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Below is the press release that announces Attorney Gearty’s award from the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys.

PRESS RELEASE

 

Justin C. Gearty, Jr. Has Been Nominated and Accepted as Two Years
AIOFLA’S 10 Best in Pennsylvania For Client Satisfaction

The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys has recognized the exceptional performance of
Pennsylvania’s Family Law Attorney Justin C. Gearty, Jr. as Two Years 10 Best Family Law Attorney for
Client Satisfaction.
The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys is a third-party attorney rating organization that
publishes an annual list of the Top 10 Family Law Attorneys in each state. Attorneys who are selected to
the “10 Best” list must pass AIOFLA’s rigorous selection process, which is based on client and/or peer
nominations, thorough research and AIOFLA’s independent evaluation. AIOFLA’s annual list was created
to be used as a resource for clients during the attorney selection process.

One of the most significant aspects of the selection process involves attorneys’ relationships and
reputation among his or her clients. As clients should be an attorney’s top priority, AIOFLA places the
utmost emphasis on selecting lawyers who have achieved significant success in the field of Family Law
without sacrificing the service and support they provide. Selection criteria therefore focus on attorneys
who demonstrate the highest standards of Client Satisfaction.

We congratulate Justin C. Gearty, Jr. on this achievement and we are honored to have him as a Two
Years AIOFLA Member.
You can contact Justin C. Gearty, Jr. directly at: 717-490-6325 or www.geartylawoffices.com.

Under Pennsylvania Law, there are typically 2 ways of obtaining a divorce. The first way is a divorce that is completed by consent. This is completed under section 3301c of the PA Divorce Code. The requires the filing and serving of a divorce complaint, a 90 day waiting period, followed by the execution of the divorce consents by both parties.

Often times, one party or the other may refuse to sign a consent. For example, spousal support or alimony pendente lite is often awarded to the lower earning spouse. The support award ends being anywhere between 30% and 40% (depending on whether there is also a child support award). Those support payments will continue until the divorce is completed, often times regardless of the length of the marriage. We have seen this result in people paying for support for 2 or more years for a marriage that lasted that long or less, which seems patently unfair. The had required 2 years of separation before a divorce could be completed without consent. Fortunately, the law was modified, which went into effect in December of 2016. The law, found under section 3301d of the PA Divorce Code, now allows for the completion of a divorce following a one year separation. Under section 3301d, if one party refuses to consent, the divorce can still be finalized without that persons consent once there has been one year of separation.

If you or someone you know needs representation, contact the PA Divorce Law Firm of Justin C. Gearty Jr. We offer a free, no obligation phone consultation. We are often able to offer a flat fee for divorces under 3301c and 3301d when there are no corresponding property or child custody claims. Call today for more information. 717-490-6325

At Gearty Law, we strive to provide a wide range of services in various areas of law so we can assist each client with all of his or her needs. We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting new clients seeking a school law attorney. We have attorneys on staff prepared to represent you and your child with a range of potential issues that the student may have. Having a school law attorney will help ensure that your student’s due process rights are protected and that your child is receiving the appropriate education. We can assist with IEP’s (individualized education plans), disciplinary matters, issues that may arise with children in a gifted program, issues that may arise with your college student, and various other matters involving school law.

Having a child with special needs impacts every area of a parent and child’s life, not the least of which is education. At Gearty Law Offices we understand how important it is for a child to receive an appropriate education. Education is the foundation of every child’s future. If your child has special education needs we can help you at any stage of your child’s development, from the determination of your child’s need for modifications for his or her education through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through representation at a Due Process Hearing when you cannot obtain the required modifications from the school. From early intervention (pre-school ages 3-5) through High School support may be available to assist your child and Gearty Law is here to help you through that process.
In Pennsylvania, under 22 Pa. Code §14.101 a child of at least 3 years of age and who meets the criteria of a disability under Federal law 34 CFR 300.200.J is eligible for early intervention services. For school age children Federal Law provides for a free appropriate public education to all children residing within the state between the ages of 3 and 21. 34 CFR 300.101. Let us assist you in ensuring your child’s educational needs are met.

