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.
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.
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.
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.