News


OFFICE NEWS, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY: COVID-19

DEAR CLIENTS, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES:     

MARCH 19, 2020

-PER GOVERNOR WOLF’S ORDER, ALL NON-LIFE SUSTAINING BUSINESSES MUST CLOSE AT 8:00 P.M. TODAY, MARCH 19, 2020.  THEREFORE, OUR BUILDINGS ARE CLOSED.   WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK REMOTELY.

         – DROP-IN CLIENTS, OFFICE CLIENTS, APPOINTMENTS, ARE DISCONTINUED EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

          -HAVE AN EMERGENCY, A QUESTION, NEED INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR CASE, CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY BY EMAIL OR CALL OUR MAIN NUMBER AT 717-299-7342, AND LEAVE A MESSAGE; YOUR CALL WILL BE RETURNED.

          –MAIL: In Lancaster, use our side door mail slot; access via storm door.  In Willow Street, use front door mail slot.

  THANK YOU. WARM REGARDS.     

                                                                                                                                                     PYFER REESE STRAUB GRAY & FARHAT PC

Gabriella Hashem Farhat, Esq, Managing Partner

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UPDATE: CLOSING OF COURTS AND ITS IMPACT ON YOUR LEGAL PROCEEDING. COVID-19

Consistent with the March 16, 2020 Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declaring a general, statewide judicial emergency, and the March 17, 2020 Declaration of Judicial Emergency for the Second Judicial District, and the recommendations of the CDC regarding COVID-19, various Pennsylvania Courts have issued Administrative Orders to be in compliance thereof. 

As we represent clients in various counties for various legal matters, most notably Lancaster, York, Chester, and Dauphin counties, please contact us so we can provide you with an update about your particular upcoming court proceeding.

Generally, if your matter is deemed to be “emergency” in nature, it will be handled either by telephone, videoconferencing or in person if there is no other alternative.  However, if it is not deemed an emergency proceeding, proceedings are cancelled and will be rescheduled. The Lancaster County courthouse and all Magisterial District Courts will be closed to the public effective March 18, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. and shall remain in place until April 15, 2020, 8:00 am.  Other Counties have ordered similar closings. We can provide you with details. However, as with all closings, re-evaluation shall be conducted as deemed necessary. Contact us so that you can be advised as to whether your proceeding is an emergency one and if not, what is the projected outlook and timeline.  Irrespective, we will be contacting you to keep you informed.

Regards, Gabriella H. Farhat, Esquire, Managing Partner, PYFER REESE STRAUB GRAY & FARHAT PC  

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TO OUR CLIENTS, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES: COVID-19 NEWS

PYFER REESE STRAUB GRAY & FARHAT PC. ATTORNEYS AT LAW.                                                      March 16, 2020

We are sending this message to reach out to you because your health and safety is of utmost importance to all of us. So, during this health-related crisis, we hope and trust you will stay in good health and the situation will normalize in the near future.

As we value our relationships, we want to make sure to protect you and our relationships with our Firm. We share the following:

  1. Rest assured, as of now, we are open for business as usual. We are conducting our business as always, unless and until we get any government directives to do otherwise.
  2. Should any changes need to be implemented, be assured we are able to continue to conduct business and communicate with you and address your needs or transactions remotely and seamlessly.
  3. We are able to communicate with you efficiently through the same norms we have been utilizing to date, whether by telephone at 717-299-7342 or email directly with your contact person at the Firm. If you are not able to communicate with that individual, as an alternative, send your email to kirwin@pyferreese.com and copy to gfarhat@pyferreese.com. Similarly, any scheduling-related matter should be directed to the same individuals. Any financial related matter is to be directed to our Financial Administrator at 717-464-5900 or mneff@pyferreese.com.
  4. If when you call, you are prompted to a voicemail recording option, please leave a voicemail message; do not simply hang up and redial. Leave your message and we will respond to you as promptly as possible.
  5. If you have a current court-related hearing or arbitration or mediation or trial or a deposition, be assured we will use our best efforts to provide YOU with up to date information. We will get the message to YOU as to postponements, cancellations, change of venue, or change in the handling a particular matter; ie. via telephone as opposed to “in person” appearances. Rest assured we are being vigilant in addressing your case and your needs. Trust us.
  6. We can tell you this, as of now: the domestic relations support conferences** will be conducted by telephone. As a client, you can come to our office at 128 North Lime Street, Lancaster, and participate OR we can make arrangements for you to participate by telephone; you tell us your preference. Your preference should be communicated to our primary scheduler, Katrena, at kirwin@pyferreese.com, in addition to notifying your Attorney. This is as of this writing, but subject to change of course. We will timely notify you of changes.
  7. We will provide you with client alerts electronically. If you are not already connected to us through one of the social networking platforms, this may be the time to do so. Follow us on Facebook, connect with our Website at https://www.pyferreese.com [go to our News drop down Section] or via Constant Contact emails we send out. Please email your address to us if you are not already in our Constant Contact data base. Email to: gfarhat@pyferreese.com and you will be added to our Constant Contact master data base to receive such information and future legal related posts and blogs.
  8. ** From the Domestic Relations Website: Lancaster County DRS is focused on safeguarding our community and we are taking proactive measures to act with an abundance of caution in the face of the COVID-19/Coronavirus situation. Our operational environment is changing rapidly and is influencing every decision. To minimize this risk, we have temporarily changed our face-to-face procedures and are conducting as much business as possible by phone, email etc. Please do not physically appear in the Domestic Relations Office until further notice. All communication should be via email or by phone. All upcoming conferences will be conducted by phone.

