The Mazza Law Group, P.C.
2790 W. College Ave., Suite 800
State College, PA 16801 March 10, 2016
(814) 237-6255

Your Lawyers, Your Neighbors, Your Friends.™

If you're searching for an attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, chances are you're going through a tough situation. You may feel like no one is on your side, especially if you are considering bankruptcy, have been charged with a criminal defense, or are filing or appealing a Social Security Disability claim. During this difficult time, you need someone you can trust.

At The Mazza Law Group, P.C., we understand your fears and concerns. Our firm dates back 57 years, and our attorneys have the experience needed to help you. We will be by your side every step of the way, protecting your rights and working toward the best outcome for you. We take pride in considering ourselves your lawyers, your neighbors, and your friends.

Legal matters are often confusing and complicated, requiring experience and strategy to successfully resolve. With a highly respected and experienced attorney behind you, you can rest easy knowing that your case is in good hands. The experienced attorneys at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. in State College, Pennsylvania to protect your rights.

We stay up to date with changes in our legal system. If you have questions about how any recent changes in the law may affect you, contact us today.

Martin Eastwood
Martin Eastwood

5 out of 5 stars

posted 4 weeks ago

I've been working with the Mazza Law Group, P.C. for several months and they always email me regular updates to keep me informed. If I am ever unsure or have a question, I can email and they get right back to me. I absolutely recommend them for a law firm in PA.

Keith Ingram
Keith Ingram

5 out of 5 stars

posted 2 days ago

I've been working with The Mazza Law Group since about 2012 and can't think of one thing that they could improve. Highly recommended.

Jesse Elliott
Jesse Elliott

5 out of 5 stars

posted 7 months ago

I would highly recommend The Mazza Law Group. I really appreciate the ease of getting through to the staff that you need to speak with. Everyone is always ready and willing to help when needed. They do a very good job with their work.

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Cohabitation Agreement – Avoiding the Vows

Couples often have lengthy periods of cohabitation without making plans to marry. When individuals anticipate avoiding the vows of marriage in favor of living together with a less formal relationship, it is still possible to clarify the terms by which financial responsibilities will be shared with a cohabitation agreement.   In contrast, individuals with a clear plan to marry often enter into a prenuptial agreement about preserving the assets that they acquire prior to marriage, but a prenuptial agreement does not take effect until a wedding occurs.You can read more about prenuptial agreements and their effect on equitable distribution at the time of divorce here:

When partners desire instead to live together in a comparatively informal relationship, it may still benefit them to outline the terms of their living arrangement with a contract in the form of a cohabitation agreement, designed to determine their respective rights to the property of the other.  In this agreement, individuals may promise to share income, debts, and property, or, in the alternative, a cohabitation agreement may describe a goal of maintaining separate property, so that their acquired assets while they are living together are never considered to legally belong to both partners.  “Separate property” is a term often used by courts in divorce cases to decide what may be considered an equitable distribution of marital assets.  Without a cohabitation agreement and without a prenuptial agreement, couples who live together for a considerable length of time prior to marriage, are most often considered by the courts to have acquired joint marital assets from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. You can learn more about separate property and equitable division here:

Since Pennsylvania laws do not describe the effect that a long period of cohabitation may have on equitable distribution, it is hard to speculate whether cohabitation would be a relevant factor that is taken into consideration.   In New Hampshire, the Supreme Court recently determined that assets that were accumulated prior to marriage may belong to both parties and divided as part of their divorce decree.  In the case of In the Matter of Deborah Munson and Coralee Bell, the New Hampshire Court added the period of cohabitation to determine that the marriage could be considered “long-term” for purposes of determining a fair division of property and an award of alimony.  The Court ruled that, in New Hampshire premarital cohabitation is “a factor that the court may consider in divorce proceedings when determining whether to depart from the presumption that an equal division is an equitable distribution of property.”

