A Scranton Pennsylvania Law Firm Handling International Child Abduction: Helping Parents Across PA Bring Their Children Home

If you are a parent living in Pennsylvania whose child or children have been abducted and taken across international boundaries by the other parent, we can help. Even if you are in possession of a custody order from a Pennsylvania Court, you may encounter difficulties with foreign authorities to recognize your rights. While international law and treaties like the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides remedies, exercising these rights takes experience, skill and immediate action.

With over 30 years of family law experience, the Mulligan Law Firm is one of the few Northeastern Pennsylvania law firms that has successfully handled international child abduction cases. Our representation includes filing appropriate legal documents and working with the State Department and foreign authorities to find and bring your child home!

WHAT IS THE HAGUE CONVENTION? 

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also called the Hague Abduction Convention, has been in force in the United State since 1988. Since that time, 70 countries, including Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain, have joined. These 70 countries have pledged to return abducted children to other participating Hague Convention countries so long as they meet certain condition:: 

  • The child must have been a habitual resident of the Hague Convention country making the request. 
  • The child was under the age of 16 at the time of the request.
  • The child does not object to being returned, provided he or she is of sufficient age and maturity to make such a choice. 
  • The child would not face any grave risk of physical or psychological harm in his or her former country. 
  • The return would not violate the fundamental principles of human rights as recognized in the country receiving the request. 

Every Hague Convention nation processes and adjudicates these cases differently. The Mulligan Law Firm, however, has the experience to deal with the various signatory countries to bring your case to a successful conclusion. Attorney James Mulligan can help you make your case to the appropriate Court and/or authority in the country where your child is located. 

The trauma to a parent associated with the abduction of a child can be debilitating. Our legal team can give you the strength, support and resources you need to bring your child home. 

If your child has been removed from the United State by the other parent call the Mulligan Law Firm at 570-703-0269 or contact us by email at jimmulliganlaw@gmail.com.


Custodial Rights Of A Female Nonbiological Parent In A Same Sex Relationship In Pennsylvania

Often times same sex female couples have a child or children by virtue of artificial insemination. As a result, one of the partners becomes a biological parent and the other partner could be viewed in the eyes of the law as a third party. This hardly seems fair when both parties planned the pregnancy with the help of a donor. Hence, the third party needs to solidify her parental rights.

Pennsylvania grants standing to a person who was in loco parentis of the child. A person is deemed to be in loco parentis if she meets two requirements: one she must assume parental status and two she discharges parental duties. Assuming and discharging parental duties generally gives a party standing to pursue custodial rights.
Standing, however, is only one part of the issue and simply gives the person the right to ask the Court for custody.

The second element of the process for same sex female couples is to ask the Court to approve a second parent adoption and to be named a second parent. Upon completion of the adoption, the child has two legal parents. If the parties separate, the Court must view both women as equals when it comes to the custody rights of the child or children.


Child Interview In Pennsylvania Child Custody Proceedings

It’s not unusual for parents to attempt to build their custody case around the preference of a child toward one parent or another. A common question posed to attorneys is: How old does my child have to be before he or she can decide with whom they want to reside? There is no clear answer as to a definite age when a child can express their preference with respect to where they want to live. In fact, the Judge hearing the case has to determine what weight to give the child’s preference. As guidance, the Courts look to one of the 16 Pa. custody factors that states as follows:

“What is the well-reasoned preference of the child based on the child’s maturity and judgement? While children don’t have the ultimate decision, their opinion still matters and will be taken into account.”

Accordingly, the child’s preference is a factor but it is not the determining factor when the Judge is making his or her decision.

Children between the ages of 10 to 12 can usually communicate in generalities but typically can’t get into details of living with one parent or another to the extent necessary for a judge to make a clear and reasoned decision. Teenagers, however, generally can add to the family dynamics and give the presiding Judge a good idea of what’s going on in the home and who they would like to live with primarily.

Once it is decided that a child or children are going to testify, the presiding Judge will determine how it will be done. Judges, except in rare circumstances, will interview the child in his or her chambers. Judges will interview the child outside their parents’ presence. Interviewing the child outside the presence of the parent takes the pressure off the child and usually allows them to speak freely.

When contemplating having a child testify, legal counsel must be sure to notify the Court in advance so that all of the necessary procedures and timing are organized. It is best to ask the Court for a specific time to have the child testify.

