Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued an Opinion this week wherein a mother was found in contempt of a child custody order and ordered to pay attorney’s fees in the amount of $500. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court.
In this case, the parties argued over a Thanksgiving Day custody schedule. Notably, their custody order apparently indicated that Thanksgiving Day arrangements should be by "mutual agreement." As a side note, using that type of a phrase in a custody order usually guarantees that at some point, when there is not mutual agreement, chaos will ensue.
The Superior Court outlined all of the facts and circumstances that led to the contempt citation. You can read the full Opinion here.
As you can see from the Opinion, Father alleged that he attempted on numerous occasions to contact Mother, and his son, but he was unable to as she did not answer the phone. The court ordered both parents to submit their phone records. In the court’s opinion, the phone records supported father’s allegations.
Generally speaking, it is usually a good idea to keep a calendar or a log of communications with the other parent. This way, if there is ever an argument later, you will be able to produce credible testimony regarding the history of your case. Additionally, it can sometimes be time consuming and expensive to order phone records so try to download them or save the print copy every month if you feel you may ever have to prove attempts to contact.
New proposed guidelines have been drafted and they have been published for comment. You can review them in their entirety here. The comment period on this proposal ends on October 31, 2008.
One of the most significant changes is that the top guideline income amount has been raised to $30,000 net per month (the top is currently $20,000 net per month).
Notably, these are in the proposal and comment stage, so changes could be made prior to their actual adoption.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
The Superior Court addressed the sticky paternity issues and thus discussed the concept of the doctrine of paternity by estoppel, affirming the trial court. You can read the full Opinion here.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
You can build your own home inventory now, so you are prepared if you ever need it. Rather than just writing down a list (which could also be lost in a catastrophe), try the tools available on this website: Knowyourstuff.org. The list can be stored electronically -- and offsite -- for extra safety.
Divorce can also feel as cataclysmic as a natural disaster. Although personal items (furniture, artwork, collections, jewelry, household tools and the like) acquired during the marriage are usually considered part of the marital estate, subject to division, practically speaking, these items often come down to a he said/she said. Unfortunately, it is often more cost effective to let these items go, rather than pay to litigate in the event of a dispute. Adequate evidence regarding the contents of a house often simply does not exist. However, if you prepare an organized, comprehensive home inventory, and the items later go missing at the hands of a vengeful or simply careless estranged spouse, you may have adequate evidence to prove their existence, and support your claim in equitable distribution. Accordingly, the tools at Knowyourstuff.org may assist you. If a software program seems to intimidating, try the worksheets and tips available here.
Monday, July 21, 2008
He paid his wife millions of dollars in a lump sum (£3,719,000.00 -three million seven hundred & nineteen thousand British pounds sterling) plus monthly support and lots of extras. Apparently he was tired of the rumors and false information being spread. I do not recommend this for anyone, especially people who do not want to chance incurring more attorney fees when their spouse files a motion, asking the court to direct that the details be taken off of the internet.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
This becomes especially important if you move before you receive your refund check or you are corresponding with the Internal Revenue Service on an issue.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Standing becomes especially relevant in petitions for custody because courts limit who can petition for custody of child. Generally, parents may petition. Additionally, in certain circumstances, someone acting as a parent may petition. In some cases, depending on the facts, grandparents may petition. Generally, courts protect the interests and rights of parents by preventing other third parties from petitioning for custody of their children. These rules can sometimes prevent a concerned neighbor, relative or friend from becoming involved in a child custody matter, no matter how well meaning their intentions.
This week, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed the issue of standing in the context of a custody matter that also wound its way through dependency court. Read the full opinion here.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure provide a procedure for courts to interview children, as a part of custody proceedings. The relevant rule states:
The court may interrogate a child, whether or not the subject of the action, in open court or in chambers. The interrogation shall be conducted in the presence of the attorneys and, if permitted by the court, the parties. The attorneys shall have the right to interrogate the child under the supervision of the court. The interrogation shall be part of the record. Pa. R.C.P.
What this means:
Practically speaking this rule means that the court does not have to interview a child. However, if the court chooses to do so, the attorneys of the parties have the right to be present and ask questions of the child. The proceeding may take place in the judge's chambers (another word for the judge's office) but it must be of record - which means a court reporter will record it. The court does not have to allow the parties to be presnet, but may choose to do so.
In the case of Ottoloni vs Barrett, 2008 Pa Super 154 (July 14, 2008) a case out of Potter County, Pennsylvania, the Father appealed the trial court's order granting the Mother primary custody. In part because the trial court did not follow the above quoted rule, the Superior Court remanded the case for another hearing. You can read the full opinion here.
This case provides an excellent example of the lengthiness of some custody proceedings. The timeline of this particular case:
April 2003 - parties separate. Mother obtains primary custody, Father obtains partial custody.
May 2003 - parties agree to share custody.
April 2004 - court slightly modified the shared order.
December 2005 - Mother filed a petition seeking a modification.
November 2006 - Mother obtains physical custody.
May 2007 - final hearing - Mother still has physical custody, Father appeals.
July 2008 - Superior Court issues order directing trial court to conduct a new custody hearing.
Accordingly, as of July 2008, Mother's December 2005 petition to modify custody is still not resolved. Unfortunately, the lengthiness of custody proceedings is a relevant factor when deciding a course of action in custody litigation.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Rather than depending on television news, newspapers, magazines or bloggers to digest and provide sound bites on these opinions, you can read them in their entirety here.
The Supreme Court of the United States comprises the Chief Justice (John G. Roberts, Jr.) and eight associate justices for a total of nine justices. Approximately 10,000 petitions are filed with the court in the course of each one year term. Only a very small fraction of those are actually decided by the court.