In Pennsylvania, Courts follow a similar presumption that ‘equal’ is ‘equitable’ in divorce. While the statute regarding equitable distribution, 23 Pa. C.S.A, 3501 allows the court to consider “all relevant factors,” it provides a list of what constitutes a relevant factor. This includes the length of the marriage.  The law specifically name the “length” or “duration” of the marriage, but not the amount of time that the parties have lived together.    The date of the actual wedding vows to the date of the separation is used to measure what is called marital property.

The Munson and Beal case was unique because the parties were a same-sex couple who were not permitted by law to enter into a traditional marriage during some of their cohabitation.  The Supreme Court clarified that the consideration of a period of cohabitation would not be restricted based on sexual orientation. The Court said “We further note that premarital cohabitation is not unique to same-sex couples . . . . Our holding that the court may consider premarital cohabitation applies to all divorce proceedings.”  Other states’ higher Courts have considered the same issue with varying results.

It appears to be undetermined whether a cohabitation agreement can affect the decisions, but it is worth considering as a way to secure the intentions of the couple living together.  A premarital agreement written and signed properly will the initial acquisition of shared property for those who marry.

If you have questions about cohabitation agreements, premarital agreements or divorce and equitable distribution, contact The Mazza Law Group, P.C. to talk to an experienced family law attorney for information and advice.

State College Lawyer Argues Dashcam Case

Attorney Helen Stolinas of The Mazza Law Group, PC in State College, argued a case of statewide importance involving a police dashcam and the Right to Know Law yesterday before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Her client is Michelle Grove of Spring Mills. The case arose when Ms. Grove filed a request for a “dashcam” video […]

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Possession of Marijuana in State College

On August 1, 2016, the State College Borough voted 5-2 to adopted the proposed ordinance that reduces the criminal penalty of possession of a small amount of marijuana (30 grams or less) from a misdemeanor offense to a non-traffic summary citation.  In Pennsylvania, the possession of a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense […]

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Surrogacy Law:  How important is the surrogate contract?

Modern advances in scientific means of assisted reproduction (surrogate) have allowed prospective, wanna-be-parents to have children in new ways that we would not have imagined when we were children ourselves, but has the law kept up with the progress?  In the recent case of In Re Baby S., 2015 PA Super 244, Pennsylvania Superior Court […]

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DUI blood test – new development in law

New Developments in law from the Supreme Court involving a DUI blood test. In a decision last week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling which has already started to change the way DUI cases will be prosecuted and defended in Pennsylvania. In Birchfield v. N. Dakota, the Supreme Court held that a driver […]

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PCRA results in New Trial

Burglary Sentence of 7.5-15 Years Vacated and New Trial Awarded under Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) Defendant was accused of perpetrating a distraction burglary wherein an accomplice preoccupied the homeowner at the front door asking for help with car trouble while the Defendant entered the rear of the house and ran off with a television. Defendant and the accomplice […]

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Prenuptial Agreement: How to Prepare

signing doument

Prenuptial Agreement:  How to prepare for potential divorce before you get married, Part III of a series regarding property division and divorce. A prenuptial agreement, which is sometimes referred to as a “premarital agreement,” or a “prenup,” may be prepared and executed by two people before they get married in order to protect their interest in […]

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Death Penalty – Criminal Law Update

Death Penalty Update:  “No man can be a judge in his own case”- wrote Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in a decision on a death penalty case yesterday.  In Williams v. Pennsylvania, the US Supreme Court decided that a judge who was involved in the prosecution could not thereafter sit as a state Supreme Court […]

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Property Settlement in Divorce: What do I deserve?

Part II of a series regarding property settlement in a divorce. When you divorce in Pennsylvania, the law requires that the property acquired during the marriage will be divided “equitably” between you and your spouse.  In our most recent article about property division, we described what assets should be considered as “marital property” and what may […]

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Immigration Law Update: Removal based Aggravated Felony

Immigration Law Update: In a decision which will impact consequences of criminal convictions and limit immigration benefits, on May 19, 2016, the Supreme Court decided in Luna Torres v. Lynch that certain state, local, and federal offenses are “aggravated felonies”. Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), an alien (non-citizen) convicted of an aggravated felony can […]

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