The Mulligan Law Firm has helped many families navigate this very sensitive and challenging landscape. Our experienced family law lawyers have been finding solutions for families all over Northeast Pennsylvania for over 30 years. Contact us for a free consultation so we can provide the professional advice necessary to get you through a difficult situation.


Social Media and Family Law In Pennsylvania

Social media has many advantages in today's society. It also has disadvantages especially as it relates to Family Law cases. Information from social media platforms such as FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter are treasure troves for matrimonial lawyers. The kind of evidence that can be obtained from these sites is free and in some cases can be damaging to a client. That's why we advise all of our clients to refrain from using social media when going through a support, divorce or custody matter.

Posts, messages, or tweets could lead one to believe that you are more interested in meeting your friends for drinks than spending time with your children. The posts of friends could lead to problems. If a friend posts a photo of you at a local bar and then tags you in it, it could be used against you in court. The best thing to do is to stay away from all social media while involved in family law matters.

If you have a family law matter, the Mulligan Law Firm can help you. We bring thirty (30) years of experience to your case and up to date knowledge regarding technology and how social media can affect a family law matter.


Can Alimony Be Modified In Pennsylvania?

The question with respect to the modification of alimony comes up frequently in divorce cases. The answer whether alimony is modifiable depends on the facts of the case. In the recent case of Egan v. Egan the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that the parties' stipulation was not modifiable pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S.A. 3105(c) in the absence of a specific provision allowing for modification. Conversely, 23 Pa. C.S.A. 3701(e) states that a Court Order for alimony is modifiable upon change of circumstances. A change in circumstances typically involves a two part analysis. The Court will look at things like an increase in the dependent spouse's income or a decrease in the payor's income. Secondly, the courts will review the dependent spouse's financial circumstances to determine if a decrease in alimony would hurt that spouse's ability to support himself or herself. Once an analysis of this nature is complete, the court will render a decision.

At the Mulligan Law Firm, our Pennsylvania alimony modification attorneys have over 30 years of experience handling all types of family law matters.


Client Entitled to Half of Winnings in Scratch-Off Lottery Ticket Case

A Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a a lower court’s 2019 ruling that a woman is entitled to half the proceeds of a winning $100,000 “Bingo Squared” scratch-off lottery ticket that she purchased with a former paramour.

Learn more about Attorney Mulligan's winning case in Law.com's "Winning $100,000 Lottery Ticket Must Be Split Between Former Couple" from October 15th.


Attorney Mulligan Featured in 'The American Spectator" Article

Learn more about Attorney Jim Mulligan's take on voting fraud in this November's upcoming presidential election with his published article "No Voting Fraud in Pennsylvania? Think Again" from October 16, 2020.


Scranton’s Premier Family Law Firm Enforcing Court Orders

When a party subject to a family law court order fails to comply with the terms of that order, the other party can go to court in an effort to find the other party in violation and possibly in contempt. A finding of contempt is very serious. The party subject to the contempt order can be put in jail, have his or her wages garnished to pay for child support, lose driving privileges and pay the other party’s legal fees.

At Mulligan Law, we represent both sides in contempt and enforcement issues. We understand the law and the procedures concerning these matters. The Mulligan Law Firm will work diligently to protect your rights and to get you the justice you deserve.

Give us a call today for a free consultation and case evaluation (570) 703-0269


Emergency Petition In Pennsylvania Custody Cases

In custody cases, the guiding principle of the court is always protecting the best interest of the child. For this reason, Pennsylvania Courts provide a way to immediately address any potential threats or serious issues concerning children in a custody related case. The petition used to address these emergency situations is called an Emergency Petition for Special Relief. Once the relief is requested, the custody case literally jumps to the front of the line. It’s a powerful tool that can modify the existing custody arrangement at any stage of the process.

A parent who seeks this extreme relief without good cause risks looking like the party who cried wolf in the eyes of the Judge. Filing an Emergency Petition without good cause can ruin a parent’s credibility as his or her case goes through the system. At the Mulligan Law Firm we focus our practice on divorce, custody, and support, and know how and when to use this powerful emergency petition in order to protect children and to serve our clients.

The most common mistake parents make is pressing for an emergency petition when one is not warranted is misreading the basis for filing the Petition. The basis is not when the parent’s interests are at risk but when the child’s interests are not at risk.

