As the owner and managing attorney of Covelli Law Offices P.C., Joe Covelli has been representing clients in Western Pennsylvania area for over 35 years. Joe’s history in family law extends back to his earliest work in the law, ensuring that families receive the representation and support they need while helping them plan for the future. Along with holding an American Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Association Membership, Joe Covelli is also a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Family Law Section, and is well-known on all aspects of family law.
Joe Covelli’s awareness of how “the law affects families” has always been at the forefront when a new legal precedent affecting family law is established in Pennsylvania. By remaining up-to-date on all changes regarding family law matters, Joe Covelli has been able to successfully assist his clients by providing them with the most current legal advice as it relates to divorce, child support, custody and more.
Going through a divorce can be complex and difficult, and can be particularly complicated when a stepparent wants to continue his or her relationship with children of a previous marriage. Is a stepparent responsible to provide support for children after a divorce takes place? This question was answered in the recent ruling of Shiloh v. Shiloh, where the Court held that stepparents now have a more legitimate role when it comes to supporting their stepchildren after a divorce. Joe Covelli, in his latest publication in InCommunity magazine, interpreted the Shiloh ruling and addressed this family law update. He has decided to share some of his findings and tips with you, and his interview with InCommunity magazine is included below.
Just when you thought the law surrounding family matters couldn’t get more confusing, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court throws a curveball into the mix.
A decision of the Court was handed down in the final weeks of 2015 mandating that there are circumstances in which a stepparent can be liable for paying child support.
It all stems from a case, Shiloh v. Shiloh, in which the mother of two natural children wanted to take the family from Pennsylvania and move to California, where she had recently passed the bar exam to practice law. Her divorced husband filed a Petition attempting to prohibit her from leaving Pennsylvania. She in turn filed her own court motion, based upon the premise that “if stepdad wants custody, then stepdad needs to pay child support.”
Representing herself, she won the case-with one Justice dissenting.
So, what does this mean for local families?
“In today’s society, mixed families are very prevalent,” said Joe Covelli of Covelli Law Offices. “The nuclear family is changing, and there are marriages with different children and stepchildren involved these days. This recent ruling of the Court states that if a stepparent wants to have a continuing relationship with the children of a previous marriage, then the stepparent also can be held liable to provide for that child or children.”
Essentially, the ruling establishes a more legitimate role for a “stepparent,” and mandates that stepparents can be more involved in the lives of their stepchildren, insofar as they must accept all responsibilities that go along with that expanded role-including providing for them financially.
While the law may seem confusing and even potentially harmful to the adults involved, Covelli said that the court’s main focus is to provide for the children.
“They’re looking out for the best interests and general welfare of the children involved. The support of a child is a high-priority obligation; notwithstanding any other obligation, one who assumes the role of a parent may be expected to provide support to the best of their particular ability,” he said. “Could there be unintended consequences? Sure. It could serve to impede or even prevent stepparents from continuing a relationship with the children, once a marriage has dissolved. The natural parent could even bait the stepparent to establish a continuing custodial relationship-with an eye toward later asking for the payment of child support. Alternatively, the stepparent could refuse to engage the stepchildren, for fear that if they did, [or] at some point later on down the road, there could be a financial obligation imposed.”
For more information on Covelli Law Offices P.C. or to schedule a consultation, visit Covellilaw.com or call 412.653-5000. Covelli Law Offices, P.C. is located at 357 Regis Avenue (across from the Pleasant Hills-West Mifflin Post Office and Pleasant Hills Home Depot).