Saturday, July 31, 2010

If you must use Facebook -- here are some tips on keeping your profile as private as possible

Click here: The Facebook Data Torrent Debacle: Q&A

But remember -- if it is on your Facebook page, even if you use the highets privacy settings possible -- it is still available to access --- as you cannot control all of your Facebook friends and whether or not they share you information, pictures or Facebook postings.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Gray Divorce

According to a segment on the Today show, approximately 25% of divorces are between older couples.  Older people divorcing worry about companionship. their finances, security and their future.

Money magazine’s Donna Rosato and psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz discuss why some older couples are calling it quits after decades of marriage.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Turn your melodrama into a mellow drama."

- Ram Dass, contemporary spiritual teacher.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Updates to the website

The website for my law firm is  Please check out our newly updated About Us page.

Thought of the Day

"Laughter is inner jogging."

- Norman Cousins

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Working with an ex

Today I was quoted in an article on How To Work With Someone After A Romantic Breakup by Helen Coster.

Quote of the Day

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.”

― Ashley Smith

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Am I the Daddy?

Please enjoy this blog written by my very talented law clerk, third year law student, Elizabeth Early, regarding: Paternity of Children in Philadelphia County When Parents are Not Married

In today’s world, unmarried parents have children, so that the situation is no longer uncommon. Many adults start a family without the formality of marriage, planned or not, and many adults do not choose to commit to a marriage after the child is born. Without the presumption of parenthood that a formal marriage creates, there can arise disputes over who is the legal father of a child.

Paternity is the legal determination of who is the father of a child. In Philadelphia, until paternity is established, the man alleged to be the father of a child is only recognized as a “putative father.” A putative father lacks the legal rights and obligations relating to the child that would be granted to or required of a legal father. Thus, the establishment of paternity is an important step for both parents as well as the child.

How is paternity established?

There are two ways in Philadelphia for a man to be determined the legal parent of a child: (1) both parents can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity or (2) the court can enter an order establishing paternity.

Acknowledgement of Paternity:

An Acknowledgement of Paternity can be signed at any time by both parents but it is often done at the time of birth in the hospital. When the Acknowledgement of Paternity is signed at birth the father has 60 days to revoke his signature. After the passage of 60 days the father will have to seek a court order to remove his name from the birth certificate. If the Acknowledgement of Paternity is not signed at the hospital the parents are free to contact the Department of Public Welfare to obtain the necessary forms.

There are times when the mother of a child refuses to join the father in signing the Acknowledgement. Should this be the case the father is entitled to a claim of paternity where the next step will be court involvement to determine paternity of the child.

Sometimes, the father or alleged father of a child refuses to join the mother in signing the Acknowledgement. Should this occur, the mother is also entitled to pursue paternity through the court system.

Court Order:

Where the parents have not yet successfully signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity and will not agree to do so, the next step would be a court order of paternity. A court order of paternity will often involve genetic testing. Situations where a court order would be required include the mother’s desire for custodial rights and/or child support, the fathers desire for custodial rights or when the child seeks benefits through the father including insurance, Social Security and Veteran’s benefits and inheritances.

More specifically, in a complaint for child support, if the alleged father will not agree to sign an Acknowledgement, the court will order genetic testing. In a complaint for custody filed by the father, if the mother will not sign an Acknowledgement, or otherwise contests father’s status, the court will order the father to file for genetic testing. A slightly different result occurs in a complaint for custody filed by the mother where the alleged father will not sign an Acknowledgement; the court will automatically grant custody to the mother without an order for genetic testing. Finally, as stated above, the parties are also able to ask the court for genetic testing and the determination of paternity for reasons such as benefits and inheritances.

Genetic Testing

Where and how is genetic testing done?

If you are ordered to undergo genetic testing, you must go to the lab in the Philadelphia Family Court. Private genetic testing can be a waste of time and money as the results are likely not admissible to determine paternity. The parents and the child will be given a scheduled time to report to the lab where each party will have a photo taken (do not even try to send in a substitute father!) and their cheek swabbed for cells to carry out the genetic testing. If the putative father does not appear for the testing he may have a default order entered against him so it is very important to appear for your scheduled time. The test in non-invasive- just a swab of your inner check with cotton- no pain or blood tests.

Who pays for the test?

The cost for genetic testing in Philadelphia is $201.00 per family (as of Summer 2010-- subject to change).

In a claim by the mother for support, if the putative father is determined to be the genetic father of the child, the court may require the father to pay for the testing. If the alleged father is determined not to be the genetic father, he is not responsible for the cost.

In a custody case, the party (mother or father) that requested the testing is responsible for the cost.

What happens after the genetic testing results are received?

The test results can show a 99% or greater probability that the putative father is the father. This extremely high likelihood of paternity can only be overcome if there is clear and convincing evidence that the test results are not reliable. Obviously, this is very hard to show and genetic testing results are likely to be final.

