a way to file for divorce where I would not have to give her anything – like sign a document where we each don’t owe the other anything? She would spend more fighting. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There is more information needed to adequately respond and I suggest you consult with a Pittsburgh divorce attorney. Working in your favor is the short marriage (7 months) and not much in assets because you are both just starting out. This does not mean she cannot obtain an award of spousal support from you. She has the duty to work and if she doesn’t the court can impute wages to her at least at a minimum wage level. The short length of the marriage will bode well for you regarding alimony and division of property. However, if it is possible to get her to agree to a simple no-fault divorce, you can get out of this easily. You can offer to pay for it all and have your attorney send her all the paperwork to sign and return. A simple divorce like this is not expensive. Both of you would waive any claim to the other’s property and waive support and alimony. This is commonly done with couples in your situation.

What evidence do I need to prove a parent unfit?

Q: What type of evidence is needed in a custody case to show that one parent is unfit? The father does not have any prior arrests. All I have are texts from him talking about his drinking causing problems between us and saying that it was why he acted the way he did. I also have pictures he posted on social media where he punched a wall and broke his hand because he was mad. Is this enough to try for full custody of a baby? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: No, that is probably not enough to get full custody. Drinking too much and punching holes in walls sounds like 50% of the litigants in Family Division. You need something more extreme, like if he subjects the child or is likely to subject the child to harm. For example, he drives drunk while baby is in the car or he passes out from drinking during visitation, etc.

Do I have rights to get my daughter home if her dad is in ICU?

Q: Our child does some weekends with her dad in Ohio, usually Friday and Saturday night. However, he’s in ICU for last 48 hours and will be at least 48 more. The child at a friend’s house and needs to be picked up Sunday morning. This is still fathers time. Can I, as the mother, pick her up at the friend’s house and bring her home with me to spend night? I have her 8 months of the year about. Father’s wife cannot tell the child where to spend the day/night if me, primary care Mother, thinks it’s best for her to just sit tight at home until dad out of ICU? Want to be sure I can go get her. (Wexford, PA)

A: Just a suggestion. This is not a good time to instigate a fight over custody. You will look like a jerk. I would need to read your custody agreement carefully. In every custody agreement there is an inference that a child may be in the company of a parent’s new spouse or partner, as part of normal life in their other home. I think you would be swimming up stream if you would take this in to Family Court with a motion. You may want to talk to the wife in a civil manner to see if she can work this out with you.

If I am served with a PFA, am I protected against her?

Q: The initiator of the PFA has gone on a tangent contacting my friends spreading false rumors. Now yesterday, she went to my current girlfriend’s place of employment. This is continuous, how do I go about protecting myself from her abuse and harassment?

A:  If she filed first, you are prohibited from contacting her, in any way (directly, through others, texts, telepathically, etc.) You are not protected from her. You can try to file your own Petition, but it is likely the police or court will not take a cross PFA petition. If she just filed, make sure to get an attorney for your hearing. Until then, A) record as best you can, with photos, saving texts or emails and in a log book, all incidents of contact by her directly or indirectly, B) do not respond to her at all-either via email, text, telephone, through a common friend, C) Avoid her like the plague. Do not answer her calls, do not drive near her home, work, friend’s house, etc. Keep your blinds down, doors locked and change your routine habits. Instead of going to the gym or grocery store at the same time, go at different hours. Do not take the same method of transportation to work. If you drive, drive a different route each day, or take public transportation. Try never to be alone in public. Have your cell phone ready to record when you are out in public. If necessary, arm yourself. And, follow the advice of counsel.

Can a lawyer from another county handle my divorce?

Q: My lawyer is from another county handling my estate, can he also handle my divorce that was filed in my county? (Plum Borough, PA)

A: I think you mean the lawyer from the other county is handling your estate planning. If he was handling your estate, you would be dead, and should not be on-line asking legal questions. If he is licensed in the state in which the county is located, yes. Whether this estate attorney does divorce work, you will need to ask him.

How can I get a divorce without having my husband sign the papers?

Q: My husband and I have been separated for more than three years and I sent him the uncontested divorce, how he won’t answer my phone calls. My father recently passed away and he thinks he will get something out of my father’s estate. How should I handle this? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: When one of the parties in a divorce is not agreeable, it is considered contested. If he will not accept service, hire a constable. If he will not accept other papers or fails to respond, you probably need an attorney. There are a whole set of procedures and deadlines that must be followed to provide notice to him and prove that he has been served with the necessary papers. If he still ignores the paperwork and continues to fail to respond, he will in effect waive his rights, and a divorce will be granted. An attorney will know how to do this. To my knowledge, an inheritance is not subject to a marital claim. Make sure he knows this and maybe he will cooperate.

Must I sign for house sale by ex-husband?

Q: My ex-husband purchased a home during the time of our marriage four years ago. He didn’t put my name on the loan or title. It has now been two years since our divorce and he says he may need my signature to sell the property in Pennsylvania. Do I have any legal requirement to sign this? I have had nothing to do with the property. I was not involved with the purchase and my name is not on any purchase or loan documents.

A:  As the home was purchased during the marriage, you obtained rights in the home through the PA Divorce Code. It is common for a spouse to have to “sign off” his or her rights under the PA Divorce Code in these situations.

What must I do to relocate with my children with no custody order in place?

Q: I plan to relocate 35 miles away from my current residence in about a year to move in with my fiancé and his children. I have 3 children from a previous marriage. We never had a custody order. For the last three years my children have been with me full time with my ex seeing the kids every other weekend. He has taken them extra days but not many. He pays child support. He also lives in the same school district as me, however, he never asks for more time, calls the kids, and is not actively involved in any of their school or sports activities. He has gotten word that I am making plans to move within the next year and is threatening to ruin those plans by possibly filing for 50% custody. I believe this is solely to have his child support payments reduced. I just need to know what my options are. Thanks!

A: It likely involves a new school district and since he seems opposed to it, you may want to get ahead of it by serving him and filing the necessary paper work for a relocation hearing which should be a Notice of Intention to Relocate with a Counter Affidavit for him to sign or not sign.

Can I get in trouble if I received child support for a child in CYF?

Q: My child was taken out of my care and placed with her grandmother on some fake allegations by my ex. I’m still receiving child support for said child. Can I get in trouble if I take the money? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If this child is dependent and CYF is paying this caretaker, then the child support should go to the county and not you. I would need more details, but I think it is possible you can be ordered to pay this back after the county attorneys get involved. Normally, if a child is in a paid placement, the parents can be sued by the county for support. I would call the Family Division or visit them and get behind this early.