Parent/Child “Bonding” Assessments – wait, what?
One of the most precious rights protected by the law is that of a parent’s right to raise his or her child. When that right is threatened by a termination of parental rights proceeding, it is important that the parent use every tool available in order to win the case.
Before a court can terminate the parental rights of a parent, the court is obligated to determine whether that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. That “best interests” analysis invariably boils down to whether the parent and child are bonded with one another. To prove that a meaningful parent-child exists, a parent can request that the court direct that a bonding assessment be done.
A bonding assessment is an evaluation conducted by an expert, usually a psychologist, whose goal is to determine the nature and quality of the child’s attachment relationships to his or her birth and/or foster parents. A bonding assessment will involve a series of interviews during which the evaluator will observe the interaction between the parent(s) and child, as well as the interaction between any foster parent(s) and the child. The evaluator will look for reciprocal attachment between the parental figures and the child, as well as how the child behaves in response to a stranger (the evaluator) during the interview. The evaluator will review the history of the family and the case. After the interviews are concluded, the evaluator will issue a written report of the expert’s findings for review by the parties and eventual submission to the court.
A good bonding assessment will explore the child’s capacity for attachment, and determine the persons with whom the child needs to feel safe. The bonding assessment should also explore who is most central in the child’s emotional life and determine the quality of that relationship. The bonding assessment should offer an opinion as to whether there exist any risks or benefits to the well-being of the child if parental rights to the child are terminated.
Although mostly utilized in Children and Youth Agency cases, bonding evaluations are also used in custody cases, if there is issue about the bond and relationship between a young child and a parent.
Since legal cases of this nature are fact intensive, a bonding assessment is not appropriate for every parent nor for every case, and the decision of whether to request a bonding assessment from the court should first be discussed with legal counsel familiar with the process.
What this means for you: If you have questions about your Children and Youth case, we can help you. Make Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC your choice – visit www.pyferreese.com or call (717) 299-7342 to schedule a consultation with Albert J. Meier. ~Albert J. Meier, Esquire
Eligibility for and Quirkiness of SSI (Social Security Income).
To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), an individual has to be aged (65 or older), blind or disabled, and have limited income and resources. Normally the person who is eligible to receive SSI does have enough of a work history to be eligible to receive disability insurance benefits. A person must work about 10 years before becoming eligible for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). For a person to be able to receive SSI, he/she would not be able to own monthly resources worth more than $2,000.00. The amount a couple is allowed to own is $3,000.00.
A Prenuptial Agreement is an agreement between two individuals who intend to marry. The Agreement can limit many things or only a few things. The content of the Agreement depends on what the parties (potential Husband and potential Wife) desire to address. Some of the reasons that engaged couples prepare and sign Prenuptial Agreements are the following.
• The protection of existing assets.
• Avoid paying spousal support, temporary alimony, and alimony.
• The protection of business interests, particularly family businesses.
• The protection of assets that were received as a result of a gift or inheritance or from a prior relationship.
• Estate planning.
If you created a Living Trust or a Revocable Trust years ago when the Federal Estate Tax Laws were completely different than they are today, it is a good idea to have the Trust reviewed by an attorney. It may no longer be appropriate to have your assets titled in the Trust, and it can even be harmful from both a tax standpoint as well as an estate administration standpoint. It may now be advantageous to have the Trust updated or even revoked. In some instances, a Trust may have been created, but the assets were never properly transferred to the Trust, which entirely defeats the purpose of the Trust.
The key question in nearly all divorce matters is the division of property. Spouses typically have property acquired before the marriage, during the marriage, and after the marriage. Under 23 Pa.C.S. §3501, marital property is defined as all property acquired by either spouse during a marriage and the increase in value of non-marital property. The “entirety” of the marriage is from the date of marriage to the date of separation. Any property acquired or any growth of a marital asset after date of separation is non-marital property, unless marital funds are used to acquire the new asset. The increase in value of non-marital property may be offset by losses on non-marital property. For example, if one spouse brings two investment accounts to a marriage as pre-marital property, the gain in one account may be decreased by the loss in the other account.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently recognized the custody rights of non-biological parents in R.L. v. M.A., 2740 EDA 2018. In the case, a couple decided to have a child using the egg from the biological mother and the sperm from a relative of the non-biological mother. The non-biological mother helped decorate the nursery and selected the child’s first name and was present at the birth of the child. The couple broke up soon after the child was born. Initially the non-biological mother had custody of the child every other weekend and when the child was two (2); but the couple agreed to share 50/50 custody. When the child turned five (5), the couple had a dispute and the biological mother attempted to stop all custody rights of the non-biological mother. The trial court gave 50/50 custody, finding the non-biological mother in loco parentis and therefore eligible for any form of custody. In loco parentis means “in the place of a parent.” Under Pennsylvania Custody Law, an individual who has in loco parentis status can seek primary, shared or partial physical custody of a child.
There are many circumstances in which an individual may need government financial assistance and one of those circumstances is the need to apply for social security benefits. Fortunately, the experienced Attorneys at Pyfer Reese Straub Gray and Farhat are well-versed in these circumstances and recognize when you may be eligible for such benefits.
Most people are not aware that if they have a domestic partner or significant other residing with them in their own home, it may be difficult to force that person to leave the house. If your paramour/significant other refuses to leave the house when you request that they do so, and you change the locks on the door and put their possessions in the front yard, the police may advise them that they have a right to enter the house because it is “their residence.”