Category Archives: Family Law

How to receive custody of my nephews from CYS?

Q: My mother and father had full parental rights of my two nephews. They were removed from their custody 1 month ago and placed with their step grandfather. I told CYS I would take them but was denied. They said it was because my spouse has DISMISSED charges in his past (driving without a license, no insurance, assault), and because they feel it would be too hard to do monthly checks if they were in my care. I live in PA the children are in WVA. They are being removed from their step grandfather’s care today and being placed in a foster home. Is there not anything else I can do to get them in my care? (Mt. Pleasant, PA)

A: Normally this child protective law is administered by each state but is under federal guidelines, so every state runs a similar program. It sounds like you are offering yourself as a kinship placement resource and the child agency is telling you that you are not a suitable placement resource. Dismissed criminal charges should be no problem and the monthly check things sounds suspicious. The child agency in WVA can work out an agreement to transfer the case to PA through the Interstate Compact Law, assuming WVA is a member which I believe they are. In that case, Charleston would communicate with Harrisburg, and the local agency in PA (your county) there would do a home study on your house and get the case ready to transfer. If you are serious about this, you can hire a lawyer in WVA to file a petition with the court asking for you to be considered as a placement resource by CYF and to be heard at the next court hearing. If you do not hire an attorney, you will need to appear at the hearings and tell the judge who you are and what you want. The judge may order the agency to investigate you as a potential placement resource and do a home study on you and get things moving with some supervised visitation.


Do final PFA hearings always end with the PFA remaining?

Q: My boyfriend recently put a PFA on me. We got in a fight about me not wanting him to go somewhere with me. He went anyway and was mad when I wasn’t there. He screamed and called me names. I tried to explain but he would hang up and changed his number and blocked my emails. The day before he got the PFA he invited me over and told me he loved me, and we had sex. What he wrote on the PFA paper was about events from our past and a long time ago. I really don’t want a PFA on me or my record. I’ve never been in trouble before. Do you think there is a chance it could be dismissed? I have no desire to ever speak to him again. (McKeesport, PA)

A: No, final PFA hearings do not always end in a PFA Order against the defendant. Sometimes the case can be worked out to a civil agreement, sometimes the plaintiff withdraws the PFA and sometimes the PFA is denied by the judge after hearing testimony. You will do better with an attorney. He may have one appointed for him because he is the “victim”. Based on what you say, a judge should not find in favor of him. If you cannot afford an attorney, do the hearing yourself and just tell the judge your side of the story.

Can CYF base a safety plan on a criminal court no-contact order?

Q: CYF made us sign safety plan and our baby is home. Can they say the safety plan is gone based on criminal no contact order? Cops were called and told us last time they would call CYF if they were called again (stupid fights never violent). Our baby was never in any danger. This incident they arrested both of us, but he is STILL in jail on a non-violent probation violation. His “violation” is the new Simple Assault charge. There was automatic court ordered no contact order and after 60 days they checked our home, and he said he doesn’t really see why CYF is involved, etc. He said the safety plan was “over” yet it isn’t a closed CYF case. He said it was over and seemed to hint that is based upon the “no contact order” the court put against my boyfriend, so he couldn’t contact me. We are getting married when he gets out, we are a FAMILY and I want to know if CYF is legally allowed to base a safety plan or decisions about it on the sole fact of the no contact order that has nothing to do with CYF. Please help? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you are asking if CYF can put a safety plan in the home because of a criminal court no contact order, my answer would be yes. CYF can act based on the threat of harm to a child in the home. Domestic violence is such a threat. A no contact order will help keep the child in the home, but if CYF believes it is not being followed they can remove the child for safety concerns. I would follow the no contact order and cooperate with CYF to keep my child. A child witnessing even “stupid fights…” between parents can be harmful to the child’s development and mental well-being. My advice would be for the father to complete anger management and both of you complete parenting. This will give CYF added assurance that this will not happen again, and the child is safe. I advise you to get counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, call the Allegheny County Juvenile Court Project and sign up for a parent advocate. They are good attorneys and will give you proper advice.

How do I find out what I owe on child support?

Q: I have been paying child support for 15 years. I have missed in the past but have lost my records when my house was foreclosed on. How do I find out what I really owe, instead of listening to her nutty attorney?

A: Do it on line by going to You can create an account and search for your case. If your case is in Allegheny County, you can also go to the Allegheny County Family Division at 440 Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh. After you pass through the metal detectors, there is a help desk straight ahead.

