Tax Reform Bill Takes Aim at Adoption and Alimony

Tax Reform Bill Takes Aim at Adoption and Alimony

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

The recently-released House Tax Reform Bill has seemingly sent analysts and experts in all kinds of field scrambling to determine how the proposed changes may impact the rest of us. 

Family law practitioners, litigants, and policy-makers are no exception. Indeed, the Bill would eliminate certain deductions and exemptions many of our clients rely upon. Some family law veterans are concerned about the Bill's plan to eliminate the adoption tax credit. Others debate the choice to eliminate the alimony deduction used by many litigants and attorneys alike to negotiate as mutually acceptable deal in their divorce. 

As the House and Senate continue to debate the merits of the new Bill, it is important to consider how these changes may impact your case, if your matter is still pending. Be sure to speak with your attorney regarding the possible tax implications of your family law matter.

DBD Partner Jon Young Follows Up Trial Victory with a Win in the Superior Court

DBD Partner Jon Young Follows Up Trial Victory with a Win in the Superior Court

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

What happens when a home seller refuses to return escrowed funds in a home purchase gone wrong? Attorney Jon Young knows.

The home purchase began like most others. The buyers agreed to purchase a home from the sellers and put a deposit in escrow, pending an inspection of the property. The inspection revealed that the septic system was not appropriate and the well water to the home was not portable. This is where things went awry.

Though the buyers refused to repair the septic system or negotiate a credit for the repairs, they also refused to return the buyers' $70,000 deposit. That is, until Jon Young stepped in. Jon was able to secure a judgment at trial ordering the return of the funds to the buyers. In an October 26, 2017 decision, the Superior Court affirmed the ruling.

Congratulations to Jon and his clients!

 

Keeping Your Case Information Confidential

Keeping Your Case Information Confidential

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Beginning January 6, 2018, a new Pennsylvania Supreme Court rule will impact who can access information regarding your legal matter. The rule, which applies to all trial court or appellate cases filed in Pennsylvania, formally recognizes the idea that public records, including court documents, are, well, indeed public. 

In recognition of this fact, the new policy governs how records will be accessible to the public, how requests for access to records will be handled, and how litigants must file documents that are sensitive or contain confidential information. 

Attorneys and their clients must now take care to protect confidential information, such as dates of birth, financial information and social security numbers, from public access and certify that they have done so in accordance with the new policy. To remain private, this information should be kept out of filed pleadings and, instead, listed only in Confidential Information sheets, which do not become part of the public record. While all counties will utilize the Confidential Information sheet format, litigants in Montgomery County may have an extra layer of protection. Montgomery County is currently working on establishing a local rule that would require the filing of redacted and unredacted versions of pleadings, such that only judges and the parties (as well as their attorneys) can view unredacted documents. 

 

New Rule Requires Child Vaccinations for School...ASAP!

New Rule Requires Child Vaccinations for School...ASAP!

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

As another school year gets underway, parents should be aware of a new Pennsylvania state health rule which requires that their children have certain vaccinations before the first day of school.  If they don’t have these vaccinations, they will be unable to enroll and begin classes.

Under the old rule, parents had up to eight months to get their children vaccinated.  Under the new rule, the eight-month grace period has been changed to only five days.  Furthermore, the new regulations require that children receive additional vaccinations that were not previously mandated.  For example, students entering their senior year in high school must now receive a second dose of a meningitis vaccine.  Children are also now required to receive four doses of the polio vaccine.

It is unclear as to how districts will enforce these requirements and parents are still able to seek an exemption for religious, medical, or philosophical reasons.  However, the change in the rules clearly indicates that schools take vaccinations seriously and, but for good reason, children will be required to receive same. 

For more information, please read the full article from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which also includes a link to the new state rules.

Your Family Law Case and Counseling

Your Family Law Case and Counseling

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

For better or for worse, mental health and counseling are frequent topics of conversation in the offices of family law attorneys and in family law courtrooms. It comes as no surprise. As a family dissolves and possibly reconfigures in the process of divorce and/or custody, the stability of the all involved takes center stage.