9. From Cheryl Steberger, Warden at the Lancaster County Prison: Effective immediately (March 16, 2020), all persons entering the prison must submit to a temperature check. If the temp reading is 100 degrees or over you will not be permitted in the building. Legal visits will continue, however to limit inmate movement, they will take place in the housing area’s counseling room. All other prison programming, to include inmate visitation, has been temporarily suspended. We will be using video conferencing to its fullest capacity. As always, I appreciate your cooperation and patience as we go through these unchartered days. Prison administration will continue to reassess the situation as circumstances develop.

Thank you for your attention and courtesies extended during these uncertain and challenging times.

Gabriella H. Farhat,

Gabriella Farhat signature capture

Managing Partner, PYFER REESE STRAUB GRAY & FARHAT, PC

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Personal Injury: Common Benefits Often Overlooked or Lost

a teddy bear with various bandages

If you have suffered a personal injury, whether through another person’s negligence or in an accident, it can be devastating. Your physical recovery is likely highest on your mind, and it should be. Yet having the right professional legal representation to help ensure a successful recovery is crucial.
Knowing how to find the right personal injury lawyer can mean getting fair financial compensation, which can play a vital in your recovery. The right personal injury lawyer can also make sure you aren’t missing out on benefits that are often overlooked or lost.

Sound Guidance Toward Legal Justice

As a victim of someone else’s violation of a safety rule, you may feel vulnerable. While you are likely a clear thinker in normal situations, your thoughts and decisions can be clouded during this time. An experienced personal injury attorney, such as Attorney Gabriella H. Farhat, or Attorney Daniel C. Bardo can help you focus on getting maximum compensation in your personal injury case, alert you to any statute of limitations, and get justice in a timely manner.

Get the Money You Deserve

Damages suffered by victims of personal injury are usually compensatory. Funds awarded to a plaintiff to help pay for damages, injuries, or other loss are compensatory funds. The best personal injury lawyers will pursue all damages possible.

Common Benefits in Compensation include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of wages
  • Medical bills

Overlooked Benefits in Compensation may include:

  • Cost of future medical care, bills
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Cost of canceled vacations, trips, etc.

You Won’t Need to Face Insurance Companies

It’s in the insurance firm’s best interest to limit monies awarded to you. In your eagerness to settle things and begin recovery, you may overlook the evidence and documents needed to get the maximum compensation you deserve.

Compared to the average citizen, the auto and medical insurance industries are giants when it comes to expertise and experience in lawsuits. Even trying to correspond with them can be daunting and time-consuming for one person.

A reputable personal injury lawyer is adept at working with insurance companies and can ensure that sufficient proof is readily available if your case goes to trial and will negotiate with insurance firms to get the best outcome for you, with the most compensation.

Request a consultation with Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC today.


COMMON LAW MARRIAGE IN PENNSYLVANIA? STILL VALID? REALLY?

two wedding rings laying on eachother

Pennsylvania stopped recognizing Common Law Marriages as of January 1, 2005; however, if you had established a Common Law Marriage in Pennsylvania BEFORE that date, Pennsylvania Law preserves the validity of such marriages.  An established Common Law Marriage may provide you with certain benefits such as spousal death benefits, Social Security surviving spouse benefits, or zero percent inheritance tax (as opposed to 15% for unrelated persons). 

