CYS (or CYF) – Part 2

This article is part 2 of a series about CYS (or CYF). At the shelter hearing, CYS will usually argue that the child is not safe in his or her parent’s home. If the judge agrees, the child will frequently be placed either with relatives or in foster care. The priority is supposed to be to place the child with relatives first. But I have been surprised by the number of occasions where the court did not place the child with relatives. This placement with foster care probably happens more than it should, because the parents fail to hire an attorney for the shelter hearing. Consequently, the judge does not become aware that the homes of relatives are available and suitable.

It is better for the child to be placed with relatives, for several reasons. First, the child resides with someone familiar–family! Second, if more than one child is involved, the children will more likely be kept together (rather than being split up with different foster parents). Third, if the parent’s rights as parents are eventually terminated, the relatives are in a good position to adopt (rather than foster parents adopting them).

The shelter hearing is an important proceeding and should not be taken lightly. Do not rely on a court-appointed attorney, as such attorneys usually have a large caseload and will not give your case much attention. Increase your odds of getting your children back or having them placed with relatives, by hiring our firm to represent you at the shelter hearing.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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CYS (or CYF) – Part 1

The function of CYS (sometimes called CYF) is to protect children. CYS frequently gets involved with a family, once someone has filed a report against that family. The informant remains confidential, but the family is entitled to see the report. If the risk to the child in that family appears small, CYS might only recommend services for the family and monitor the situation. If the risk appears large, CYS commonly acquires an emergency order from Juvenile Division and removes the child from his or her home.

Typically a shelter hearing then occurs within 72 hours thereafter. The family is entitled to be heard at this hearing, and has the opportunity to persuade the judge to return the child. Frequently, parents do not bring an attorney to this shelter hearing, believing they can persuade the judge themselves; frequently, these parents are surprised and do not succeed. The procedure and law here can be confusing. Our firm can help you present a strong case at this shelter hearing, with the goal of getting your child back.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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International Custody: Other Parent Removed Child

Another scenario with international custody cases is the following. You and the other parent live in the United States with your child. The other parent takes the child to a foreign country and does not return. What can you do?

The United States has signed a treaty with many other countries, called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If the foreign country has also signed this treaty, then you would have to ask a court in that foreign country to enforce the treaty. That foreign court should then order the return of your child to the U.S. Some countries have not signed the treaty (some countries from the Middle East and Africa). In this unfortunate case, you would have to hope that a foreign court would grant you some kind of custody order, although that order can be difficult to acquire.

Preventing your child from leaving the U.S. may be your best protection against an international custody case. (Beware that some parents will say they are taking the child to a foreign country just to visit relatives, but then they do not come back.) You can refuse to obtain a passport for your child, as it requires the signatures of both parents (until a certain age). If your child has a passport, you can seize it and prevent the other parent from using it. You can also request a court order from your local custody court, asking that the other parent be prohibited from taking the child outside the U.S.

If you need help finding and working with a foreign attorney for an international custody case, our firm can assist you. If you and your child live in Western Pennsylvania, we can help request a local custody order, barring the other parent from leaving the U.S. with your child.

 

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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International Custody: You Removed the Child

An international custody dispute can develop when parents are temporarily residing in a foreign country. You might return to the United States with your child, leaving the other parent in the foreign country. You refuse to return the child. Meanwhile, the other parent is demanding that the child be returned to the foreign country. Must you return the child?

The United States has signed a treaty with other countries to handle this situation: the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty requires the child to be returned to the country of the child’s habitual residence. As you can see, which country the child habitually resides in can be argued by both sides. If your move to the foreign country was temporary, you can argue that the U.S. is where the child habitually resides. By contrast, if you have lived in the foreign country for quite some time, then the other parent can argue that the foreign country is the habitual residence.

Even if the habitual residence is the foreign country, there are some exceptions when the child does not have to be returned. The child in many cases need not be returned after the expiration of one year, if the child is settled well in his or her new environment. Retention of the child may also be permitted, if there is a grave risk that return of the child would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. The court also has discretion to deny return of the child, if the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take into account the views of the child.

If you brought your child back to the U.S. and are facing an international custody dispute, feel free to contact our firm for a free consultation.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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Adoption by Relatives

Pennsylvania law permits relatives to adopt children who are their relatives. I represented an aunt and uncle whose niece and nephews had been removed from their parent’s home by CYS (the children’s agency). CYS then placed the children in foster care, splitting up the children. CYS wanted the different foster parents to adopt, rather than the children’s own aunt and uncle. This aunt and uncle wanted to adopt all three children, keeping the children together. If the children were to be adopted by the foster parents, the children’s legal ties to their parents and the rest of their family tree would be terminated.

The lower court dismissed the aunt and uncle’s adoption petitions, based on CYS’s argument that permission to adopt must be obtained from CYS, who was not giving its permission. I appealed this case to the Superior Court and won. The case eventually made its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where I also won. See In re Adoption of J.E.F., 587 Pa. 650. The Supreme Court agreed with me: that the lower court should be deciding who gets to adopt, not the children’s agency. The Supreme Court held that CYS permission can be dispensed with by the lower court if it is in the children’s best interests.

This landmark decision opened the door to allow anyone to petition to adopt–with or without CYS’s permission.

If children who are your relatives have been removed by CYS and you wish to adopt them, feel free to contact our firm for aggressive legal representation.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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Grandparent Custody

Grandparents have custody rights to their grandchildren under Pennsylvania law. The relevant statute is 23 Pa.C.S. section 5313. Certain conditions must be met however. Those conditions differ based on whether the grandparent is seeking only partial custody or shared/full custody.

Partial custody is basically anything less than half the time, such as two weekends per month. To receive partial custody, the grandchild must have lived with the grandparent for at least twelve months and then have been removed from the grandparent’s home by the parents. Partial custody must be in the grandchild’s best interests and not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

Suppose the grandparent seeks custody for half the time or more. The grandparent must have served the role of parent for twelve months. Or the grandchild must have been determined a dependent under the Juvenile Act. Or the grandchild must be at substantial risk from parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental illness. It must be in the best interests of the grandchild to be in the grandparent’s custody and not with either parent.

If you are a grandparent, our firm can assist you with seeking custody through the court or with negotiating an arrangement with the parents.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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Property Division

Once you separate, you will need to divide your assets and debt–known as property division. Pennsylvania law requires an equitable division (i.e. a fair one). However, property divisions are not always 50/50. This division should be done sooner rather than later. If not addressed, debt can go unpaid, damaging your credit and increasing the debt with penalties and collection services.

An attorney usually helps the parties reach an agreement about the property division, an agreement which is reduced to writing. That document is then presented to the court to be converted into a court order. As you might expect, that court order is then enforceable. If one party later does not follow the property division, then the non-compliant party can be taken to court for compliance. The property division is usually concluded before the divorce decree is issued.

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Written by Attorney Andrew Glasgow
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