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Philadelphia Family Law and Estate Planning Law Blog

Resolving Visitation Issues Between Parents

There are a number of reasons why a parent might be tempted to refuse visitation to the other parent. However, a court may not consider these reasons appropriate enough to deny visitation. For example, a child might not like a new stepmother or stepfather, but this alone may not be a reason to deny time. Instead, the court may order the parent to spend time alone with the child and may advise the parent to talk to the child about the importance of the new partner in his or her life. Moreover, the court may ask the other parent to refrain from making disparaging comments about the new partner in front of the child and to talk to the child about how to adjust to the other parent's new life.

Further, a parent might feel that if a child does not have a bedroom at the other parent's house that this is enough reason to refuse visitation. However, this may not always be the case if the other parent is still able to provide the child with a bed, a space of his or her own, and a safe environment. Moreover, a parent is not permitted to refuse visitation if the other parent falls behind on child support, as there are other methods to compel a parent to pay support.

Child Support and the Emancipated Minor

Most parents in Pennsylvania take child support obligations seriously. There are times, however, where unusual circumstances make it difficult to know whether a parent is still obligated to provide support for a child. One of those circumstances is emancipation.

Parents generally have legal authority over and are obligated to provide support for their children until the child reaches the age of 18. However, in some cases a child may become emancipated from parents, thus ending their parental authority and obligations. Emancipation can happen under a number of conditions, including the marriage of the child, entering military service or in situations where the child becomes economically independent.

The benefits of a trust

When Pennsylvania residents are interested in ensuring that they will be able to leave their assets to family members in a particular way, a trust may be recommended to them. Wills can name certain individuals to receive a person's assets, but those assets are distributed in a lump sum. Trusts give people greater options in how property is doled out.

The way trusts are set up is that are assets put into a trust and people are designated as beneficiaries who will have access to the trust or have the money used on their behalf. A trustee is the person in charge of the trust and is responsible for distributing out its assets.

Choosing the executor and other roles in an estate plan

Choosing people for various responsibilities connected to an estate plan can be a daunting process for some people in Pennsylvania. For example, the person who is the executor or a trustee should be well-organized and good at managing money. That means that if a person's closest relative has a history of bankruptcy or issues with spending too much money, they might not be the best choice.

Different skills are needed by someone who will be in charge of making medical decisions for the person or who will be a child's guardian if the parents die. If a person has a professional background in any of these areas, they might be good choices. For example, someone who has worked in banking or finance could be a good choice for executor while a nurse could be a good choice for the person who makes medical decisions.

Using child support funds appropriately

The purpose of child support is to ensure that Pennsylvania children have a living situation that is as similar as possible to the one they experienced when their parents were married or together. Generally speaking, child support should be spent on things like food, shelter and clothing for children. It may also be spent on school supplies or medical bills.

However, not all parents spend their child support money wisely or on things that they should be. For instance, child support funds should not be used to buy a parent clothing or vacations that a child does not go on. Additionally, support money should never be used to buy tobacco or alcohol.

Child Support And Disabled Parents

A Pennsylvania parent who relies on child support can be seriously affected when the paying parent sustains a physical disability. Custodial parents and those who are required to pay child support should know how courts may handle these payments if such a situation occurs.

If a disabled parent receives disability benefits from an employer, he or she will generally be expected to continue to pay child support. However, since disability benefits are usually less than a person's regular pay, custodial parents should anticipate they will receive less child support.

Misconceptions about child custody

When Pennsylvania parents of minor children end their marriage, the issue of child custody will come up. It is often something that is decided by the courts, and there are a number of myths about how child custody works. Some of the things that people mistakenly believe are that decisions are based on gender, income or child support payments and that child custody cannot be changed.

When courts make a decision as to which parent should be granted custody of a child, they are to consider the best interests of the child. Therefore, while the gender of the parent or that person's income may play a role in the judge's determination, their decision cannot solely rest on one thing.

Digital assets require valuation for estate purposes

Increasing numbers of Pennsylvania residents possess digital assets. Some of them, such as digital photographs on a smartphone, might only have sentimental value, but other forms of digital assets could be worth quite a bit of money. An estate plan should include information about how to access a digital portfolio and assign a value to the assets.

Bitcoins, internet domain names, logos and digital music libraries present examples of potentially valuable digital assets. An online business without a physical location could be another form of digital asset. After a person dies, digital wealth needs to be included in the inventory provided to a probate court. These types of assets will also have to be listed on Form 706, the federal estate tax return form.

What happens when a custodial parent dies

If a Pennsylvania parent who has custody of a child dies, other members of the family may be concerned when it comes to who will get custody. Depending on the circumstances, some candidates who may become the child's guardian includes the noncustodial parent, grandparents, aunts or uncles, other family members or family friends.

If a noncustodial parent wishes to take custody of the child, they must ensure that paternity has been established. This is done either through a signature on the child's birth certificate by the biological father or a signed acknowledgement of paternity form. This form should be filed so that the court has it on hand. If paternity has not been established prior to the custodial parent's death, the noncustodial parent can still request a paternity test.

The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act

Pennsylvania parents who receive or are required to pay child support should be aware of the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, or DPPA. Created in 1998, it is a federal child support law that targets individuals who purposely try to avoid making child support payments by relocating to another state.

Parents who travel to another state with the express purpose of avoiding paying child support, fail to make payments for more than a year and are in arrears for more than $5,000 are subject to punishment by the DPPA. The same goes for those who relocate to other states to get out of paying what they owe, have not made payments for over two years and are delinquent for $10,000.

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