Skip to main content
Ellen Starr Fischer

Ellen Fischer’s Answers

61 total


  • About how involved and cost for a divorce myself and future X wrote up and agree to everything?

    Myself andMy husband came to an agreement on our divorce. This includes the house debts, life insurance policies and the details of our 17yr. old daughter. Our son is 21 and does not reside with either of us. We have everything split the way We w...

    Ellen’s Answer

    It is wonderful when a couple can resolve their issues amicably. However, I caution you to be sure you have decided on a plan that takes taxes consequences and sale costs into consideration. Also, the rules of ethics prohibit one attorney from representing two people. Given that you have the major points resolved, you should be able to come to a final and proper agreement without major costs. Also consider the filing fee costs which are approximately $400 depending on your county. Good luck, Ellen Fischer

    See question 
  • How do I go about having my husband adopt my son?

    hello my son is 10 years old and i have been married to his step father since he was 5 . his biological father has not seen or attempted to see him since he was 3 also he only saw him about 10 times at that time . he does pay automatically withd...

    Ellen’s Answer

    I agree with the answer from the Tempe attorney, but I have more familiarity with Pennsylvania law.
    Ideally, your son's biological father will voluntarily agree to have his parental rights terminated so that your husband can move forward with an adoption. In fact, if biodad agrees, he will merely sign a document called a "Consent of Birth Parent" which needs to be signed by him in the presence of two witnesses all of whom need to have their signatures notarized. This Consent will be attached as an Exhibit to the Petition for Adoption together with the other necessary documents.

    If biodad does not sign the Consent, then you can file a Petition to Involuntarily Terminate Parental Rights. A parent who has failed to fulfill his parental duties for a period in excess of six (6) months can have his rights terminated by the Court. I highly recommend that you consult with a family law attorney who handles adoption matters. The facts as you state them will almost assuredly result in biodad's parental rights being terminated.

    You will need to find biodad. You can contact his family, his last known address or, you might be successful in learning his location with your local Domestic Relations Office as he is currently paying support.

    Good luck. The best part of my practice is attending adotption hearings and taking a photo of the family with their judge.

    See question 
  • In the state of Pennsylvania is a divorcing spouse responsible for his or he's spouses medical bills ?

    My husband and I are working out a martial settlement agreement. Right now we are on the debts sections. Am I responsible for his debt of medical bills?

    Ellen’s Answer

    I agree with the prior answer that, absent compelling circumstances, debts of any kind incurred during the marriage is considered a marital debt.

    There is another interesting law that has nothing to do with divorce and spousal support. The law is known generally as The Support Law and it provides that all spouses, whether going through a divorce or not, are responsible for each other's "necessaries." It is because of this law that medical care providers, in particular, can sue both spouses when only one spouse received medical care and treatment and the bill for services rendered is solely in the name of that one spouse. .

    See question 
  • Should we classify as TIC , JTWROS , or other ? What are the ramifications for either in the case of death or separation ?

    I am buying a home with my significant other . He will be funding the down payment ( 20 percent ) . We will both be on the mortgage , and share all costs ( aside from down payment ) 50 / 50 . We plan to marry in 2 - 3 years , but want t...

    Ellen’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    The best way for the two of you to protect yourselves is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This Agreement, which is prepared by an attorney, will detail the terms you and your significant other agree to with regard to the disposition of the property in the event of a break-up or the death of either of you. For instance, you can provide for the return of your SO's downpayment, or some portion of it depending on how long you both live in the house; you can discuss who will buy-out who in the event of a break-up and under what terms and conditions. I have had too many cases where parties purchase a home together, fail for whatever reason to get married, and have no agreement as to who is responsible for the mortgage payment, who gets to leave the home and under what circumstances does it get listed for sale.

    See question 
  • I have 50/50 custody. We switch m/w/f at 6. My 2.5 year old says she doesn't want to go to daddys. I'm also having a new baby.

    She came home saying she wishes her sister would go away... when normally she is excited about her coming. I think her dad is saying negative things. Please help. I need a new attorney to help me. I have been through 2 that use up my retainer fe...

    Ellen’s Answer

    Custody litigation is a very expensive process and I hope you are successful in finding an attorney who can help you. If at all possible, you might consider using the services of a court certified custody mediator or working with collaborative attorneys.

    I am not sure what it is you are trying to accomplish, but you should know that the wishes of a 2.5 year old, absent clear and convincing evidence of abuse, will go unheeded. Children of this young age often say things they think each of their parents wants to hear. You and your ex might consider co-parenting counseling to help your daughter during her adjustments.

