Sued for custody of your child by someone other than the your child’s other parent? Beware! Under Pennsylvania Law a person other than a parent has standing to sue for custody in very limited circumstances. Standing is a legal concept. Standing refers to the right of a particular person to file a case in court. If you don’t challenge standing in time you forfeit the right to challenge standing forever!
In the recent case of M.G. v. L.D., decided on February 8, 2017, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reiterated prior guidance that Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1915.5(a) requires a challenge to standing to be filed within 20 days of the date the custody complaint was served on the defendant. If no challenge is made to standing within that time, the right challenge standing is waived. Forever!
Standing in child custody cases is controlled by two statutes: 23 Pa.C.S.A. 5324 and 23 Pa.C.S.A. 5325. Many of the statutory sections are easily understood. An example is 5325(1) which authorizes a grandparent to sue for partial custody where one of the child’s parents has died.
Less well understood is 23 Pa.C.S.A. 5324(2) . This statute allows any person to sue for any form of custody custody when that person stands “in loco parentis” to the child. The phrase in “loco parentis” refers to a person who assumes the obligations of a parent without going through the formality of legal adoption. This statute applies to grandparents and non-grandparents alike. It is increasingly being used by grandparents suing a parent for custody of a grandchild as a result of recent changes in the law relating to standing.
If you don’t know whether or not the opposing party stands “in loco parentis” to your child, you are not alone. The phrase is not precisely defined in the custody statutes or in the reported cases. Determining whether or not a particular person stands “in loco parentis” is done on a case by case basis and is based on a large number of factors. It is often unclear whether or not a particular person has achieved the status of “in loco parentis” until a judge decides that he or she has. Or has not.
What remains clear, however, is that if you are a parent who has been served with a complaint for custody by someone claiming to stand “in loco parentis” and you want to challenge that claim, you have to file your challenge within 20 days of being served with a copy of the complaint. Or lose the right to challenge that claim forever. Because of the short time to file an challenge to standing, it is critical to have standing evaluated by an attorney as soon as the complaint is served.
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For parents, a key component of estate planning is often selecting potential guardians for minor children should something tragic happen to one or both parents. These considerations can be double-sided emotionally and difficult to face. On the one hand, who would ever take care of your children just like you would? Facing such a decision also brings to light many fears and concerns. On the other hand, making the decision can be freeing in a way, because you know your children will be cared for if something happens.
Our firm understands the struggle that parents might face when dealing with such a decision, and we also understand the concerns that a potential guardian faces if the actual appointed time comes to pass. Many people agree to be named as legal guardians without ever really thinking the situation will occur where they will have to take charge of the children. That doesn’t mean they don’t love the kids or want this responsibility, but when the time comes, a guardian can be suddenly overwhelmed with the reality of the responsibility. Continue reading “Help for potential guardians of minor children”
If you are in a fiduciary relationship as an executor of an estate or a trustee of a trust, then you have to think about the wishes and needs of others. A fiduciary must make decisions that are in keeping with the law, the wishes of the deceased and the needs of the beneficiary. But you have to be careful not to forget other obligations, including taxes.
Many estates don’t pass the threshold for the federal estate tax, so you might think taxes aren’t a common concern for those in such positions. Just because you don’t have to worry about paying estate taxes doesn’t mean you don’t have to file any paperwork, though, and almost any estate will have to concern itself with at least one more income tax return.
Continue reading “Don’t forget the tax man”
If you believe you are a legal heir to someone’s estate, but that person has died without estate planning documents such as a will, you might not know what steps to take to claim your inheritance. The requirements for receiving assets or money that are left to you in such an estate depend on the laws of the state, whether there are other potential heirs and whether any assets are linked to beneficiary designations.
When someone dies without leaving a will or other estate documents, then the person is considered to have died intestate. Basically, that’s just a term for “without a will,” and intestacy estates are probated under the general laws of the state in question. Intestacy laws usually ensure that primary heirs, such as surviving spouses or children of the deceased, receive an inheritance under the estate. Depending on the situation, other family members such as step-children, grandchildren and siblings might also inherit something from an intestate process — especially if no other closer heirs are found.
Continue reading “What do you do if your loved one died without a will?”