November is National Adoption Month. This is the 18th year for recognition of National Adoption Month. It started as National Adoption Week in 1984 on the motion of President Ronald Reagan. In 1995, President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November. Pennsylvania participates in presentation of a proclamation every year regarding National Adoption Month pledging its commitment to make sure every child has a place to call home. Pennsylvania specifically recognizes the Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network and PA Adoption Exchange as organizations that work towards the overall goal of permanency for all children.

In addition to a month-long awareness, a National Adoption Day is also recognized. This year it will be November 23, 2013. Philadelphia celebrated last week by completing eighteen adoptions on November 15, 2013. In addition to the completion of the adoptions, the Philadelphia Family court provided face painters, balloons and  Mummers as part of their celebration. Another event was held on November 19th in Harrisburg, PA as Dauphin County celebrated National Adoption Day. PA estimates that currently there are approx. 2,500 children in foster care awaiting adoption. You can visit for more information on the adoption process as well as many of the children in need of a home.


Once a divorce complaint is filed it must be served on the opposing party before the matter can proceed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1930.4 discusses acceptable methods of service for all domestic relations matters. The complaint must be served by personal service or certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. If personal service is accomplished, the person effectuating service should complete an affidavit of service indicating when and where the opposing party was served. Personal service can be carried out by any adult that is not a party to the action. The Sheriff can be contacted to effectuate personal service for a fee. There are also numerous process server companies that will effectuate service for a fee. Alternatively, the opposing party can opt to sign an Acceptance of Service form which serves to waive any defects of service under the rules.

Service in a divorce matter generally must be accomplished within 30 days of when the complaint was filed. The exception is where service will be done outside of the Commonwealth in which case 90 days is permitted. If service is not completed within the applicable time frame, the complaint must be reinstated. After the reinstatement, a new time period begins to run. However service is accomplished, proof of service should be filed with the court. If service cannot be accomplished, the court can be petitioned to allow service by publication. The petition for service by publication must describe all the efforts made to find the other party by other means. If the petition is granted, notice would be published in a legal publication and a newspaper of general circulation in the county of the other party’s last known residence.

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The court may give credit for individual property brought into the marriage depending on the circumstances. Generally, any credit to be received decreases with the length of the marriage. For example, Bucks County will reduce the credit by 5% a year such that there is no longer a credit after 20 years. A prime example of a situation where this rule would be applicable is the purchase of a marital home. Say Spouse A contributed $40,000 of their pre-marital money to the purchase of the house. If the parties separated after 5 years, the amount of Spouse A’s individual contribution is reduced by 25%. Accordingly, Spouse A would argue that 75% of the $40,000 down payment, or $30,000, is their separate property and not subject to equitable distribution in the divorce.

The rules on credit for individual or pre-marital property can vary county to county since it’s not a statute, but more or less a policy used by the respective Masters when looking at the marital estate in a divorce matter. Be careful with the commingling of individual property with marital property. It will be hard to make an argument on the amount of individual property that should be credited to a party if it’s hard to trace the source of the funds. If you encounter a situation in your divorce where it may be necessary to make a distinction between assets that are clearly marital versus those that you can trace back as being pre-marital and/or separate, you should be sure to consult with an attorney with experience in the valuation of these type of assets or risk all of the assets being addressed in equitable distribution and subject to division with your spouse.

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A number of changes to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure regarding custody took place this summer. One change, Rule 1915.4-4, provides the opportunity for a pre-trial conference in a custody matter. Either party may request the conference by written request in the form of a praecipe. Alternatively, the court can schedule one on its own motion. The timing of the pre-trial conference is after the parties have made their initial appearance at a custody conference but prior to the hearing scheduled before a Judge. The Rule provides the pre-trial conference should be scheduled at least 30 days prior to the start of a custody hearing. The Judge will preside over the pre-trial conference in chambers if both parties are represented.


At least 5 days prior to the pre-trial conference, each party must submit a statement to the court as well as the opposing party. The statement must include the name and address of all anticipated witnesses, including expert witnesses, along with their relationship to either of the parties, if any. The statement should also include a proposed custody order setting forth the schedule sought. Finally, all exhibits and/or reports that may be referenced in a hearing must be served on the opposing party but not submitted to the court. The goal of the pre-trial conference is to narrow and/or resolve any issues remaining for trial and encourage settlement of the case. At the conclusion of the conference, the court will enter an order outlining any agreements reached and limiting the issues for trial to those not already resolved. Hopefully this new procedure will be useful and reduce the likelihood of unnecessarily contentious custody battles in open court.

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