Child support in Pennsylvania is based on statewide guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guidelines are intended to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Accordingly, all parties making $3000 per month with 3 kids would pay the same amount of support based on the guideline amounts. The guidelines are based on an “Income Shares Model.” Accordingly, the guideline amount will be based on the combined net monthly income of both parties.

For purposes of support, net income only allows deductions from gross income for taxes, F.I.C.A. payments (i.e. Social Security), non-voluntary retirement payments, mandatory union dues and alimony paid to the other party. Gross income includes all wages, salaries, bonuses, fees, commissions, income from business or property, pension and/or other retirement, income from an estate or trust, Social Security disability or retirement benefits, temporary and permanent disability payments, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, alimony payments, and all other entitlements to money or lump sum awards.

The guideline amount looks at the combined monthly net income for both parents and the number of children. The child support award is then determined based on any applicable custody schedule and the proportion of income comprising the guideline amount. Additional expenses can be added in such as health insurance costs, child care costs, summer camp, private school tuition and unreimbursed medical expenses. These expenses will also be split between the parties in proportion to their income.

National Adoption Day is observed nationwide each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. 4,500 children were adopted on National Adoption Day last year and 400 different cities participated in some form of celebration. There have been approx. 54,500 children adopted since 2000. The month of November is National Adoption Month. This is the 20th year for recognition of National Adoption Month after President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November in 1995. The week-long celebration began in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan. 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.

Bucks County is holding its National Adoption Day, tomorrow, November 20, 2015. The celebration begins at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the main courthouse in Doylestown, PA. The celebration is spearheaded by the Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency as well as the Register of Wills and Orphans’ Court. This year one of Bucks County’s most well-known adoption attorneys, Samuel Totaro, along with his wife, Andrea, are being honored for their work in finding homes for children. A brief reception will follow the awards.

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Background checks are required for all prospective parents. The requisite checks include Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check. These background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside. At this time, requests for all three background checks can be done online. Fingerprinting is required for the FBI Criminal Background Check. If a prospective parent has lived outside of Pennsylvania in the five (5) years preceding the adoption petition, similar background checks must be acquired from each state where he or she resided.

Background checks must be less than one year old at the time of the adoption hearing. The background checks are reviewed in the context of a home study, where required, and attached to that report. Where a home study is not required, the background checks can be submitted to the court with the petition. The existence of a record does not necessarily thwart the adoption process. The court must look to the nature of the record and whether it poses risk to a child.


A creditor may run into trouble in seeking to pursue their interest through real property of a married couple. Lappas v. Brown, 335 Pa. Super. 108 (Pa. Super. 1984), established that property subject to an order of court is in custodia legis, or under wardship of the court, pending compliance with the order. In Lappas, the underlying dispute involved a defense attorney who confessed judgment to get payment for legal services rendered. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth had seized all available funds as derivative contraband. Ultimately, the attorney was unable to collect his fee due to the existing order of court regarding the forfeiture. City of Easton v. Marra, 862 A.2d 170 (2004), expanded the principle of in custodia legis to actions for divorce and equitable distribution. In City of Easton, a divorce proceeding had been pending since 1988 when the City sought collection of unpaid taxes by forcing a tax sale of the real property the parties owned. A motion to stay the sheriff’s sale was granted since the property remained in custodia legis pending final resolution and equitable distribution per the parties’ divorce action.

Another example of the principle in the context of a divorce action was illustrated in Fidelity Bank v. Carroll, 416 Pa. Super. 9 (Pa. Super. 1992). Husband had a judgment entered solely against him for unsecured loans which went into default. The bank sought to put a lien on the marital residence however the Court held the bank’s lien could not attach to the marital home since the marital home was subject to equitable distribution in the pending divorce action. “Accordingly, the Bank could acquire no greater interest in the marital home than that of [Husband]. Here, it turns out that [Husband] has no interest in the marital home. Therefore, the Bank also has no interest in the home.” Id. at 14. In summary, a creditor cannot touch the interest of a non-debtor spouse, e.g. their share of a marital home.

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