If the parties accept the results without a hearing, and the putative father is not the genetic father, then all support and/or custody claims are dropped. If the putative father is the genetic father there may automatically be an order for support included with the order establishing paternity.

Disagreements with Signed Acknowledgement of Paternity or Court Order Establishing Paternity

If a party is not satisfied with the Acknowledgement or the Court Order Establishing Paternity they can attempt to rebut the decision with a Complaint for Genetic Testing (if genetic testing was not done), a Motion to Set Aside Prior Adjudication of Paternity or an appeal to the Superior Court. However, if genetic testing was used and the results conclusively establish or disprove paternity it is going to be very difficult to overcome the testing results.

Time is not on Your Side

Generally, society and public policy prefers that a child have a mother and a father (two parents). Accordingly, sometimes, if you act as a child’s father for a certain length of time and that child believes you are the father, you may later be estopped (prevented) from contesting paternity, even if a genetic test later disproves a biological relation to the child. This area of the law tends to change and cases involving estoppel are extremely fact specific. The bottom-line is that if you have any doubts about the paternity of a child, get tested immediately. Do not wait until the child has bonded with you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thought of the Day

"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in" -Morrie Schwartz

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

Doug Larson

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Bertrand Russell

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.

Michael Burke

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

John Powell

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can good people have bad children?

On Monday, the New York Times featured an article about a theory that sometimes, despite parents' best efforts, their children are simply not nice people.  The stories are a bit depressing but the article is informative and thought provoking:  Accepting that Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More on Facebook

Check out the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer for an article on how Facebook can wreak havoc in a marriage.  I was interviewed and quoted for the article: Divorce, Facebook Style.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I can hear you --- yes you!

Yesterday, in the supermarket, the woman next to me was talking (loudly) on her cell phone about her divorce and various disabilities.  As she propped up the cell phone on her shoulder while nimbly hefting a large bag of baking potatoes into her cart, she informed the person on the other end that her husband dared to allege that she was using her alleged disability to prolong her divorce and get more money.  I was not eavesdropping -- I could not help overhearing her - acoustics in grocery stores tend to amplify sounds and this woman was making no apparent effort to keep her voice down.  As she popped a case of Snapple into her cart (wow - those are heavy!), she told her conversation partner indignantly that all of her surgeries were validated by her doctors and direly needed.  She paused to put the jumbo container of Tide detergent in her cart (one-handed- after all - she was talking on the phone) and then whined that if her doctors thought she was hurt enough to have so many surgeries, her husband should agree.

Clack, clack, clacking through the store on her high heels (I admire her ability to talk on the phone, balance on those heels and lift heavy items, all without missing a beat), she went on and on about the unfairness of her divorce and her husband -- who, I gather, was using the litigation process to attempt to bring the divorce process to an end.  Again, it is difficult not to overhear when someone is speaking in a louder than.  She protested that she could not even attempt to find work, or else her husband's lawyer would pounce upon that in order to claim that she should receive less alimony. 

As she veered into the aisle with the barbecue equipment ( noticed her checking out the large bags of charcoal and discussing a big party she was hosting, I eventually wandered out of earshot.  For the rest of my shopping trip, I wondered:

(1) What would that woman's divorce lawyer think if he or she knew that she was airing the confidential details of her divorce in a very public grocery store?

(2) What alleged disability prevented her from working -- especially when she appeared so able bodied?

(3) What if I knew her or her husband or I was her husband's lawyer?  I certainly had just gathered quite a few facts that I could use against her.  When you begin to disclose information that normally would be considered privilege, you run the risk of breaking the attorney client privilege --- and making yourself susceptible to intense cross-examination.

Moral of the story:  do not talk about your divorce in a public place.  For one thing, you could disclose something confidential.  For another, you are probably boring the person on the other end of the phone to death.  Believe me, no one else is as interested in your divorce as you.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Do I really need a divorce attorney?

Because divorce can be overwhelmingly terrifying, expensive and messy, some people think that they can try to handle it themselves – without the complication or cost of attorneys. Unfortunately, embarking on this path without at least understanding your rights, the law and procedure can turn a difficult time into unmitigated chaos.
Many people believe lawyers only make things more contentious. Perhaps that is correct in certain cases, involving certain lawyers. However, most divorce lawyers (or at least those that I admire) truly look to do what is best for the client and the client’s family, which usually involves an efficient, enforceable and equitable resolution.

Before you take any type of action towards ending your marriage (including talking to your spouse!), speak with an attorney so you can be equipped with the knowledge to make the correct decisions, and understand what you are negotiating.

