A presumption of paternity arises where a child is born into an intact marriage. In that circumstance, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the husband will be deemed to be the father. Paternity by estoppel acts to impose an obligation on the party who holds themselves out as a father to the child and supports the child to continue to support the child.

In K.E.M. v. P.C.S. 29 A.3d 843 (2012), Appellant, mother of G.L.M., brought an action for support against Appellee, the alleged father of G.L.M. Appellant was married to H.M.M. at the time G.L.M. was born. Further, H.M.M. had supported the child and acted as a father figure to G.L.M. for most of the child’s life. Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the support action on the basis of a presumption of paternity and paternity by estoppel.

Appellee’s argument that H.M.M. had acted as G.L.M.’s father prompted the lower court and Superior Court to grant his motion to dismiss the support action against him and continue to hold H.M.M. responsible for G.L.M.’s support. In this case, H.M.M. submitted to a paternity test which ruled him out as the father. Accordingly, the presumption of paternity was defeated.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ultimately reversed the decision and remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the purpose of paternity by estoppel is to keep families intact and protect the best interest of the child by shielding them from claims of illegitimacy and, potentially, a broken family. Accordingly, the court would need to be convinced that it was in the best interests of G.L.M. to continue to recognize Appellant’s husband, H.M.M., as the father. No such evidence was presented at the hearing. In summary, paternity by estoppel is still a viable principle in Pennsylvania, however, it must be supported by an analysis of what’s in the child’s best interests to succeed.

A spouse can elect to retake his or her maiden name during a divorce. In Pennsylvania, pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, “any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.” It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. There is a $9 filing fee payable to the court for the certified copies of the name change decree.

For New Jersey, you may also elect to retake your maiden name in the context of your divorce. Good practice is to include the request to retake your maiden name in the initial complaint. You can amend the complaint subsequently or even request the relief orally prior to your final divorce judgment. If you are looking to resume your maiden name after the divorce has been finalized, you must file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a $50 filing fee. This process is still simpler than doing a civil name change.

Once you have the signed/certified Order granting the name change, you can take the Order to your local Social Security Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, etc. to effectuate the actual change of name.

It is not uncommon for self-employed parties or parties with ownership interests in a business to have some expenses paid for by the business. Examples may include paying their cell phone bill, car payments or repairs, travel expenses, entertainment costs, membership dues, etc. Many of these expenses can subsequently be deducted as legitimate business expenses in terms of preparing a business tax return however, they are treated differently in the context of family law. The issue of how personal perks are being paid often arises when trying to identify income available for child or spousal support. The value of some of these “business expenses” can be added back to a party’s income for purposes of a support calculation.

Business perks are also relevant in the context of a business valuation. An income based approach is most popular for small businesses. This method of valuation focuses on the cash flow of the business. The reasonable compensation of the party owner should be deducted from the cash flow of the business in doing a valuation however, the personal perks paid by the business on the owner’s behalf would need to be accounted for and subsequently, necessary adjustments would need to be made. Removing all expenses representing personal perks paid to the owner will increase the total income of the business and in turn, increase the value. If there is more than one owner a similar review of what business expenses are actually personal perks should be done for the other owners as well.

Guardianship is an option for any individual who has trouble or is incapable of making their own decisions. A court may appoint a guardian and grant the guardian authority to make decisions on behalf of the individual who has been deemed incapacitated by the court. The standard for incapacity involves an analysis of whether the individual can manage their financial resources and/or meet essential requirements for their own health and safety. A petition should be filed with the court to initiate a guardianship proceeding. Shortly after filing a petition you will be assigned a hearing date. The petitioning party has the burden of proof to demonstrate guardianship is absolutely necessary. This generally involves securing expert testimony from a treating physician regarding the extent of the incapacity and necessity for a guardian.

Notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition must be served on the individual for whom guardianship is sought (Respondent) explaining in plain language the possible ramifications of the forthcoming legal proceedings. Notice must also be given to additional interested parties such as other family members. The court’s decision will address the nature and duration of any guardianship to be instituted. For example, the court will state whether it is limited guardianship or plenary guardianship. Limited guardianship is appropriate where the Respondent is not totally incapacitated and only needs assistance with certain areas and so the court would dictate what specific powers the guardian will have. The appointed guardian must act for the best interests of the Respondent and file a report each year with the court regarding the ongoing care of the Respondent. The Respondent or any other interested party can petition the court to modify or terminate the guardianship if circumstances change or if the appointed guardian is not acting appropriately.

A no-fault divorce means that neither party is asserting that the other party did something wrong. Instead, the assertion is that the marriage is simply irretrievably broken. In Pennsylvania, a no-fault divorce may be granted after a waiting period of 90 days provided both parties consent to the divorce at the conclusion of the waiting period. This waiting period is often referred to as a cooling-off period. It is utilized to give the parties an opportunity to reflect on the severity of the decision to get a divorce and/or seek marital counseling to see if the relationship can be saved. The 90-day waiting period begins to run from date of service of the Complaint in Divorce.

At this point, almost half of the states have some waiting period between when you file and when you can be divorced however, there does not appear to be any correlation between the length of the cooling off period versus the rate of divorce. New Jersey and Arkansas have longer waiting periods for a no-fault divorce. New Jersey has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country while Arkansas has one of the highest divorce rates. Pennsylvania does specifically indicate its policy behind the mandatory waiting period is to “encourage and effect reconciliation and settlement of differences between spouses” as the “protection and preservation of the family is of paramount concern.” 23 Pa. C.S. 3102.

An appraisal may be needed to ascertain an accurate value of an asset in a divorce or estate matter. Assets that may require an appraisal include real property, jewelry, vehicles, antiques, and even retirement plans. Parties may elect to use one appraiser or have their own independent appraisers. When choosing an appraiser, it is important to make sure the appraiser is licensed or certified. A licensed appraiser has met the minimum requirements for practice. A certified appraiser must complete additional classroom hours and practice in the field. A list of all licensed and certified appraisers is available online. You should also make sure the appraiser you select has prior experience with the exact type of appraisal sought. This would include experience in the geographic market, the type of property, and intended use of the property.

You should discuss with the appraiser if any information you supply to them is confidential and should not be included in their report. You should also make it clear who the appraiser is permitted to discuss the appraisal with and/or share the report with. For example, you may not want to share certain information with the opposing party. You should be clear about the valuation date for the appraisal. This may be the date of purchase, date of separation, date of death, or current value. Per the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, appraisers are not permitted to revise an appraisal to account for a different valuation date after completion. Instead, the standards require a completely new appraisal which is not cost-efficient. Finally, you should ascertain whether your appraiser would be available as witness if their testimony in a court hearing becomes necessary. This is generally an additional cost above the cost of the appraisal itself.