Can I refuse a drug test?

Q: I got child-lined by children’s hospital. Our 18-month-old fractured her collar bone running in house. They suspected child abuse, but it was unfounded. When the CYF lady came to close case she did but she said she had another report that I had a birthday party for my husband and that there were reports of drug usage. That is a lie and she now she wants me to do a drug and alcohol evaluation at Power. What should I do? I feel like I’m being harassed. What are my rights? Can I refuse? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: An attorney would need much more information to advise. Based on what you say, it is possible that CYF is considering removing your children due to suspected abuse or neglect. You can refuse a drug test and to even speak with CYF. Be aware that if you do, they may not go away. If you can afford a lawyer, you should get one. If your children are in fact removed from your care, or a petition for dependency is filed and you cannot afford a private lawyer, contact the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Conflict Counsel Office and ask to have a Parent Advocate appointed.

How long does a Court take to finalize a divorce?

Q: I have filed the Praecipe to Transmit Record for my divorce in Allegheny County, PA. When I track the status of my divorce online, it says that the file was sent to Family Court. Approximately how long should it take for the divorce to be finalized? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It can take anywhere from ten days to two or three weeks to receive a Decree in Divorce from the Family Division. That is, assuming the paperwork you submitted is all correct. If it is not, you will receive a little card in the mail telling you how to correct your papers and what you need to resubmit.

Can we go to couple’s therapy while she has a PFA order?

Q: I am not living in the house with her and she has a PFA order on me. I am told she is willing to go to therapy with me. I am so pleased but want to be careful. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A:  Probably not. Have your attorney or an attorney review the order. It is doubtful that it has carved out an exception for couple’s therapy. If it is the standard PFA Order, no contact means no contact. If there is contact, in any form, it is the Allegheny County Iron Hilton for you. She would need to petition the court to either vacate or modify the PFA order if you want to go anywhere with her. You should probably consult with a lawyer.

How do I appeal denial of child support?

Q: I was denied reconsideration by judge and the current child support modification is in place. My ex (divorce pending) retired at age 40 due to stress. Judge failed to consider earning capacity. As he is a healthy male with no physical or mental limitations. Please answer lost in pa

A: You need to file all the required appeals which would start with Exceptions to the Recommendations of the Hearing Officer. If the Judge affirmed the Hearing Officer, then you would file a reconsideration motion which it sounds like you have already done. Once the judge denies your reconsideration request, you have thirty days to appeal to the Superior Court. I would consult with an experienced Family Lawyer with who you can share all the facts and whom can advise you whether it is worth an appeal.

How do I get custody of my 15-year-old granddaughter?

Q: I am in bad health and do home dialysis. She is staying with me now and has been for about 6 months. I have applied for government housing but can only get a 1 bedroom unless I have legal custody. I am on social security and do not draw very much so I need to know what is my best option? (Crafton, PA)

A: You should have something in writing signed by the parents (if there is a father that has custody rights at this point) which transfers temporary physical custody of the child to you. The optimum method of doing this would be to obtain an Order of Court, signed by a Judge. This will be easier if done by an attorney. If you cannot afford one, you may be able to seek legal help if you are under a certain income level. It will be easier if the father consents. The other option is to ask Social Security if they will just take a letter signed by both parents. This would be less expensive. You may also want to ask the school in which she will be enrolled in and whatever medical providers she will see, what type of document they need. You may also want to consult with an attorney regarding having CYF involved. Doing so, may or may not be an advantage to you, depending on your entire situation.

Can my divorce agreement be modified?

Q: When my agreement was made I was living with my elderly father in his home. He has since passed away. In his will the house was given to my brother, sister and myself. The problem for me now is that I must take a mortgage out to give my siblings their equal 1/3 of what the property is worth. My income after my financial obligations is maxed out and does not leave me the ability to pay on a mortgage. In fact, I do not have the ability to find a place to rent if we sold the house outright. The only reason that I was staying afloat was that I did not have a mortgage or rent payment to pay. Unfortunately, this was not considered when I signed a totally one-sided agreement. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: No one can answer this without looking at the agreement. If the agreement was incorporated and not merged into the divorce decree and the 30-day appeal period has lapsed, any terms agreed upon including alimony are probably binding. An experienced divorce attorney will know whether there is any chance of modification by looking at it.