Tag Archives: FAMILY LAW

Should I file for full custody or file a petition to modify?

Q: 5 years-ago I was granted full custody of my two sons. 3 years ago, their father changed jobs and had more stability in his life so I thought 50/50 custody would be good for them. This change was not done through the courts, so the last custody agreement on file is still the one from years ago with me having full custody. I don’t believe 50/50 is working well anymore now that the boys are older, and I would like to have full custody. Their father does not take them to any medical appointments, does not attend their IEP meetings or parent teacher conferences, will not bring them to sport practices on his weeks, does not make sure they’re doing any of their homework, and they just don’t seem to be a priority in general at his house. They also don’t have a bedroom at his house, they sleep in the living room. I was not happy when I found that out, but the boys didn’t have a problem with it when they were younger, so I let it go. Now that they’re older, it’s not okay anymore. So, my question is, which paperwork do I need to file since the 50/50 was a verbal agreement between us for the last 3 years? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Even though the last order was full custody with you, the pattern over the years has transitioned to 50/50 status quo now. I believe you need to file for a modification. It sounds like you have great reasons, but the change may not happen right away, unless the father, and the sons, agree to it. It will be better for you if the change in custody does not involve a change in school district. I would consult with and hire a custody lawyer if you can.

How can a biological mother get custody back?

Q: I brought my daughter home with me the day she left the hospital. She is not biologically mine. We did go to court and I was granted sole full custody with the biological mom in court consenting. She willingly gave custody to me. My daughter is about to be 4 and all the sudden the biological mom has decided she wants to be her mom! I need help asap! (Carrick, PA)

A: Her parental rights were not terminated, otherwise she would have no chance. She will need to file a motion for custody and start the long process of getting back in her child’s life. If she is sincere and has overcome the impediments that prevented her initially from being a parent, she has a chance of gradually and slowly establishing time with the child. Fortunately for you, you have established legal standing to stay in this child’s life for the foreseeable future. I would consult with a child custody lawyer.

How do I get my estranged daughter to return my house keys that she has in her possession?

Q: My daughter got angry and caused me financial harm and no longer have any communicates with me. I asked for my house keys back since I no longer trust her not to do me harm. She has refused when asked for the keys by another family member on my behalf. She hasn’t ever lived with me at this address, but had keys in case of emergency, as I have health issues. She is very vindictive and will cause harm to other’s property when she gets angry. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Call a locksmith. Have the locks changed. You should have done this weeks ago. Get and alarm system if you are still worried. If she damages your property or threatens you with violence, consult with a lawyer or the police about filing a Petition under the Protection from

Can my niece legally move in with me?

Q: My 15-year-old niece gets taken advantage of at home treated like she’s a house maid cooking cleaning taking care of her younger siblings etc. how do we go about having her live with us. (Brentwood, PA)

A: If her mom and father agree to this, this type of temporary custody switch can be called a family arrangement. You will need to have affidavits or at a minimum, signed letters from the parents indicating their permission for you to have temporary custody and enroll her in a new school if necessary and attend to her medical and dental needs. If her parents object to the move, and they have a right to, things get more complicated. If a family arrangement cannot work, you can file a motion for temporary custody with the Family Division Motion’s Judge. You will need to serve the parents with the motion and notice of the hearing date. I would consult with an attorney if you do this. If you feel she is abused or neglected in her present home, you can involve CYF, but I would do that as a last resort. They will make every effort to place the child with family in situations where they remove a child which may result in the child being placed in your home. At that point, you may be eligible for foster care payments if you can be certified as a foster parent.

What can my son do?

Q: My son has custody of his daughter because her mother passed. And, her mother’s mother keeps taking my son to court for visitation. My granddaughter is 12 and she does not want to go over her house anymore. I do believe she is doing this because she does not like my son for what reason I do not know. My granddaughter is becoming stressed out due to this and my son as well. I would like to know if there is anything my son can do. Or if there is anything that you can suggest. I do not want either one of them to keep going thru this. Been going on for two years now. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: There are somewhat recent amendments regarding standing needed for a grandparent to have visitation or custody of a grandchild found in 23 Pa. CS Sec. 5324. If this grandmother has had substantial contact with this child in the past she probably has standing. It will help if your son has an attorney. The attorney may suggest an appointment of a psychologist to assess the situation. He or she could evaluate the parties and advise the court.

Do I love you gifts such as rings have to be returned upon break-up?

Q: I had 2 rings given to me as I love you gifts by my ex-boyfriend. It’s about $2500 is what the small claims court paper is saying they are worth. That is with insurance included and everything. I left his house and agreed to give them back once I got all my belongings from his home after we broke up. His son busted my TV and destroyed numerous of my items and he gave away some of my stuff to other people. Does he even stand a chance getting the rings back? Nothing was put in writing and we were never engaged. (Forest Hills, PA)

A: It has been a while since I had one of these cases but my recollection is that you do not have to return items that were purely gifts. However, if the gift was conditional, like, I give you this ring if you promise to marry me, it must be returned. The Heart Balm Act, which I believe was adopted by PA, addresses these issues.

Can I win full custody of my daughter if his dad is a registered child sex offender?

Q; Father touched a 10-year old girl sexually. The case is still going on. I want full custody and to have father’s rights taken away. (Ben Avon, PA)

A: Terminating another parent’s parental rights is very difficult unless the other parent consents to it. I think what you are asking is whether you can get full custody to the exclusion of father because of the allegation against him. You can go into court on an Emergency Petition regarding the allegation and see if the judge temporarily modify custody. Your motion will have more bite to it if on the sexual assault case, police are contacted, charges are being investigated or filed and a forensic examination has been scheduled. As far as permanently changing custody, first, he needs to be convicted or plead guilty. If that happens, you can always petition the court for what you want. In custody cases, there are sixteen custody factors a court needs to consider in deciding a custody order. Talk to family law lawyer, they get in to this kind of stuff.

Can I get back child support?

Q: Can I now, as an adult, collect the back child support my father owes my mother? I was told it was possible, and it would really help my situation. (Westview, PA)

A: She is the party of interest, not you, so she can bring the claim. You can help her do it, or if she signs a Power of Attorney to you for this purpose, you can. It is not easy to do, especially if he lives in another state. Even if you have no trouble reducing the support arrears to a judgment, you still need to successfully execute on his property to have any hope of payment. Finding his property and executing on it, is usually the most difficult part of the process. I would go to the Allegheny County Family Division at 440 Ross Street in Downtown Pittsburgh and see what you can learn on your own. You may also want the help of an experienced family attorney.

Will I get in trouble if I attempt to contact the defendant on my temporary PFA?

Q: I got into a fight with my fiancé 10 days ago and I fell and hit my head when he was trying to take away my phone. I was really scared, called the police and then he was taken to jail. I was convinced to get a temporary PFA and now I’m sitting here just wanting to talk to him about the whole thing to see how we can work it out. He lives 2 hours away now with his mom. Will I get in trouble if I go to his town and try to meet with him to talk? I’m planning on dropping the PFA at the final hearing. (Pine Township, PA)

A: Do him a favor, wait until the hearing. He runs the risk of being arrested for contempt of the PFA order if you initiate communication. You may also want to consult with a domestic abuse counselor.

Can my he remove me from his health insurance?

Q: We are separated. He will not sign divorce papers. I take life-sustaining medications. I need coverage. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: If you are not yet divorced, it should not happen, especially if it is provided by his employer. Call his employer or the insurer to be certain. They will tell you if you are covered and what needs to happen before your coverage is terminated.