For many clients, however, it can be difficult to differentiate the various mental health terminology and services referenced in their case. Below is a guide to the types of mental health services and counseling you may encounter in your family law matter:  

  1. Marriage Counseling. Marriage counseling, sometimes also referred to as couples therapy, is a type of psychotherapy. Many clients attend marriage counseling prior to separating. Clients are often surprised to hear, however, that the Divorce Code permits the Court to order marriage counseling upon the request of either party (when the no-fault grounds for divorce, as well as the fault ground of indignities, is asserted). Marriage counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees — and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
  2. Anger Management Counseling/Treatment. In the context of custody litigation, litigants  at times assert that their co-parent has anger management issues. An evaluation by a mental health professional is necessary to truly determine whether those claims are correct. If necessary, Anger Management counseling refers to the process by which a person learns how to identify stressors, take necessary steps to remain calm, and handle tense situations in a constructive, positive manner. The purpose of this type of individual counseling is to help a person learn how to control reactions and respond in a socially appropriate manner. 
  3. Co-parenting Counseling.  Co-parenting counseling is by far the most prevalent type of therapy considered and ordered by our family court judges. Communicating and working cooperatively with the other parent can be difficult, particularly in the stressful and oft-contentious process of a pending divorce. Co-parenting counseling allows parents an opportunity to talk about the best interests of their children in a neutral environment, voice concerns and/or issues and, when appropriate, to get input and advice from a professional who is experienced in working with children and families of divorce. Issues ranging from custody schedules to day-to-day parenting can be discussed. Co-parenting counseling may be short-term or long-term, as the litigants may agree or as may be ordered by the Court.
  4. Reunification Therapy/Counseling. Sometimes a child can lose contact with (or be resistant to such contact) a parent during the challenging and confusing process of separation and divorce. Reunification therapy is often sought to reunite an alienated parent with his or her child(ren). The primary goal of the therapy is to reestablish the relationship between the parent and child so that they can resume a healthy parent-child relationship. The process of reunification and the role of the reunification therapist can be complex and much depends on the source of the alienation. 

While not a form of counseling/therapy, many custody litigants will encounter the term "custody evaluation." This assessment is conducted by a mental health professional and strives to analyze the 16 custody factors for the Court prior to a custody hearing. Mental health and psychological evaluations, as well as interviews with the parents and observations of the family dynamics, are utilized. The process is short term but may take several months to complete. It may be agreed-upon by the parties but must often be ordered by the court. 

Speak with your attorney if you believe any of the above forms of counseling can be helpful to your family. 

New DUI Law: Nothing to Blow Off

New DUI Law: Nothing to Blow Off

By Robert J. Iannozzi Jr.| Esquire

A new law set to go into effect August 25, 2017 will change the way first-time DUI offenders are punished in Pennsylvania. The new law will require most first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.10 percent to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle.

Under the new law, most first-time offenders would be eligible to drive with the ignition interlock immediately. Otherwise, they would have to have their driver’s license suspended for a year before installing the interlock device for 12 months. Those who are eligible can petition PennDOT for a new Ignition Interlock Limited License, allowing them to install the device for one year and continue to drive. The law will also apply to drivers who refuse to submit to chemical testing. They will be eligible for early interlock after six months.

According to statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nearly 2 million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlock devices, including more than 78,000 instances in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.

At DBD, we keep up on the latest emerging laws and procedures to assist you. If you have a pending DUI charge or need help with expunging a previous conviction, please contact Bob Iannozzi

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US!

On August 3, 1977, three partners began Dischell Bartle & Dooley with the goal of bringing superior legal services to the Lansdale, PA area. Though our offices and our reach has expanded, our mission remains the same: to bring outstanding legal services and a sense of civil commitment to our clients and our communities. We are so honored to have served you for forty year and look forward to serving you for forty more!

