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Parent Coordinators in PA – Returning March 2019

After five years, the Parent Coordinator program, which was ended in May 2013 by the PA Supreme Court is being reinstated in a heavily revised version. The new rule which will amend rule 1915.11-1 becomes effective on March 1, 2019.

There are many changes from the previous incarnation of the Rule. The Rule will allow parent coordinators in jurisdictions that permit them.

Parent coordinators will be utilized differently than before, in that they will only issue recommendations to the court about certain custody issues when the parents cannot agree.

Parent coordinators will only be appointed in cases after a Final Custody Order has been granted and will not be used in cases where there is an active PFA.

There will be specific requirements to become a parent coordinator and the time period for an appointment in a particular case will be limited. Also, the issues that they can be used for are limited.

Among those where a parent coordinator will be able to make a recommendation to the court are:

  • custody exchanges;
  • school issues;
  • extracurricular activities;
  • child care; and
  • exchange of information.

Moreover the recommendations will be made using a specific form. There will also be a hearing format and appeal process.

Bottom line, this looks to be a well drafted amendment for a niche area of high-conflict custody cases that will expedite disputes faster than they could be addressed through normal litigation while reducing stress for all involved.

While this development in PA Custody Law will not impact all custody litigants, it provides another tool that may be used by the courts in specific circumstances.

High-Income Child Support

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently handed down a decision in the Hanrahan v. Bakker  case, which set forth major changes to how high income child support cases are to be decided.

This case marks the latest evolution of a series of changes for high income child support.

What had been the law with a prior case, changed when the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines were revised in 2010 to handle cases where the parties’ net monthly incomes exceeded $30,000. The previously used methodology was no longer utilized.

With the new case, the Supreme Court specifically addressed that in such high income cases, the reasonable needs of the child need to be considered.

For more information about child support in Pennsylvania or to discuss how the recent Hanrahan decision applies to your specific circumstances, call us: 412.303.9566.

Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act signed by Governor

On June 28, 2018, The Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act was signed by Governor Wolf after passing the PA Senate on 47-2 and the PA House of Representatives 193-0 on June 22, 2018.

House Bill 1644 printer’s number 3783 makes changes to 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 73 and created a new Title 74. The changes to Title 73 deal with Arbitration and Title 74 is the new Collaborative Law Act under 7401. The complete text of both sections is here.

This marks the beginning of a new PA law and reflects the years of hard work behind the scenes by so many collaborative professionals and lawmakers.

For the collaborative law community this is truly exciting news and for the citizens of PA, this makes the collaborative process even more legitimate and organized.

This new law should only lead to more families turning to Collaborative Law as a proven and less stressful alternative to traditional family law litigation.

To discuss Collaborative Law and how you may benefit from the process, call us for a free consultation today at 412.303.9566.

PA Supreme Court – New Decision about High Income Child Support

On June 19, 2018 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a Decision in a case involving high income child-support, which is interesting and also relevant to a certain segment of the population who may be above the guideline support amount and require a high income analysis/review by the court. Sections 1910.16-5 and 1910.16-3 are both considered and elaborated upon. Call 412.303.9566 for more information about how this may impact your case.

Stop the Stigma; Let’s Talk About Suicide

For many people, the news this week of celebrity suicides has brought this issue to the forefront. For me, I’ve been working on suicide prevention for almost 10 years.

On the one hand, it is frustrating that each day literally hundreds of deaths go unreported or overlooked by society while the loved ones and friends of those who have gone are left in a cloud of confusion and despair.

On the other hand, if the spotlight brought about by the media attention can help only one person, I guess it’s not for naught.

For reasons near to my heart I’ve been fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) nationally and locally to raise awareness and educate people on this topic.

Our fundraising efforts for the local walk resulted in our team having the honor of leading the 2017 AFSP Pittsburgh community walk from Highmark Stadium and carrying the banner.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot over the past decade and continue to learn. I can rattle off CDC statistics and demographic and socioeconomic info, but no two cases are exactly alike.

As a Family Lawyer, I always recommend that prospective and new clients speak to a therapist as part of the family law process for their own well-being and mental health. Some clients are already treating with mental health professionals and other who have been reluctant to take action have done so at my suggestion.

Family Law is tough. It’s tough for the parties, it’s tough for their children and it’s tough for their extended families and friends. It’s also tough for family lawyers, to try to help people at the most difficult times of their lives. I’m proud that I’ve always taken a unique approach to this area of the law, which I chose after having worked for several years in civil litigation for large firms.

I plan to revisit several of these issues in greater detail in due time. Right now, I want to do something extra on my site which receives pretty good traffic and can reach more people than my social media.

I updated the free resources page on the site to include a list of mental health resources and suicide prevention resources. They are also listed below.

Mental Health Resources/Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
AFSP Western PA Chapter
AFSP Find Support
Resolve Crisis Center
Western Psych
Mental Health at AGH
National Institute of Mental Health
Project Semicolon

Now that the country is having the conversation, let’s get rid of the stigma and talk honestly and openly about this leading cause of death.

Let’s stop with the questions that have always made me shudder, like “how did they do it?” Who, the F@$k cares. It’s really none of your business and doesn’t make you understand the loss any better or lessen the pain for those left behind. Stop asking that question and stop with the salacious news stories with sordid details. A loss is a loss without having to explain how it happened. That’s my one big problem with the first of the two reported stories from this past week.

It’s okay to pay tribute to the accomplishments and life’s work of those who have passed. In most cases we will never know the reason(s) why. It doesn’t matter. Some issues like relationship problems, divorce, substance abuse, money problems, criminal charges, etc. are oft mentioned as triggers or factors. Mental health issues, depression, etc. are also their own class of cases.