    In any event, most courts are finding shared physical custody to be best for children. Here in Montgomery County, the presumption is for 50=50 custody assuming both parents' schedules allow this.

    Good luck.

    See question 
  • Can my ex husband get access to my and my childrens' records at counseling?

    I got a court order to bring my children to counseling when their father refused to sign permission. We have joint legal custody and I am the custodial parent. I just think the kids and I could use some guidance in managing the emotional stresse...

    Ellen’s Answer

    Under almost all circumstances, there is therapist-patient privilege meaning that the court cannot compel the therapist to discuss or disclose anything that was said during therapy appointments. Only you and your children can authorize the therapist to waive the privilege, because the privilege belongs to the patient.

    My only concern is the wording in your court order. I am assuming that you wanted to take the children to a counselor, that the counselor required both parents permission and that your ex-husband refused to give permission. You then filed a Petition with the court asking the court to permit you to take the children for counselling with or without their dad's permission. Assuming this to be the case, then no, the court will not order the release of any records.

    If your ex-husband files any petitions with the court concerning this matter, the court will likely require him to participate in counseling with the children to learn what it is he needs to learn.

    See question 
  • If a child is adopted by a stepparent, is the biological parent still responsible for back child support that is owed?

    My children's biological father has been in an out of jail and owes me over $20,000 in back child support. My husband would love to adopt my children, but Im wondering if the biological father will be required to pay the back child support when t...

    Ellen’s Answer

    In proceeding with an adoption, the biological parent's parental rights must first be terminated.

    So, the first thing to ask is whether the biological father will terminate his rights voluntarily or whether you will attempt to terminate his rights through an involuntary termination proceeding. If bio dad will not agree to a termination, then you must proceed to a hearing to involuntarily terminate his rights. There is a statute that governs this and essentially provides that a parent who has failed in his parental duties for a period of at least six months, may have his rights terminated. If bio dad comes in and out of the children's lives, this may not be as simple as it sounds.

    On the other hand, I have handled many step-parent adoptions. In almost every case, there was a quid-pro-quo or a give and take. In essence, the bio dad will agree to voluntarily terminate his parental rights in exchange for you agreeing to forgive the back support.

    If you go to court and involuntarily terminate the bio dad's parental rights, his support obligation remains due and owing.

    Good luck, Ellen Fischer

    See question 
  • Can i sign my rights over to my parents in regards to my 3 year old?

    i have primary custody of my daughter. her father has every other weekend and one night overnight during the week. I can no longer financially support her. am i able to sign my rights over to my parents or do i have to sign them over to her father...

    Ellen’s Answer

    I am so sorry to hear of your predicament.

    Unfortunately, you are a party to a court order. Any changes to the custody arrangement, must be handled through the court. You are not permitted to sign your rights over.

    Since you and your daughter live with your parents, I see no reason why you need to change the current arrangement.

    Good luck, Ellen Fischer

    See question 
  • My "husband" is having an affair and we separated. He recently filed for divorce. I have two questions:

    1. Do I have the right to demand counseling since he refuses to discuss anything with me? Our marriage was not perfect, but it was better than most until he lost 170 lbs. and started feeling he deserved more. I don't mean to be naive, but we haven...

    Ellen’s Answer

    While the no-fault divorce law allows you to petition the court to request that your husband be ordered to attend marriage counseling with you, many judges are reluctant to do so. They are reluctant to do so because it is difficult to demand that someone communicate with you during counseling. Quite frankly, your husband can be required to attend counseling, but he cannot be ordered to participate, so that he can attend, but refuse to discuss anything with you. On the other hand, if you manage to work with the right counselor, it is possible that the counselor can help your husband understand the benefits of counseling.

    As for the issues between your son and his dad, in most situations, the court will require parent-child counseling. The court's goal is for parents and children to maintain a relationship, even if it means spending limited time together. Children can testify to their wishes and certainly a 14 year old has the right. However, I always first recommend counseling. I assume, since you state that your husband "forces" your son to visit that there is a pending custody order. If there is not, and if your son is adamant about not wanting to be with his father, don't send him to his dad's, but instead require dad to file a petition for custody which will then allow these issues to be aired. If there is a current custody order, then file a Petition to Modify and state your reasons for doing so. This, too, will allow these issues to be addressed. Good luck, Ellen Fischer

    See question 
  • If someone filed a restraining order against me, can we go into the same courtroom for another case.

    Its the same incident just a different case, but im a witness so can i go?

    Ellen’s Answer

    If you must be in the same courtroom, then at the time of your arrival at the courthouse, you should let the sheriff know your circumstances so that you can be separated from the other person. If you are a witness, then you have likely been subpoenaed so that your presence is required. Ellen Fischer

    See question