For a free phone consultation with a qualified school law attorney, call us today!

PENNSYLVANIA PROTECTION FROM ABUSE PROCEEDINGS

LANCASTER AND CENTRAL PA PFA DEFENSE ATTORNEY/

LANCASTER AND CENTRAL PA PFA PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

            The Attorneys at Gearty Law Offices have experience successfully defending individuals against false PFA’s that were filed against them and our Attorneys have experience successfully protecting victims of domestic violence by obtaining protection from abuse Orders.

Under Pennsylvania Law, a person can obtain a PFA by proving by the preponderance of the evidence that one or more of the following has occurred:  1. Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon; 2. Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury; 3.  The infliction of false imprisonment; 4.   Physically or sexually abusing minor children;  5.  Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

A PFA can only be entered when one or the more of the above occurs by a household member, past or present intimate or sexual partner, or parties that share biological parenthood (which the Court’s have interpreted this to include step-siblings in certain situations).

Unfortunately, parties involved in Divorce and/or Child Custody proceedings have begun using PFA proceedings to try to gain an advantage in their custody or divorce proceedings and do so by bringing false allegations of abuse.  The Attorneys at Gearty Law Offices have seen numerous examples of this through the years and have been successful in getting such false PFA’s dismissed.  The law requires that the allegations brought in a PFA complaint be proven by a preponderance of the evidence and the burden of proof is on the Plaintiff.  If the Plaintiff is unable to meet that burden of proof, then the PFA must be dismissed.

In addition to defending against false PFA’s, Gearty Law also represents victims of abuse by representing them through PFA proceedings.  If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse or has had false abuse allegations brought against them, contact Gearty Law today for a free phone consultation at: 717-490-6325.

The Attorneys at Gearty Law Offices obtained a favorable opinion today from the Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding a child custody appeal.  A few months ago, a client came to Gearty Law after receiving an unfavorable child custody order at the trial level (the client had other legal counsel representing him at trial).  Upon coming to Gearty Law, we were able to find several errors of law that were in the custody order and opinion.  Gearty Law then filed an appeal on the client’s behalf to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Pennsylvania Child Custody Law requires the court to consider 16 different factors when making a custody determination.  In opinion listed below, the Superior Court lists those factors as well as some recent caselaw that applies these factors.

If you or anyone you know received an unfavorable decision at trial (whether in family law, criminal law, personal injury law, or other area of law), please contact the Appellate Attorneys at Gearty Law Offices to see if you have a potential issue for appeal to a higher court.  The Lancaster PA and Central PA Appeals/Appellate Attorneys at Gearty Law are here to assist with all of your appellate needs.

(Below are parts of the Superior Court’s opinion that explains the child custody factors and custody laws)

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

 

 

In his brief on appeal, Father raises four issues, as follows.

1. Whether the [trial] court erred and abused its discretion by

awarding the mother primary physical custody of the children by

misapplying and/or ignoring the factors outlined in

[23 Pa.C.S.A.] § 5328[(a)]?

Initially, we observe that, as the custody trial in this matter was held

in August of 2012, the new Child Custody Act, 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 5321-5340

(the “Act”), is applicable. C.R.F. v. S.E.F., 45 A.3d 441, 445 (Pa. Super.

2012) (holding that, if the custody evidentiary proceeding commences on or

after the effective date of the Act, i.e., January 24, 2011, the provisions of

the Act apply).

§ 5328. Factors to consider when awarding custody

(a) Factors.—In ordering any form of custody, the court shall

determine the best interest of the child by considering all

relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors

which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit

frequent and continuing contact between the child and another

party.

(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or

member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued

risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can

better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of

the child.

(3) The parental duties performed by each party on

behalf of the child.

(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s

education, family life and community life.

(5) The availability of extended family.

