Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

How to Handle Divorce After Adultery

Adultery is an extremely painful experience. It is completely normal for a spouse who has learned about their husband or wife’s affair to feel anger, pain, and grief all at once. The emotions you feel may run the gamut, from wanting to strike back and cause equivalent pain to questioning your own self-worth. Some people immediately move to try to save their marriage, while others see no way out but divorce. There is no right answer on what to do – it is a completely personal decision.

One of the myths that circles around divorce holds that clients whose spouses have cheated on them are given more leverage by judges, who view adultery with disapproving eyes. As much as this may feel like a good and just result to a husband or wife who’s been cheated upon, there is no truth to the theory. Today, divorce is almost never viewed as a matter of right or wrong. It is simply the business of ending up a legal contract between two people while addressing the details of assets, child custody and support.

As experienced divorce attorneys, adultery is an issue that we encounter all too frequently. Spouses who have just learned of an affair are frequently in shock, overwhelmed by feelings of betrayal and unable to see past their emotions. They look to the legal system to act on their behalf and are frustrated when they learn that there is no additional relief to compensate for their pain.

In Pennsylvania, divorces are almost always filed as “no-fault.” That means that you don’t need grounds for a divorce. Though it is tempting to pursue an “at fault” divorce, these often take more time and require proof that may be painful to collect and present. Even if you do so, the presentation is unlikely to impact either the distribution of assets, child custody, or child support. A wronged spouse may be able to avoid paying alimony, and this will definitely be the case if your ex ends up cohabitating with another person.

Every divorce is difficult, but those involving adultery are often the most challenging to deal with. Spouses who have been cheated on often focus more on the betrayal than they do on the legal process, and often let their emotions cloud their thoughts on what will be best for them and their children in the long term. Our experienced and compassionate divorce attorneys understand exactly how painful this process is, and we are here to help you navigate your divorce journey and guide you to the decisions that will help you move forward. Contact us today to set up a time to talk.

Are Alimony Payments Taxable?

For years, people whose divorce agreements required that they pay alimony to their ex-spouse were able to deduct those payments from their annual income, thus reducing their tax liability. At the same time, the recipients of those payments were required to report them as taxable income. But the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) put an end to that practice for anybody whose divorces were put into place after December 31, 2018. For those divorced after that date and through the end of 2025 (when the TCJA expires), the alimony deduction is eliminated, though the ability to take the deduction for previously existing agreements and the requirement to report payments received as income is grandfathered unless an existing decree or agreement is modified and the repeal of the deduction is explicitly stated within the change.

Those divorced prior to the end of 2018 and whose agreement has not been modified should report the amount of alimony that they have received on their Form 1040 on Line 2A of Schedule 1. If you paid alimony per the terms of a pre-TCJA agreement, record the total amount on line 18a of Schedule 1 and then reflect the amount as an adjustment to income on 10a of the form. You will be asked for additional information for cross-reference and confirmation, including the date of your divorce decree and your ex-spouse’s Social Security number. If your ex won’t provide you with their Social Security number you can report the problem to the IRS, which will charge your ex a penalty for non-cooperation.

The tax changes only apply to alimony, or what is sometimes referred to as “separate maintenance.” It does not apply to child support, payments that are a part of community property income, noncash property settlements or voluntary payments that are not part of the divorce decree or agreement.

The tax changes made in the TCJA have created significant confusion and added another layer of complexity to those who were divorcing immediately before they took place. Many divorcing couples found that it made their negotiations more challenging, as those required to pay alimony were less inclined to generosity once they lost their deduction.  It is unknown whether Congress will extend the changes when they expire at the end of 2025.

Are Millennial Divorce Rates Lower than Previous Generations?

There was once a time when the odds of a marriage lasting were universally accepted as being roughly 50-50, which did not bode well for those considering tying the knot. But recent data analysis has provided some eye-opening statistics about the societal shifts around matrimony. Researchers have found that younger generations are proving significantly more adept at making their marriages last.

The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the numbers are irrefutable. People are waiting longer to get married, and once they get married, they’re managing to avoid divorce and stay married.

The different generational groups have approached marriage in very different ways. The Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 got married young and often quickly, sometimes without the benefit of knowing each other well or of fully understanding the many challenges involved. By contrast, the millennials born between 1977 and 1995 have approached marriage with an apparent sense of restraint and thoughtfulness. After having witnessed their own parents’ divorces and examining the reasons behind them, they’ve chosen to accumulate greater financial reserves and pursue career success before marriage. They’ve also spent an average of five years with their partners, often living together, making significant purchases together and signing prenuptial agreements, all with the intent of making sure that they share values and are compatible.

