Reunification counseling is a process meant to rebuild a relationship. Often times, reunification counseling will be used in the context of a custody dispute to reintroduce and/or reinforce the relationship between a parent and their child. There are several reasons why reunification counseling may become necessary. It could be a situation where one parent was not involved in the child’s life for a long period of time and so some type of counseling becomes helpful in assisting both parties ease back into a normal relationship. Alternatively, a course of reunification counseling can be used after a sudden change in relationship has caused damage or anger. For example, a child may not understand why his or her parents have separated and may show anger or resentment towards the parent who moved out of the home. Or perhaps, it is not even the child initiating the feelings of resentment or anger, but the other parent who then projects those same feelings onto the child.

Reunification counseling can be viewed as a more collaborative approach to re-establishing a relationship as opposed to just having the court force certain periods of visitation when the child may not be willing or emotionally ready. This is especially a concern when dealing with teenagers. A custody order forcing visitation with the other parent may serve a temporary goal but ultimately result in lifelong resentment once the child is over 18 and free to make his or her own choices. It may be more beneficial to be patient on the front end in exchange for a healthy relationship that has the potential to last past their “childhood” years. It is the role of the reunification therapist to facilitate the process with the end goal of repairing the relationship going forward. If you are facing a high conflict divorce or separation or have been inactive in your child’s life for a certain period of time and feel you may need help rebuilding the relationship, consider reunification therapy as an option to get the relationship back on the right foot again.

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There are numerous consequences that stem from the failure to pay child support. One possibility is that you will be denied a U.S. passport. If you owe $2,500 or more in child support, you are not eligible to receive a U.S. passport. If you discover your eligibility is affected due to past due child support you must first contact the Domestic Relations section that handles your case to clear the balance. After having resolved any outstanding balance, it generally takes an additional 2-3 weeks before your application for a passport will be able to be processed.

Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.20 details other remedies that may be imposed for the failure to pay child support. These remedies include seizing periodic or lump sum payments, imposing liens on real property, seizing assets held in financial institutions, reducing and executing a judgment, initiating contempt proceedings, reporting past due amounts to consumer reporting agencies and suspending occupational, commercial/driver’s and recreational licenses. Once you become behind on child support the goal for purposes of enforcement is to collect any past due amount as quickly as possible. This is true even if a payment plan is agreed to between the parties and/or by the court.

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The divorce rate reached an all time high in the 1970’s due to the introduction of no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce meant that the parties could get a divorce without having to prove any wrong-doing in court. Essentially, all the parties have to do for a no-fault divorce is indicate the marriage is over. Prior to the influx of no-fault divorce, parties had to prove that the requirements for a fault divorce were met. Fault grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania include desertion, adultery, cruel and barbarous treatment, bigamy, imprisonment, and indignities. The majority of divorces will go through on the basis of no-fault since it is easier to litigate and often times there is no benefit in the outcome of the divorce to pursuing a fault ground for a divorce.

To move forward with a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, the parties need only allege an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” and either consent to the divorce after a 90-day period or establish 2-year separation. A no-fault divorce can also be obtained if one of the spouses is institutionalized for a period of 18 months provided they will likely still be institutionalized 18 months following the commencement of the divorce. No-fault divorce became available in Pennsylvania in 1980 when the Divorce Code was revised. Originally, a separation period of three years was required but that has since been reduced to the two year separation period currently required.

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In the midst of the holiday season, it may become necessary to consider where children will spend the holidays if they have separated or divorcing parents. A holiday schedule can be included as part of a custody order. Frequently seen provisions include alternating holidays so that one party has even years the other has odds or splitting the holidays so that each party has a certain time allotted on the holiday itself. Ultimately, it is up to the parents and/or guardians in any given case to make a schedule that works best for them. It may be a schedule where the parties will always have the same holidays every year and won’t alternate or share. In some instances, a custody order may state that holidays will be shared as mutually agreed upon by the parties without the need to lay out specifics. There may be unique family traditions that don’t occur on the actual holiday that a party will want the kids to be involved in.

Another scenario to consider is if one party likes to travel during the holiday season and therefore intends to schedule a vacation during that time. Holiday and vacation time will generally supercede the regular custody schedule, however, be sure any custody order makes clear whether the holiday schedule or vacation provision takes top priority. As a practical matter, parties should try to be as civil and cooperative as possible when discussing holiday time. The holidays can be an especially difficult time for families that are going through separation and divorce and everyone involved will benefit from a process that is as amicable as possible.

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