 (6) The child’s sibling relationships.

(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on

the child’s maturity and judgment.

(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the

other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where

reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child

from harm.

(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving,

stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child

adequate for the child’s emotional needs.

(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily

physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special

needs of the child.

(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.

(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability

to make appropriate child-care arrangements.

(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the

willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one

another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by

another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to

cooperate with that party.

(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or

member of a party’s household.

(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or

member of a party’s household.

(16) Any other relevant factor.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328; E.D. v. M.P., 33 A.3d 73, 80-81, n.2 (Pa. Super.

2011).

 

In E.D., 33 A.3d at 79-80, the panel instructed that the “best interests

of the child” analysis requires the trial court to conduct a consideration of all

of the sixteen factors listed in section 5328(a) (emphasis added). In E.D.,

we addressed whether the trial court had failed to consider the factors set

forth in section 5328 regarding the custody award. After quoting the trial

court’s summary disposition of the issue, this Court instructed that, on

remand, the trial court should conduct a thorough analysis based on the

factors set forth in section 5328(a). Id. at 82.

Subsequently, in J.R.M. v. J.E.A., 33 A.3d 647, 652 (Pa. Super.

2011), this Court addressed an appeal by a father from an order awarding

primary physical custody of the parties’ child. The panel determined that the

trial court erred as a matter of law in basing its decision almost exclusively

on the fact that the child was breastfeeding, and that the parties had

difficulty communicating with each other. Id. We concluded that the trial

court failed to assess all of the factors required to be considered under

section 5328(a). Thus, we vacated the award and remanded the matter,

stating that this Court could not make independent factual determinations.

Id., at 652 n.5.

 

Relying on the decision in J.R.M., Father argues that, in its order, the

trial court failed to consider all of the factors set forth in section 5328(a).

Thus, he seeks for this Court to either fashion a new order that significantly

increases Father’s periods of partial custody, or remand the matter to the

trial court with instructions for the court to engage in further fact-finding

with regard to each of the sixteen factors.

Attorney Gearty was recently interviewed and gave his expert opinion on the topic of unmarried couples living together.  This interview was published in a Lancaster based newspaper and the full article is published below.  As you will see, there are various considerations to be made prior to entering into a lease with another person.  Married couples enjoy various privileges that may not exist for unmarried couples.  If you are considering entering into a lease with your partner who you are not married to, we would encourage you to contact Gearty Law Offices to discuss the pros and cons before entering into any such arrangement.  Furthermore, it is always suggested that you have an experienced attorney review your lease before signing such an important legal document.  As a general practice law firm, we have experience handling various legal issues throughout various areas of law.  Gearty Law Offices has experience drafting, reviewing, and litigating leases (both simple and complex).

Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era

A new lease on life?

A new lease on life?

February 28, 2013

BY KIMBERLY MARSELAS, Correspondent

A new baby was due, and so was the rent.

That didn’t keep Brian Hoffman’s tenant from cheating on his girlfriend, or that girlfriend from begging to be let out of a yearlong lease the couple had only recently signed.

Tears or no tears, landlords draw a hard line when it comes to cohabitants who want to split up while living together. During his 20 years in property management, Hoffman has issued one warning hundreds of times, whether he’s talking to in-love, but unmarried, tenants or best friends about to become roommates.

“Your relationship doesn’t matter to me, but your arrangements with regard to this lease will matter to me,” says Hoffman, whose Yeager Agency rents out dozens of units across northern Lancaster County. “If you move in and find out that she is an absolute bum or if she doesn’t respond to the lease, I’m going to hold you responsible.”

In the case of the expectant parents, Hoffman says the man used that fact to his advantage, telling his girlfriend he didn’t care if she disliked his cheating. She had to continue paying rent and utilities. They eventually both moved, Hoffman says, but not before forfeiting a security deposit and paying thousands in termination fees.

