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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.