The result has been both a drop in the number of marriages taking place, but also a remarkable 24% decline in the rate of divorce since the 1980s and 18 percent from 2008 to 2016. Even more startling is the fact that the majority of divorces that are happening are among older adults. Between 1990 ad 2015, the divorce rate for those between the ages of 55 and 64 doubled. They tripled for those 65 and over. This has led to the coining of a new phrase – grey divorce – referring to a continuing trend of older people increasingly seeking a divorce.

There’s a lot to be said for younger people taking their time and carefully considering before committing to a marriage, but even with that level of thoughtfulness, not every union will last. Whether you have been in a marriage for decades or for a shorter period of time, if you are considering divorce you need the guidance of an experienced attorney. To speak with one of our compassionate professionals, contact our office today.

Getting a Temporary Restraining Order Before Divorce

A restraining order is designed to protect those who fear violence, threats of violence, serious harassment or stalking from a named individual. In some situations, people going through a divorce from a violent spouse obtain restraining orders to protect themselves. They are administered by judges. If you are in fear of a person who has abused you, threatened you, sexually assaulted, seriously harassed, or stalked you, you can apply for a temporary restraining order at any time, either on your own or with an attorney representing you.

The rules surrounding filing a complaint are straightforward. While in less emergent situations a hearing will be scheduled for the issuance of a final restraining order, a temporary ex parte restraining order can be requested. If the judge overseeing your complaint believes that issuing this type of order so immediately is necessary for your protection, it will be awarded based solely on the emergent information you or your representative provides.

One reason that it makes sense to have an attorney represent you when you seek the protection of a temporary restraining order is that they can very effectively communicate your situation to the judge.  In many cases, a person seeking protection is fearful of being physically present. In these cases, an effective attorney will both convince the judge that it would be harmful for you to e present, and to issue a temporary restraining order based on your sworn testimony or complaint being presented by your attorney.

Even if you are able to appear before a judge when seeking protection, getting your message across effectively can be a challenge if you are in an emotional or fearful state. It is especially hard if the person you seek protection from is either intimidating you or has their own attorney, and as much as they may want to help, courthouse officials cannot act on your behalf or give you legal advice. Even though it isn’t required, it is a good idea to have experienced legal representation and guidance.

Once a temporary restraining order has been issued, its protections will be in place until you are able to have a full hearing scheduled. Scheduling usually takes several days. At that hearing, both you and the person you want restrained will be heard, and you will both be able to present your case. This is most effectively done with the assistance of an attorney who will help you with testimony, presentation of evidence and coordinating witnesses.

If you are considering divorce and feel you are in need of protection or need information about obtaining a temporary restraining order, we can help. Contact us today to set up a time for a consultation.





Making Shared Custody Easier During the Holidays

Holidays are traditionally viewed as family time, but for those who have gone through a divorce or separation, they are frequently seen as a time to do battle. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, all become something to fight for, and parents often spend so much time and emotional energy trying to keep the event on their side of the custody win column that they lose sight of the joy of the celebration itself. With a little planning and flexibility, divorced or separated parents can void this stress for themselves and for their children. Here are some pointers on how to do it.

  • Alternate the holiday celebrations throughout the year so that each parent has an equal number of holidays spent with the child, and then reverse the schedule on alternating years. In other words, one parent would have Memorial Day weekend, the other would have July 4th holiday and then switch back for Labor Day, and the following year the rotation would switch.
  • Birthdays can be either shared, with one parent having the first half of the day and the other the latter half, or whoever has custody that day would maintain that custody, but the child would spend a certain number of hours during the day with the other parent. Parties should be coordinated with both parents present if possible.
  • Holidays can also be split in half in the same way as birthdays, with one parent having the morning hours and the other having the evening hours. This allows the child to spent time during each holiday with both parents and their extended families.
  • If possible, spend the holidays together. This is clearly a “best-case scenario” that may be better discussed after parents have gone through a post-divorce cooling off period but is frequently most enjoyable for the children.

Whichever option you choose, it’s essential that you don’t wait until the last minute to make plans for the holidays. Having a clear answer as to where the children will be and who they will be with not only avoids stress for you, but also for the children – and making sure that their holiday celebrations are happy should be the priority for both of you.