Many lawyer bashers cite Shakespeare, “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” However, this phrase is often quoted out of context and used to attack the legal profession rather than pay tribute, as Shakespeare intended. In reality, that line was spoken in a Shakespearean play by a rabble-rowser who intended to overthrow the government. The character needed complete anarchy to achieve his goal and his first step was to ride the world of lawyers. In my experience, similar chaos often ensues when people attempt to divorce without competent legal advice. I have taken over and resolved a large number of cases that were a disaster either due to mistakes made by unrepresented parties or by a lawyer who was not well versed in family law.

Most divorces often end up in some type of settlement. However, you need to understand your responsibilities, your exposure for later financial problems, the impact of child custody arrangements, your ability to enforce the agreement and the short and long term consequences of your decisions. Attempting to negotiate before you are armed with the knowledge you need to make intelligent decisions can cause irreversible harm by placing you in an inferior bargaining position.

Most significantly, your spouse may have already consulted with an attorney and be angling to convince you to give up or compromise your rights. Remember, simply hiring an attorney does not mean that you have to enter a hostile war with your spouse or that you have given up hope of an amicable divorce. In fact, using lawyers as mediators between you and the other party actually could reduce the stress of the divorce by facilitating the negotiating process. More importantly, remember that it is always easier and cheaper to solve a problem efficiently and effectively the first time (by using an attorney), rather than having to backtrack and fix it at a later date.

Here is an idea of issues discussed and the questions raised in an initial consultation:

Process and Procedure: Just like you needed a marriage certificate to be legally married, divorce is a legal process regulated by the State. There are certain procedures that must be followed and documents that must be filed with the appropriate courts. A lawyer will guide you through this sometimes complicated and confusing process. Issues a lawyer can help you figure out include:

• Who files the divorce complaint?

• What are the filing fees?

• How is the other party notified?

• What kind of court proceedings are available?

• What should I expect?

Children: Children are the innocent bystanders in the divorce process, but they are always intimately affected by the outcome, as well as the path to reach that outcome. Even in the most amicable divorce, children’s lives are dramatically changed by new living arrangements and an adjustment to a new understanding of “family.” It is for this reason, and rightly so, that parents try to fiercely protect their children in a way that they believe best. That said, there are legal technicalities regarding custody and financial support of children that always arise in divorces, despite, perhaps, what the parents believe is best. For that reason, you should know:

Child support

  o Who pays and how much?

  o What about the extras - - tuition, day care, camp and after-school activities?

  o Can support be modified?

  o How will support be enforced?

  o What if I am not happy with the amount of support ordered?

Physical custody

  o When will the children be with Mother and when will they be with Father?

  o Who provides transportation?

  o What if the children do not want to go with the other parent?

  o How can we make this easy on the children?

  o What if I believe the other parent is unfit?

  o How do we divide up their clothes, toys and books?

  o How do we spend holidays and vacations?

Legal custody

  o Who decides on health, welfare and education decisions for the children?

  o What if the other parent makes a decision without my input?

Finances: The intricacies of what has occurred during marriage regarding finances, including whether both spouses worked outside the home, whether one spouse earned significantly more than the other and whether one spouse has a limited ability to earn money in the future, all dramatically affect whether one spouse will be required to pay the other person during the divorce process and afterwards. Additionally, the assets and debts must be gathered, valued and divided. These issues can significantly affect the daily lives of each individual; therefore, special attention should be paid to the following issues:

The Marital Assets/Debts

  o What are the marital assets and debts, and how are they valued?

  o How will they be divided?

  o How are businesses divided?

  o What if we have a house that we cannot refinance or sell?

  o What if I owned something prior to the marriage?

Spousal support and/or alimony pendente lite

  o Will one spouse be obligated to pay the other person any type of support while the divorce is pending?

  o What if I have never worked?

  o What about my health insurance?


  o Will one spouse will be obligated to pay the other person any type of support after the divorce is final?

  o How long does alimony last?

Attorney’s fees

  o Will one spouse will be obligated to pay the other person’s attorney’s fees?

      Courts very rarely order one spouse to pay the other’s fees so it is important to manage expectations in this regard.

For more information on the consultations at Law Offices of Linda A. Kerns, LLC, please consult our website. You should bring a list of questions to your consultation. However, during my comprehensive consultations, clients virtually always tell me that I have answered all of their questions by the end of the meeting.

This post was co-written by Linda A. Kerns, Esquire and
Elizabeth A. Bokermann, Esquire.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pennsylvania support - direct deposit form

You can obtain the form to sign up for direct deposit for your support in Pennsylvania by clicking here.

For general information on child support in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Child Support Program website.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Birthday America

It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment,—Independence now and Independence forever.

Daniel Webster: Eulogy on Adams and Jefferson, Aug. 2, 1826

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Questions about bankruptcy?

When going through a divorce, you need to weigh all of your options.  Sometimes, even though it sounds terrifying, bankruptcy is one of those options, especially if your debt, or your spouse's debt, is so overwhelming that you cannot move forward.

The Federal Judiciary provides a website on the basics of bankruptcy.  If you think it is something that might apply to your situation, click here.