In the event an established Common Law Marriage ends in a permanent breakup, either spouse may be entitled to a property division, spousal support or alimony, depending on the circumstances.  In claiming a Common Law Marriage, you will most likely be asked to provide the Court with records that can establish proof of the marriage, such as joint tax returns or joint loans.  You may be asked to provide witnesses who can testify that, while you were a couple, you held yourselves out to family, friends and the community as a married couple.  Witnesses may be asked if there was ever any type of ceremony; if so, what was said at the ceremony.  The statement of the intent to become a Husband and Wife is the key requirement.

The Social Security Resource Center states that once you have cleared the state hurdle to establish a Common Law Marriage in Pennsylvania, it is just a matter of filing the appropriate Social Security paperwork to claim benefits.  The Social Security Office

will not make a determination regarding a Common Law Marriage until it is actually time to make a claim.  At that time, they will require both spouses to complete a “Statement of Marital Relationship” and to provide an additional statement from a blood relative affirming the marriage.  If your common-law spouse has died and you are seeking survivor benefits, you must provide your own statement, one from a blood relative of yours and two from blood relatives of the deceased.  Social Security may seek corroborating evidence that the couple consider (or considered) themselves spouses, such as mortgage or rent receipts, insurance policies or bank records. 

            In addition, the children of deceased common-law spouses (i.e. parents) may qualify for survivor benefits.  The question of Social Security benefits for common-law marriages between same-sex partners is legally unsettled at this time.  Same-sex relationships are being addressed piecemeal, as relevant cases work their way through State courts.

If you believe that you may be entitled to spousal benefits or social security survivor benefits as the result of a Common Law Marriage that was established prior to January 1, 2005, please contact us at 717-299-7342 for a convenient appointment to discuss your situation. Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC can help.

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Katharine Stone Marteny Joins our Firm as a Practicing Attorney

Katharine Stone Marteny
Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC is pleased to announce that as of January 1, 2020 Katharine Stone Marteny Joins our Firm as a Practicing Attorney. Her primary areas of practice are Family Law, General Civil, Estate/Probate Matters.

Ms. Marteny has twelve years of legal experience in varying capacities. Having been admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2005, before recently admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 2019, she worked as a prosecutor for 5 years, a paralegal for 6 years and a law clerk for one year. She has spent most of her career working in family law.

Ms. Marteny is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and Temple Law School, where she was President of Temple’s Jessup Moot Court and earned both Dean’s List and Distinguished Class Honors. Following admission to the Maryland Bar in 2005, she served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Maureen Lamasney of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland, from 2005 to 2006. Ms. Marteny then worked as a prosecutor in Frederick County, Maryland, from 2006 to 2011. As a prosecutor, she handled both criminal and civil cases ranging from driving under the influence, to assaults, to possession or distribution of drugs, to child support matters. She then relocated to Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to be a stay at home parent with her young children. After her time working in the home, she moved to private legal practice.

Ms. Marteny has been affiliated with PRSG&F for the past two years primarily as a paralegal, handling family law matters, working closely with her mentor, Attorney Gerryanne P . Cauler and other Family Law practitioners. After having passed the Pennsylvania Bar, she is now licensed to practice as an Attorney; hence her position with our Firm will change. She will be transitioning to a practicing Attorney effective January 1, 2020. She will continue to work primarily in the Family Law arena and handle Estate/Probate litigation as well as general civil matters.

Ms. Marteny finds helping families to be the most rewarding part of her job. She has experienced divorce first hand and truly understands the importance of co-parenting with boundaries.

She is licensed to practice law in both Pennsylvania and Maryland. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Lancaster County Bar Association and the York County Bar Association. She resides close to our York satellite office, and the York County community is integral to her and her family. She plans to build and solidify her practice in that area, as well as our other office locations. Ms. Marteny is actively involved in local theater and the Girl Scouts. She is looking forward to the opportunity to working with you and helping you through your legal issues.

Ms. Marteny can be contacted at kmarteny@pyferreese.com

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Parent/Child “Bonding” Assessments–wait,what?

         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

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Eligibility for/Quirkiness of SSI

              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.

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