How child support may be used in Pennsylvania

A commonly held misconception is that child support should be used by a Pennsylvania custodial parent only to provide for a child’s basic needs. Child support may instead be used to pay for a wide variety of needs to help ensure that the child is able to grow up in the best possible environment, ensuring that he or she is enjoying a standard of living that would have been enjoyed if the parents had remained together.

Child support may be used to pay for educational expenses, food, shelter and clothing expenses, transportation costs, extracurricular activities and entertainment, child care, medical care and extraordinary expenses and, in some cases, college costs. Shelter expenses can include the cost of additional rent needed to pay for an apartment large enough to accommodate the child and utilities. Transportation costs, including gas, maintenance and upkeep, are allowed as a child needs safe transportation.

Even if a child attends public school, there may be uniform costs, various fees and other expenses related to the school attendance. For example, if a child participates in sports or other extracurricular activities, there are often participation fees and uniform costs. Medical and child care costs are often covered by child support payments, as are any extraordinary expenses not covered by medical insurance. In some cases, courts may order a noncustodial parent to continue paying child support beyond the age of majority to help defray the cost of the child’s college attendance.

Raising a child involves many expenses running far beyond the provision of clothing, food and shelter. In order to help custodial parents pay for a child’s needs, child support guidelines are set in a manner to help cover the associated expenses, including those that go beyond the child’s most basic needs. Those who find themselves in a child support dispute may benefit by consulting with a family law attorney.

Source: Findlaw, “What Does Child Support Cover?“, December 31, 2014

Frank McCourt awarded $1.9 million

Major League Baseball fans in Pennsylvania may have heard about a recent ruling in Frank McCourt’s high-profile divorce. McCourt, who is the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was recently awarded $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees after his former wife contested the terms of their 2012 divorce settlement.

After the settlement, which had given the woman $131 million in tax-free funds and allowed her to retain sole ownership of a number of the former couple’s luxury properties, was finalized, McCourt sold the Dodgers for approximately $2 billion. The woman sought to have the standing agreement overturned, claiming that her former husband had not fully disclosed the value of the team during property division negotiations. However, a judge hearing the dispute denied the claim in September 2013.

According to reports, McCourt has spent around $2 million in defending against the woman’s claim, and he sought payment from her for those costs, citing the terms of the divorce agreement. The document includes language stating that a party who attempts to modify the settlement is responsible for the other party’s attorneys’ fees. While the woman said that the amount was unreasonable in April, the judge ruled in the man’s favor on June 24.

As this case shows, the terms of a divorce settlement may be difficult to modify. When drafting such a document, a couple might benefit from working with attorneys. Separate legal counsel might offer a client advice regarding his or her rights and obligations throughout proceedings and could represent the client’s interests during negotiations with the other party.

Source: ABC News, “Judge Favors Frank McCourt in Divorce Fees Fight“, Anthony McCartney, June 26, 2014

Collaborative law and mediation can be very helpful in divorce

There are a lot of crazy divorce stories out there, and the internet makes it so easy to share them. As just one tiny example, check out our source article which has nine stories about divorces that have sullied by silliness. One divorce case “fell apart” because the splitting spouses couldn’t agree on who got a massage chair. Another case saw the couples bicker for hours over $40 in groceries that were still in their fridge.

That’s what’s funny about divorce — it tends to attract the weird, the bizarre and the outlandish. However, that is simply the way it is portrayed. Sure, these stories are probably real, but they represent such a small and extreme sample of divorce cases that it is unrealistic to think that every divorcing couple, or even most divorcing couples, would be dealing with similar circumstances.

In many cases, the splitting spouses just want to ge their divorce done in an efficient and amicable way. They don’t want a divorce that mimics the headline on magazine covers. They just want an effective and mature solution to their problem: an unhappy marriage.

This is where collaborative law or divorce mediation can come into play. Collaborative law is considered “alternative dispute resolution,” even though it really is a simple approach that seeks to have the splitting spouses reach a mutual agreement. Divorce mediation is another similar approach that helps the splitting spouses find a middle ground on sensitive topics that they simply don’t agree on. Collaborative law and mediation can be crucial tools for many couples who want to get through their divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Source: Huffington Post, “9 Divorce Stories Too Ridiculous To Make Up,” March 21, 2014

Medical decisions parents make for their child can affect custody

Child medical abuse allegations have become increasingly common in hospitals across the country. For those in Pittsburgh who have never heard of it, it is a controversial concept that applies to parents who are either preventing their child from receiving necessary care or pushing for care that could harm the child. When a hospital worker, such as a nurse or doctor, believes a child’s parents are committing child medical abuse, they notify the state. When that happens, child custody comes into question.

One family in Connecticut is currently going through the difficult situation of dealing with child medical abuse allegations.

The family’s 15-year-old daughter suffers from mitochondrial disease. After seeing doctors at one hospital for more than a year, the family followed her gastroenterologist to a new one. At the new hospital, however, the staff dramatically changed the girl’s treatment without consulting the gastroenterologist. The parents complained that they were not kept informed during the decision-making process.

The teenager’s parents grew frustrated and considered removing her from the new hospital’s care. At that point — and after deciding that the teenager’s ailments did not stem from physical causes and that her parents were not giving her the psychiatric care she needed — the hospital reported the parents to the state for medical child abuse.

The state immediately took over custody of the girl, and the parents have been fighting for the last 10 months to get their daughter back.

Cases like this often stem from controversial diagnoses. However, this case clearly shows how parents’ legal custody of their child can be called into question over medical treatment. Pittsburgh parents want what is best for their children, but if the state disputes that, it is important to know that there are ways to fight the allegations and uphold your right to have custody of your child.

Source: The Boston Globe, “No release for Conn. teen caught in hospital dispute,” Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen, Dec. 21, 2013

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