If breaking up is hard to do, try moving out when your name is still on a rental agreement. Paying off the remainder of a lease or early-exit fees — in addition to rent on a new place — can be financially devastating. Sticking it out and enduring months of anxiety isn’t a pleasant alternative.

Rent.com recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. renters to find out what life is like for those who break up while living together. The site found that 38 percent of renters have ended a personal relationship while living together, and 61 percent of those people kept living together for a month or more.

Not everyone is willing to make that kind of sacrifice. Sometimes a breakup means one party skips out, leaving the remaining tenant holding a mounting stack of bills.

David Boyd, property manager for Crossroads Property Management’s more than 500 homes in Lancaster, Harrisburg and York, has dealt with many a renter whose special someone wasn’t as special as he or she seemed. If the one left behind can’t muster the monthly rental and utility fees, they may be forced out as well. Boyd says in some cases, like that of a single mom, he might try to give a tenant a few extra days to work out payment.

“You never like telling someone, ‘You’re not paying your bills. You have to leave’,” Boyd says. “You want to help them, but you’re also responsible to the property owner.”

Lancaster attorney Justin C. Gearty Jr. says landlords can make a claim with the local magistrate, seeking to evict the person still in the unit, terminate the other person’s right to access the unit and win a monetary judgment against both tenants.

If one tenant moves out, Boyd says the other should always notify the property manager. In some cases, the landlord may want to run a new credit check to see if the person qualifies to rent the home based on one income. The lease can be amended to remove one name if both parties agree. In that case, only the roommate left behind will be responsible for the remainder of the lease term.

Rent.com’s survey found that 25 percent of renters who remained roommates after a breakup did so “because they didn’t see why they should be the one to have to leave.” If both partners want to keep the space, it may be time to consult a professional.

“They could retain a lawyer or mediator to help them reach some sort of agreement,” says Gearty, adding that any new arrangement will be at the sole discretion of the landlord.

Psychologist Michelle Callahan, a relationship expert who teamed up with Rent.com on the breakup survey, lists a number of ways to determine who gets to keep the rental unit. Someone who works from home or cares for children there might have more incentive to stay. If the apartment is particularly close to one person’s job, that person might feel entitled to remain.

Of course, the person who wants out of the relationship may just want out of the home, too. Having an exit plan is something both renters should weigh before ever signing a lease, Gearty says.

When a contract’s involved, breaking up gets complicated and may be stalled.

STEP-PARENT ADOPTION AND TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

Our Lancaster and Central PA adoption attorney has helped many families with their adoption. Completing an adoption can be one of the happiest days in a families life, so it is important to have a caring and competent attorney on your side through the legal maze of an adoption process.

I. Termination of parental rights
We frequently get calls from potential clients asking if they can have their parental rights terminated or on the other hand, we get calls from prospective clients asking if we can terminate the other parent’s rights. A parents’ rights cannot be terminated unless it is done as part of an adoption, such as through a step-parent adoption or through a child dependency proceeding, ie: a children and youth proceeding.
If a party does plan to go through with an adoption, the first step is to have the other biological parent’s rights terminated. This can be done one of two ways. First, it can be done with the consent of the parent. The second way is to terminate that parent’s rights involuntarily, which requires an evidentiary hearing and the statutory requirements must be proven. If the party consents, he/she has thirty days to revoke that consent.

II. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights.
If a parent refuses to consent to the termination of his/her rights, an involuntary termination petition can be filed. To be successful on this petition, one of the following grounds must be met:
1. Abandonment – ie: parent not involved and not supporting the child for a period of six months or longer.
2. Chronic abuse or neglect
3. Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
4. Long-term mental illness of the parent or deficiency with the parent
5. Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity of the parent
6. Failure to support or maintain contact with the child
7. Involuntary termination of the parents rights to another child.
One of the above criteria will need to be proven by clear and convincing evidence to have a parent’s rights involuntarily terminated.

