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.

Can my fiancé sign guardianship of his daughter over to me?

Q: My fiancé had a son with a woman. We cannot get ahold of she has not seen the boy since the day he was born. My fiancé is going away (upstate as they say) for a year or so. I need to get him into my guardianship or custody. How do we do that? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: One way, perhaps the easiest way, would be to file a motion for temporary custody in the Family Division. You would draft a motion in which you tell the judge the circumstances and ask to have temporary custody, while the father is away. You would have to serve all parties of interest with a copy before you present it to the Family Division Motion’s Judge. Parties of interest would obviously be mother and any person’s related by blood including parents and siblings of the mother, if you know who they are and how to reach them. This will also include family members of the father. If you have notified these parties of interest ahead of time as required by the Civil Rules, and they do not appear to object at the motion, it should be granted. You should hire an attorney to do this and if you cannot afford one, go to the Family Division at 440 Ross Street and ask to see the pro se motions clerk for help. They can guide you through the process of doing it on your own.

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.