Category Archives: Family Law

How do I resign my legal guardianship of my niece which was appointed by a judge?

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.

What is my first step in obtaining custody if I have no proof I am the father?

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.

Why is it that men are not treated the same as women when it comes to a PFA’s.

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.


Wife had me sign divorce papers when I was on medication in hosptial

Q: Would any paper work I sign while in the hospital stand in court dealing with a divorce while medicated. While in the hospital with blood clots in my lungs my wife brought up papers that I thought were Annulment papers, and I signed them. Where in reality they were just separation papers, and she did not inform me of this until this week. When she brought the paper work up there I was on two different narcotic pain medications, and went off her word as to what I was signing.

A: You could file a petition in family court to nullify the forms you signed. You probably need a medical opinion from the treating physician that due to your medications, you were not competent. The judge may set it for a hearing, at which time you could have the doctor testify by phone.


If I am 18 years old, can my school prosecute me for truancy?

Q: Can I be charged with a truancy violation in Pennsylvania if I’m 18 years of age? I’m 18, and I got a letter in the mail that because I have 7 unexcused absences they have notified the district and legal action may be taken. Does this truly apply to me being 18 years old.

A: I shouldn’t. Pennsylvania’s compulsory attendance law only applies to minors up to seventeen. The school is doing their job in reporting you, but I would be very surprised if it went any farther than that. Of course, if charges are brought, you should retain counsel immediately. They can even charge your parents for your truancy.  If the facts are as you say they are, this should be an easy case to get dismissed. After age 17 you can sign yourself out of school. The school likely is pushing you to make up your mind as to whether you want to be a student or not. You may have to sign yourself out, which is maybe what they want.

Can I drop a PFA?

Q: How can I go about dropping a three year PFA. People are telling me that the judge will not drop it. The PFA is for physical and mental abuse. There have been many times I wanted to contact him but they said I will go to jail if I contact him?

A:  “They” may not telling you the truth, and may be telling you this out of their concern for your safety. To “drop” the Protection From Abuse Order, you need to hire a lawyer and go to court with a Petition to Terminate PFA. Be prepared for the judge to ask you questions about your state of mind, the history of abuse and the prospect of the cycle repeating itself. If there is any chance that abuse may continue you may want to look into counseling before you do this.

Husband will not give my son back

Q: My husband who no longer lives with us took our son to spend time with him but won’t return him, how do I get him back? We live in Pennsylvania. My husband moved out in the first week of December last year. He is emotionally and physically abusive. I have had the chance to leave him several times but became one of those victims that always goes back. Well I am happy to say I am no longer going back. Yesterday, my husband showed up wanting to see our son so I let him. Now he won’t give him back. There is no custody order and no divorce papers, yet. How do I get back my son?

A:  You have to file for custody in court. Without a custody court order which spell out which parent has physical custody, which parent has visitation, etc., unfortunately, either parent can keep the child from the other parent, as harmful as that may be to the child. I would advise getting a lawyer. The lawyer can start the custody process. This would be by going to motions court and getting an emergency temporary custody order then simultaneously filing for custody mediation, which is mandatory in Allegheny County.


Can we use a self-prepared custody agreement?

Q: If using self prepared custody agreement, signed by both parties & notarized, do I file anything with Allegheny County courts? I will have sole physical custody of my son & both his father and I will sign the document and have a PA notary witness it. I just want to make sure he can’t take our son without permission since his “family” and friends are out of state.

A: This is highly inadvisable. This “self prepared custody agreement” will not be worth the paper it is written on if there is a disagreement over custody. Only a custody order of court with a judge’s signature on it which states who between the warring parents has physical custody and who has visitation, and when and where such visitation occurs, is binding and can be legally enforced. Without a custody order, either parent can move the children out of state or even out of the country. I would take your agreement to a lawyer who can then turn it into a Consent Order of Custody, and present it to a judge for signing. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to do this through Allegheny County’s pro se court.

Underage drinking, again. Any advice?

Q: Can I get a third underage drinking charge changed to disorderly conduct?

A: With this being your third underage drinking case, you are unlikely to get a break. Generally, with the first violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. 6308, you can receive a 90 driver’s license suspension, a one-year suspension with the second offense and a two-year suspension with the third. I don’t foresee the police cutting you such a break and I wouldn’t count on it. I would hire an attorney to see if you have a defense which may lead to a dismissal or force the police to offer such a deal you are looking for.

Mom deeded farm to my siblings.

Q: My mom may be a vulnerable adult. In May of 2013 she had mild stroke. I found out that around that time my sister and brother bought her farm in Washington County by deed from her for 1000 dollars per month. The value of the land was once appraised at $237,000.00 dollars and is now paying $7,500.00 per month in gas rights, which I didn’t know until now. Does this sound right?

A: There is not enough information here to give you any reliable answer. I assume you are alleging that your mother was not competent enough at the time she deeded the farm to your siblings at such a low price. If so, if you can prove that your mother was incompetent when she sold, you may have a remedy in that you can go to court on a petition to rescind or nullify the deed. You would need a lawyer for this procedure. In order to prove your mother was incompetent at the time she signed the deed, you would need medical proof to back your claim up. This could be accomplished by an opinion of her doctor. I would pay a lawyer a retainer to look at this situation