Tag Archives: agreement

Series on Adoptions: Can the Parties to an Adoption Agree to Allow Contact Between the Child and the Natural Family?

By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire

In honor of National Adoption Month (November), I launched last month a ten part series on Adoptions in Pennsylvania.  The eighth piece in this series focuses on the question: can the parties agree to allow contact between the child and the natural family?  If you are interested in an adoption, I encourage you to please return and read my articles on adoptions.

Yes!  But only if all parties are in agreement.  23 Pa.C.S. § 2731, et al. provides for “an option for adoptive parents and birth relatives to enter into a voluntary agreement for ongoing communications or contact that (1) is in the best interest of the child; (2) recognizes the parties’ interests and desires for ongoing communication or contact; (3) is appropriate given the role of the parties to the child’s life; and (4) is subject to approval by the courts.”

To gain court approval, the agreement must be entered into knowingly and voluntarily (demonstrated by a signed affidavit from each party) and be in the best interest of the child.  To determine the best interest of the child, § 2735(b)(2) provides the following factors for the court to consider: (a) the length of time that the child has been under actual care, custody, and control of a person other than a birth parent and the circumstances relating thereto (think natural grandparent who cared for the child); (b) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with birth relatives and other persons who routinely interact with the birth relatives; (c) the adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community; (d) willingness and ability of the birth relative to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and prospective adoptive parent; (e) willingness and ability of the prospective adoptive parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the birth relative; and (f) any other relevant factor.  This agreement cannot be entered into with the child’s consent if the child is at least 12 years old.

If you, a family member, friend, or coworker are considering an adoption, please call our office and setup a free initial consultation.

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Free Knux! — but not in Pennsylvania. Can you file for custody of a pet?

By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire

A story in the national headlines this week raises the interesting question of whether you can file for custody of a pet in Pennsylvania.  According to msnbc.com, Craig Dershowitz of New York, reportedly, spent over $60,000 in legal fees attempting to gain custody of the dog he shared with his ex-girlfriend, who now lives in California with the dog, Knuckles, a pug/beagle mix.  The case is still pending and Mr. Dershowitz is now fundraising to continue his legal cross-country legal battle, which has allegedly drained his life savings.

Fortunately for Mr. Dershowitz, the case is limited to New York and California and not Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania, you cannot file for custody of a pet.  To the shock of most pet lovers, in Pennsylvania, an animal is treated under the law as property, the same as your kitchen table or 401k.  If you are married, the pet would be dealt with by the court during the divorce as part of equitable distribution. If you are dating and break-up with your significant other, you would be limited to general civil actions, which may including an action for replevin.  Your remedies may be limited to money damages, which would likely be based on the retail value of the dog and will not take into consideration sentimental value.

As a result, if you and your spouse/significant other own a pet, the best protection is a written agreement that clarifies ownership and includes a provision for the resolution of any dispute over possession of the pet.  You will want to consider who owns the pet or, if you both own the pet, how is the ownership interest divided between the two of you (e.g., 50/50, 75/25).  Likewise, you will want to consider how any disputes should be resolved (e.g., private mediation, money damages to one party, right of one party to buyout the others interest).

If you and your spouse/significant other own a pet and would like to discuss a written agreement concerning the pet, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.  Our office also handles pet trusts, to provide care for your pet upon your passing, and matters of equine law.  We can be reached at 610-845-3803.

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Filed under Equine Law, Family Law