Question: I recently received an email from my children’s father’s attorney demanding I provide them with my boyfriend’s address. Do I have a legal obligation to provide the address?
Answer provided by: Cary B. Hall, Esq. from the Law Offices of Cary B. Hall, LLC
Absent a court order, the short answer is no.
In Pennsylvania, there is no provision in child custody litigation for “discovery,” which describes the formal methods used to obtain information in contested civil litigation. For instance, discovery can take the form of a deposition – a meeting in which one party’s attorney formally asks questions of the other party or other witnesses under oath in the presence of a court reporter who takes it all down. Discovery can also take the form of “interrogatories” or document requests, which are simply written requests for information from one side to the other.
Discovery is permitted in family law cases involving requests for alimony, equitable distribution, counsel fees/court expenses and complex child support proceedings. It is not permitted in simple support, custody, Protection from Abuse, or Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation proceedings unless authorized by order of court. Since you’ve identified the question as coming from your children’s father’s attorney via email – and not pursuant to a court order – you have no obligation to answer.
But let’s dig a bit further into this. Why would you want to withhold this information from your children’s father? Is he being a control freak? Maybe. Are you fearful that he will stalk you and/or harass your boyfriend? If so, that’s certainly a valid concern and would be illegal conduct on his part punishable under criminal law. But unless you have proof that he has actually stalked or harassed either of you already, any concern now is only anxious speculation at this point.
On the other hand, if you plan on spending time with your children at your boyfriend’s residence, it’s not an outrageous request from your children’s father to know where his children will be on any regular basis. I suspect you might want this same information if the tables were turned, i.e., if your children would be spending time at their father’s girlfriend’s residence during his custodial time. In addition, withholding this information just makes it seem that you have something to hide. Why look shady or suspicious just for the sake of it?
The bottom line is that you now have to co-parent with this man until your youngest child turns 18, and even after that, you both will always be parents to your children. Be civil and accommodating to each other, and apply the Golden Rule liberally and often. Life will be much easier for everyone involved when you do so – and if it isn’t, then you can always call your attorney to save the day. Best of luck to you.
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More about this Montgomery Bar Association member-panelist (bio provided by this attorney prior to publication):
My practice focuses on criminal, civil and family law litigation with over 20 years of tested experience throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and Maryland. My passion is assisting individuals and small businesses with their varied legal issues.
I have successfully tried civil and criminal jury trials, contested family law hearings, administrative proceedings and appeals. I also serve as an arbitrator in civil court cases, and have been court-appointed as defense counsel in state criminal prosecutions.
In addition to my solo law practice, I additionally serve as a Special Assistant Public Defender in Magisterial District Courts throughout Montgomery County. I'm a contributing author (and have even been editor-in-chief) to the Montgomery Bar Association's Civil Practice Manual, the definitive legal manual for practicing law in Montgomery County.
Many moons ago, I earned an Ivy League degree in philosophy from Columbia University, and then my law degree from the University of Miami. I began my legal career as a judicial law clerk in Towson, Maryland, and first established my own law practice there at the age of 26. I moved to Pennsylvania in 2000, and revived my solo practice after working for a few years with local law firms. These early efforts were rewarded by being named a "Pennsylvania Super Lawyer - Rising Star" in 2005 and 2006 by the publishers of Philadelphia magazine. Based upon my law firm experiences, I have found that I now best serve my clients one-on-one as a solo attorney.
Currently, I am privileged to be a trusted advisor and knight-in-shining-armor to satisfied clients throughout the country. I pride myself on providing personalized and affordable legal service to my clients . . . and I even return phone calls.
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