The circumstances which lead to the filing of a Petition For Emergency Relief include but are not limited to the following:

  • A parent who takes or makes plans to take a child to another state without permission of the Court or the other parent.
  • A child who is physically or mentally abused by a parent, the parent’s significant other or any other person staying with or having access to the child’s home.
  • A change in the livability of the dwelling, including the termination of utilities, recent damage to the property, or an eviction from the dwelling.
  • The lack of proper accommodations in the home that allow the child to not study, sleep, eat, and attend school, on a regular schedule.

In the event you or a loved one is faced with one of these emergency situations, please call the Mulligan Law Firm in order to obtain the guidance and peace of mind you deserve to move through the custody process.


Coronavirus Complicates Child Custody Issues

Scranton Times article that appeared on 4/19, written as a guest columnist.

Family Matters and Covid 19

The Coronavirus outbreak has raised new issues and concerns for parents and family law practitioners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the country. Many of the newly raised issues are causing chaos for families and children. First responders, especially doctors and nurses, find themselves on the front lines fighting Covid-19 and in a court room fighting to maintain their child custody rights. Indefatigable health care workers are engaged in a war against an invisible enemy and are being told by an ex-spouse or other parent that their custody rights are being withheld or suspended because of fears that they have been exposed to or infected by a contagious virus. Co-parents are finding themselves renegotiating custody agreements all while trying to treat patients and save lives in the middle of the country’s largest public health crisis. Legal issues and arguments raised by both sides of these matters have merit and are being played out all over our country.

On one hand, health care workers argue that they are being punished for doing their jobs and defending our country. It’s true, because of these selfless and heroic individuals, people are being compassionately cared for and lives are being saved. Nurses and doctors are being tested and following the safety protocols established by their health care facilities in order to prevent the spread of a highly contagious virus. They also argue that the ex-spouse or the other parent are attempting to exploit the outbreak by using it to eventually modify the terms of a custody agreement negotiated in good faith. Arguments of this nature make sense but may be difficult to advance now that our entire court system is effectively shut down.

Conversely, the other parent is arguing that it is in the best interest of child or children to shelter in place during uncertain times. These parents believe that any contact with the health care worker/parent is an imminent threat to the child’s well-being. Essentially, they are arguing that the virus is akin to drug abuse or some other safety issue generally advanced in a custody case. Safety is a paramount concern for family courts and is weighted heavily along with other factors when arriving at decisions regarding child custody issues.

I recently had an opportunity to represent a nurse from Monroe County which is one of the hot spots in Pennsylvania for Covid-19. My client has been working in the health care profession for over 15 years and is the mother of an 11-year-old little girl. She has been tested for the virus, has her temperature taken daily and has followed the edicts of the Center for Disease Control. Thankfully, she did not test positive.

A custody agreement between my client and her ex-husband was worked out years ago and things have been going rather smoothly until this pandemic. The natural father’s concerns were raised when his daughter was about to go to her mother’s house for an extended stay. The father maintained it was in the child’s best interest to shelter in place and suspend all visits with mom until the government and health officials say it is safe to resume normal activities. Moreover, the father had consulted with an attorney and was preparing to file a Petition for Emergency Relief with the Court.

Obviously, the mother was in a panic and reached out to me for guidance during these unsettling times. The mother maintained that children need a relationship with both parents especially in times of uncertainty. She too felt as though she was being punished for doing her job. Therefore, we assembled all of her medical and testing records which clearly demonstrated that she wasn’t infected and in good health. Armed with the medical evidence, I reached out to the father’s lawyer. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate an amicable agreement between the parties without the need for court intervention. Had we not reached common ground, we may have found ourselves in a hearing being conducted telephonically or over Zoom. Utilizing this kind of technology is rather new to the courts and clearly uncharted waters for family law practitioners.

Amidst all of the chaos, family court judges are urging parents to abide by their Court Orders but be reasonable with regard to accommodating the other parent. Co-parenting during a pandemic is a monumental task and requires reasonable and measured conduct in these unprecedented times. Joint custody agreements may have to be temporarily modified but it is important to do whatever is necessary to protect the safety of all parties involved. Parents have and will continue to face unique challenges related to Covid-19, but at the end of the day you have to do what is in the best interest of the child or children.

James T. Mulligan, Esq.
Family Law Practitioner