III. Adoption
Once grounds for the termination of parental rights are established, the next step is to proceed with the adoption itself. This will require the filing of an adoption petition. Prior to the date of the adoption hearing, a home-study will be conducted. Once the home-study is completed, the final step is to have a hearing. Generally, the hearings are relatively brief and the adoptive parents will just need to answer a few questions to confirm that they desire to adopt and will answer some questions to establish that it would be in the best interest of the child or children to be adopted.

IV. Effect of Adoption
Once the adoption is completed, the judge will sign an adoption decree and the original birth certificate will be sent back to the department of vital statistics. The department of vital statistics will correct the birth certificate to add the name of the adoptive parent, which will replace the name of the biological parent that was previously listed on the birth certificate. If it is a step-father that is adopting, the child’s name can also be changed once the adoption is completed.
The adoptive parent will have all of the rights, responsibilities and obligations that a biological parent has. For example, if a step-father adopts and he later divorces the biological mother, he would have the right to seek primary custody or visitation of the child and he would also have the obligation to pay child support if the biological mother retained custody of the child. As another example, if the adoptive parent would die, his/her estate would treat the adoptive child the same way a biological child is treated.

If you are considering an adoption, feel free to contact us for a free and confidential phone consultation. Our Lancaster and Central PA Adoption Attorney would be more than happy to assist you, your family, and your child/children through this exciting life event!

CHILD CUSTODY RELOCATION LAWS IN PENNSYLVANIA

Our Lancaster/York PA Child Custody Attorney, Justin C. Gearty Jr., Esquire, recently handled a case where his client was permitted to leave the state with the minor child. Attorney Gearty represent the mother in this case.

In this case, the mother had lived in the York PA area with the father of the child. She had no other family or friends in the area and was originally from up-state New York. The relationship between her and the father eventually fell apart leaving her nowhere to go in the York area. She ended up leaving the home and moving back to New York, which was about a seven hour drive from York PA. Shortly after she left, the father filed a child custody action in the York County Court of Common Pleas. An initial custody conciliation conference was scheduled and the mother showed up without an attorney. Following this conference, the court entered an order giving the parties shared physical and legal custody of the child. This order resulted in the child being with the father for two weeks and then with the mother for two weeks (the child was not of school age yet). The mother then retained our Child Custody Lawyer, Justin C. Gearty Jr., Esquire. Attorney Gearty appeared on her behalf at the pre-trial conference. Following the pre-trial conference we prepared a Gruber Memo, which is a case that deals with custody relocation issues. Attorney Gearty then began preparing the case for trial and represented the mother at trial. After the court heard all of the evidence, the court awarded the mother majority physical custody and the court approved her relocation. Under this Order, the mother would have the child for the school year with short periods of visitation with the father and the father had summer break minus the mother’s periods of vacation time.

Relocation in child custody cases can become complicated. The PA Child Custody Act has strict requirements that must be followed. The first requirement is that the parent that plans to relocate must send notice to the non-relocating parent. The Child Custody Act outlines the items that must be included in this notice, which includes but is not limited to: the address of the new residence, the new school district, the new phone number, the reason for the move, and a notice to the non-relocating parent that if the non-relocating parent doesn’t respond, the court will approve the relocation. This notice must be sent via certified mail and must be sent at least 60 days prior to the proposed move. Along with the notice, a counter-affidavit must be provided to the non-relocating parent. If the other parent does not agree to the proposed relocation, he/she must then filed the counter-affidavit with the court. Once the counter-affidavit is filed with the court, an expedited hearing will be scheduled where the court will determine whether or not to approve the relocation.

The PA Child Custody Act outlines multiple factors that the court must consider when deciding whether or not to approve the proposed relocation. As with most child custody matters, the controlling issue is: what is in the best interest of the child. With that being the controlling interest, the court will consider how the proposed location will enhance the child’s life. In addition to looking at how the relocation will benefit the child, the court will also look at the non-relocating parent’s relationship with the child and the court need to consider whether alternative visitation arrangements can be made if the relocation was approved.

If you are considering a relocation, contact us today for a free consultation.