The Violent Side of Divorce

The Violent Side of Divorce

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

On these pages, we often write about the divorce process or even quip about new and interesting cultural trends emerging in the area of divorce. These articles, links and stories are sometimes light-hearted or present a curious issue in the area of family law. So it's easy to forget the enormity, life-changing and possibly violent repercussions of an individual's decision to seek a divorce. This decision can come with more than just emotional turmoil and a legal battle; in many instances, it may also come with violence. 

We were recently reminded of this fact when a Centre County, PA man killed his wife and attempted to burn his house down with his young child still inside. He did so because his wife was considering a divorce. 

Protecting our clients in potential domestic violence situations is a vital consideration when advising clients about initiating a divorce matter. If you have any misgivings about your spouse's possible reaction to a divorce, be sure to discuss your concerns with your attorney. 

PA Municipalities Push Employment Regulations Forward, Despite Federal Legislative Gridlock

PA Municipalities Push Employment Regulations Forward, Despite Federal Legislative Gridlock

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Philadelphia is leading the charge among Pennsylvania municipalities - and the rest of the country - in adopting workplace regulations such as anti-discrimination ordinances and paid leave regulations. Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvania cities are following suit. However, for companies that operate throughout the Commonwealth, keeping up with the rapidly-evolving local employment laws. 

At DBD, we are keeping up with trends in employment law, both locally and nationwide. To read more about local employment law developments, click here

 

Does Marriage Have Health Benefits?

Does Marriage Have Health Benefits?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Over the past few decades, there has been a general consensus in the medical research community that there are many medical health benefits to being married. Studies have declared that married individuals live longer and happier lives than their uncoupled counterparts. 

But if that "marriage benefit" existed at all, it might be evaporating, according to a study published July 5 in the journal Social Science Quarterly. Read more....

Divorce Hits a New High AND a New Low

Divorce Hits a New High AND a New Low

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

According a new Gallup poll, "divorce" in America has hit both a new high and low record. While the overall divorce rate has dropped to its lowest point in decades, the percentage of Americans who consider divorce to be morally acceptable is at it's highest level it. Seventy-three percent of Americans consider divorce to be morally acceptable, up 14% since 2001. To read more about this Gallop poll, click here

PA Supreme Court Makes Dramatic Changes to PA Workers' Compensation Law

PA Supreme Court Makes Dramatic Changes to PA Workers' Compensation Law

By Jonathon B. Young | Esquire

Since the mid 1990’s the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act has allowed what is called “Impairment Rating Evaluations” (IRE’s). An injured worker (Claimant) who is out of work because of an accepted work injury could be forced to attend an Impairment Ratings Evaluation after his or her receipt of two years or 104 weeks of wage loss benefits.

The evaluation was performed by a qualified physician who was designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the Claimant’s level of overall body impairment under the American Medical Association AMA Impairment Guidelines. 

In Pennsylvania a Claimant having a total body impairment rating of less than 50% under the AMA Guidelines would be relegated to “partial disability status”.  While this did not affect the amount of Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits a claimant received each week, it did effectively cap their receipt of wage loss benefits to 500 weeks or roughly 9.6 years from the date of the Impairment Ratings Evaluation (IRE).

On June 20, 2017 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in PROTZ v.  WCAB (Derry Area School District). In Protz, the Supreme Court found the Impairment Ratings Evaluations process to be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. Although the retroactivity of the court’s ruling is not yet fully defined, the court’s ruling ends further modification of wage benefits by an IRE.

Specifically the decision held that Section 306(a.2) of the Pa. Workers’ Compensation Act was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.  The court’s opinion makes clear that the entirety of Section 306(a.2) is unconstitutional.  Therefore, effective immediately, the Department of Labor & Industry/ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will no longer designate physicians to perform Impairment Rating Evaluations.

If your benefits have been modified as a result of a prior IRE, or you are unsure and have questions, pleasespeak to DBD Partner, AttorneyJonathan B. Young to determine your options.   All initial consultations are free of charge.  

At Dischell, Bartle & Dooley we stand ready to serve you in many areas of law.  Give us a call.