Regardless, I have had suicide impact my life personally, with family members, friends, colleagues, and clients all lost in the same way. Like I said, family law is tough, I try to offer my clients help where I can.

Here if you’re suffering, or someone you know is suffering there is help.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “Talk” to 741741.

Finally, be gentle with yourself and with others. You never know what someone is dealing with inside. It never hurts to be kind!

PA Governor Wolf Signs SB 844 on May 4, 2018 – New Changes coming soon to Pennsylvania Custody Law

As recently noted here on the Family Law Blog at pghdivorce.com, SB 844 passed the Pennsylvania Senate and Pennsylvania House earlier this spring and was awaiting signature by the Governor.

On Friday, May 4, 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the Bill which will be effective 60 days from its signature, on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

This means big changes to both WHO can now become involved in  PA Custody cases (standing) and WHAT will be considered for those persons seeking Custody under PA law.

Accordingly, any persons seeking to petition for custody in Pennsylvania under the new law should prepare now, since if they meet the new criteria for filing they will be able to file as of July 3, 2018.

For more information on these new developments in PA Custody Law, contact Attorney Levine today at: 412.303.9566.

BIG NEWS FOR CUSTODY in PA – Re: Standing for Custody and Grandparent Custody

On April 10, 2018 Senate Bill 844 has passed both the PA House and Senate and will become law once signed by the governor. The changes are in part, in response to the opioid crisis.

This will represent a substantial change to existing Pennsylvania Custody Law in two ways.

First, “Standing” (the ability to file for custody) is impacted.

The new law will amend section 5324 by expanding when an individual may file for Custody if: “The individual has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for a child, the individual has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child; and neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.” Certain exceptions will apply.

Next, the law will amend Section 5325 to allow Grandparents AND Great Grandparents to file for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in expanded situations.

Call 412.303.9566 for more information on these sweeping changes to PA custody Law and whether they impact or change your rights.

Attorney Levine recognized as Distinguished Professional by Noticed.co (formerly Expert Network)

Noticed.co has recognized Mr. Levine as a Distinguished Professional and has written the following: https://noticed.co/members/scott-l-levine/223ca42b350cf136 which is also copied below. We appreciate this recognition.

Scott L. Levine is a leading attorney known for his strong, compassionate, and cost-effective representation in all aspects of family law, including divorce, child custody, and alternative dispute resolution. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based lawyer is the owner of the Law Offices of Scott L. Levine, LLC, where his legal prowess over the course of his more than ten year career has earned him a myriad of awards, including Avvo’s Clients’ Choice award and being named a top ‘Under 40’ attorney by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, The National Trial Lawyers, the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys™, and the American Society of Legal Advocates, among many others.

Some of Mr. Levine’s earliest memories are of watching his father polish his shoes before going to trial. Ever since, he has gravitated towards following in his father’s footsteps. He recalls:

Watching my father over the years instilled in me a desire to help people. The law has been with me for so long; it’s just always what I have been interested in.”

With his sights set towards his childhood goal, Mr. Levine earned an undergraduate degree in legal studies at the University of Massachusetts, graduating cum laude with a certificate in mediation in 2001. He went on to pursue his J.D. at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law where he attained semester honors and was chosen to appear in the 24th Edition of Who’s Who: American Law Students. After graduating in 2004, Mr. Levine practiced civil litigation for several years before turning his focus toward helping families through one of the most difficult times in their lives. In 2008, he opened up the Law Offices of Scott L. Levine where today the 10.0/10.0 Avvo “Superb” rated lawyer is dedicated to achieving the best outcome for every family law client through zealous, thorough, and affordable representation.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Levine’s proven track record and uncompromising ethics have made him one of Pennsylvania’s top family law attorneys. He is motivated by a genuine empathy for his clients and prides himself on remaining personable and accessible throughout every domestic relations case. No matter how complicated a situation is, he strives to create a clear plan of action, using cutting-edge technologies to solve matters efficiently and effectively. Because of the difficult emotions involved with family law, Mr. Levine is a strong proponent of finding alternative dispute resolutions and in 2016 became one of a small percentage of attorneys to become certified in collaborative law. That being said, should a case need to go to trial, Mr. Levine is more than prepared to skillfully litigate on his client’s behalf.

As a nationally recognized family lawyer, it is important that Mr. Levine stay on top of prevailing trends in his field. Of note, last December the waiting period for an uncontested divorce was changed to one year from two years, which affects strategy and moves cases along faster. This not only helps the economic aspects, but more importantly brings custody to the forefront. The custody laws were also changed several years ago and have become gender neutral:

It used to be that Pennsylvania courts may favor mothers in custody actions, but now, especially in Allegheny County both parents are treated equally and decisions are made solely on the details and circumstances that reflect the best interest of the child. Recently, I obtained primary custody for a father who also sought to move to California. The move was also granted after a trial, which had to focus on the changes in custody law with regard to relocation. It was no small feat to prevail on a cross-country move, but the case we presented focused narrowly on the factors we needed to prove and supported them appropriately.”

Outside of his thriving practice, Mr. Levine is an active member of his local community. He continues his commitment to pro bono services through his involvement with the Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA). He is also a member of various professional organizations including the Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Bar Associations, the Collaborative Law Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania (CLASP), and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).

After helping countless families over the course of his career, Mr. Levine envisions a bright future ahead. Moving forward, he plans to continue the honest and compassionate legal services for which he is known while advancing and protecting the rights of his clients and their families.”