Tag Archives: FAMILY LAW

Can I lose custody if living with a convicted felon?

Q: I am dating a man with 3 felony convictions. The most recent being 13 years old. Could I lose 50/50 custody of my children? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: It can be brought up at a custody hearing by the children’s father. Whether it will affect your custody, is up to the judge. Many parents coming before the court have a criminal history which doesn’t necessarily mean they are not qualified to parent. With your case it depends on the facts. How long ago was the conviction, what was it for (hopefully not for child sex crimes) what has he done since, is he clean and responsible now? Do you have a suitable and stable home for the children? You get the idea. Good luck.

How do I become a foster parent to my grandkids without having to use a lawyer?

Q: My son and 2 grandkids (3 and 6) have lived with me 6 months. The Mom abandoned them and moved out of the country. The Dad doesn’t want them and is going to give them to me. I can’t afford a lawyer and make too much to qualify for any assistance or insurance. I’m thinking about fostering them, so they will get medical insurance and I will get paid- which I need to be able to raise them. How do I go about it without an attorney? What are the pros and cons? How long should it take?

A: You should consult with a Family Law Attorney. You may have several options. There are some recent amendments to 23 Pa. CS § 5324 which will inure to your benefit. This would allow you to get temporary custody. If going through an attorney to get temporary custody or an adoption does not interest you, you may want to consult with Children Youth and Families of Allegheny County. They may be able to assist you with having the children declared “dependent” if they are without proper parental control or guidance. If you have an appropriate home, you may be appointed by the court as caretakers and be eligible for foster care funding.

Do I have a case of parental kidnapping or custody interference?

Q: My daughter’s mother left state with my child ten years ago without permission. We have a court orders custody agreement spelling out exact days and times for my visits and expressly starting a move out of state isn’t permitted. The courts and law enforcement were no help in finding or bringing my daughter home. Through sleuthing of my own, I FINALLY found her, have solid proof (mother wrote address on court papers) and have a paper trail documenting everything over the last decade. Do I have a case for getting my daughter back, even though it’s been so long? Child has been residing in Pennsylvania for 10 years if that makes a difference. (Baden, PA)

A: You need to see an experienced family law attorney with whom you can share the entire story which we do not have here, and which is hard to relate in this limited forum. My first question is in this day of electronic communications, how has it taken 10 years to find your daughter? If your reasons are legitimate-identity changes, subterfuge, etc., it does sound like she violated a court order. An attorney can tell you where to file. Jurisdiction still may be in Allegheny County, as I assume the child was born here and there was an open custody case, albeit ten years ago. As for criminal charges, such as interference with custody, you will have to run that past the DA. The ten-year period that has passed does not help you unless, as mentioned, there were legitimate reasons.

What constitutes a charge of harassment in a custody case?

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? (Pittsburgh, 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. Keep 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. If what constitutes harassment continues, talk to the police or an Assistant District Attorney. It sounds like you need an attorney to help you.

Married for two months, will I have to pay support?

Q: We were married for two months and split up. I want to get a divorce.

A: Child support, most likely. Spousal support, alimony pendente lite or alimony, perhaps not. More information is needed to give you a definitive answer. However, if you were married for only two months then separated, you have a good argument to not pay spousal support. (Pittsburgh, PA)

Can a child pick their guardian?

Q: We know a 14-year-old child who has been living with her mother and grandmother, but the mother lost custody and it was given to the grandmother. However, the mother still stays in the home when she is not allowed to and is still on drugs, but the child is treated poorly for reporting her mother and is too afraid to do it again. Can she choose to go to a non-relative that has been helping her? Her grandmother is telling her if she reports them, she will go to a family she doesn’t know, and she can’t choose the person who has been helping her. (Brookline, PA)

A: There is a general rule in PA that at age 14 a child can decide where they wish to live (if reasonable and safe). Also, if the family friend is willing to take her, and would meet a background check and home assessment from Children Youth and Families of Allegheny County, and if no other appropriate placement person came forward, CYF may very well place the child with that person. CYF will not place the child with her 18-year-old boyfriend or someone with a deplorable home or lengthy criminal history. I would speak with an attorney in your area versed in child custody and juvenile dependency.

Are personal injury settlements marital property in PA?

Q: Wife was in an accident last March 2017. Vehicle was in my name. The girl responsible for the accident insurance company offered wife a settlement and she declined stating she was getting a personal injury attorney to represent her. (Circa September/October 2017) The personal injury attorney tells us we will get about 20K settlement. Wife and I have a conversation (both in-person and through text) since receiving that information up until April 21, 2018 about how we planned on utilizing the money. (i.e., Investing it, down payment for a new car, etc., etc.) Then April 24, 2018 she leaves me and files for divorce in June 2018. Since then our divorce has been at a standstill because she refuses to give me any of the settlement payout. So, if the divorce gets finalized before she receives the payout, am I still entitled to the settlement? Also, if the settlement gets paid out to her and our divorce isn’t finalized, am I still entitled to the settlement? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: The only time frame that matters is what was your marital status when the accident occurred. When the proceeds of the settlement are paid does not matter. There is new case law on this, so I advise you to consult with an experienced family law attorney. As the law stands now, if the accident occurred between the date of marriage and the date of separation, the proceeds of the settlement are marital property.

If we have children can we be considered common law married in PA?

Q: We own a home together and have been on each other’s health and life insurance policies. His friends and coworkers believe we are married, as I wear a ring and he refers to me in public “as his wife”. We never got married because I was married previously and had to pay my loser ex-husband spousal support, as he made less money than I. I didn’t want to get stuck in the same boat again. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Common law marriage was abolished on January 2, 2005 in PA. However, if you were in such a domestic relationship before this date, you can establish a common law marriage in court, depending on the facts. You would have the burden of proof and it is very difficult to do. You may want to propose to him and get it over with.

Can they take child if marijuana in her system?

Q: Since it’s 2018 and marijuana is legalized in most States as recreational and medical, will they still take the child if she is born with marijuana in their system? I am asking for a friend. (Forest Hills, PA)

A: Marijuana is still illegal in PA. CYF can remove a child with drugs in her system at birth, especially where there are other signs of parental abuse or neglect. I think the issue is more complicated and not so black and white if the mother has a medical marijuana card, but CYF can still remove. I would suggest that your friend obtain a parent advocate attorney.

Can an emergency PFA prevent me from seeing my son?

Q: After an argument my boyfriend, he had me arrested and then filed a PFA that included my son. My son was in no way involved in the argument until I was told to leave the house and wanted to take him with me. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: I am not sure of all the facts here, like is this child both of yours, is the house your boyfriend’s or yours, etc.? Regardless, if the PFA has been filed but no hearing has been held yet, you should defend it at the time of the hearing. There is not much you can do while the Emergency PFA Order is in effect. At the final hearing, a judge can grant the petition, deny the petition or find it does not apply to your son if granted. Additionally, most PFA’s are settled by agreement. Perhaps you can settle it in a way that the PFA does not apply to your son. If you want to see your son pending the emergency PFA order, talk to an attorney about filing an emergency motion for custody pending PFA hearing.