If you are going through a divorce and need assistance negotiating the details of shared custody or any other issue, we can help. Contact us today to set up a time for us to chat.


The First Steps of Filing for Divorce

No matter what your circumstances, filing for divorce involves a significant amount of uncertainty. You may be committed to ending the marriage, but the process itself is a mystery. What you’ve seen on television or movies or even what you’ve heard from friends or relatives is unlikely to come close to the reality of the experience. Getting divorced is a detail-oriented, document-heavy process. The more you know what to expect, the less stressful it will be.

The first thing that a person considering divorce should do is to seek legal guidance. Your initial consultation with a lawyer will answer many of your questions about what you can anticipate going forward. Scheduling an appointment with an individual attorney does not commit you to the divorce, or even to using that lawyer or law firm, but will be invaluable to helping you understand what to expect. To help the attorney assess your situation, make sure that you bring all pertinent documents and collect the information that they will need, including the date of your marriage, your address and other specifics including birth dates and Social Security numbers, whether you have already separated, information about assets, children, tax forms, and any agreements signed before or after the marriage.

Once all of this information has been gathered and you make the decision to move forward, the steps to divorce begin with filing a divorce petition. Even if you and your spouse have mutually agreed to end the marriage, one of you must file this paperwork asking the court for a divorce. The petition will include the reasons for the divorce, as well as demographic information affirming that you have filed the paperwork appropriately. You will also need to provide a copy of this paperwork to your spouse with proof of service so that the court knows that you have fulfilled this responsibility. Your spouse will need to respond within a certain amount of time, which differs based upon your state.

Following the filing, the courts may impose a waiting period. While this time passes, you can request temporary orders having to do with child support, spousal support or custody if appropriate, as well as property restraining orders or status quo orders requesting the continued payment of marital debts throughout the process. This may be negotiated between you and your spouse or you may need to go to court for a hearing.

The information provided here is a rudimentary guide to the beginning of the divorce process To learn more about what to expect upon filing for a divorce, contact our compassionate attorneys today.




Is Marriage Abandonment Grounds for Divorce?

Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state which means that in most cases, there is no need to prove or justify a divorce filing. However, there are some situations that demand more aggressive divorce action than the no-fault process allows. When this is the case, Pennsylvania also provides a few possibilities for filing for an at-fault divorce, and marriage abandonment is one of them.

There are a few good reasons for wanting to pursue an at-fault divorce. You may need the divorce to move more quickly than the at-fault divorce allow. You may hope to qualify for spousal support, and that may be more likely depending upon your situation. Finally, you may believe that your spouse is going to refuse to accept or agree to the divorce. When that is the case, an at-fault divorce may be your only option. If appropriate, you may file based upon marriage abandonment, but in order to do so, you must be sure that you meet the criteria.

The criteria for marriage abandonment is very specific. The spouse that is filing for divorce has to prove that their partner “has committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.” This one-year absence must be continuous, malicious, deliberate and final and without justification – in other words, a person cannot be accused of abandonment if their departure was the result of abuse or an affair. It also can’t be considered abandonment if the wronged spouse was provided notification and financial support related to the departure. Finally, desertion may be applicable, and you may be eligible to use it as grounds even if your spouse doesn’t actually leave your home. If they have acted in a way that is cruel or despicable, it is interpreted as leaving the relationship, even if they don’t physically leave. Refusing to have sex, take care of the home, or behaving in a way that endangers your life, safety, health or self-respect can all qualify as this type of cruelty and desertion.

Though abandonment may feel painfully clear to you, it is not always easy to prove in a court of law. For help with filing for an at-fault divorce or to get the answers to any divorce questions, contact us today.

How Best to Handle a Contested Divorce

In Pennsylvania the majority of couples manage to go through the divorce process relatively collaboratively, arguing about a few points but eventually allowing both partners to move forward with their lives. Unfortunately, there are some spouses who choose not to cooperate at all, refusing to sign off on divorce papers that are presented to them or engage in any way. This is called an uncontested divorce.  If you suspect that your spouse is going to go this route, or if you have specifically been informed that is the case, here is how best to handle your situation.

Though a contested divorce makes things harder, you can still get divorced whether your spouse agrees to it or not. As long as you file the papers in the correct court and properly serve the divorce papers to your spouse, a divorce is possible. It’s just going to be more problematic.

The first thing you need to do in every Pennsylvania divorce is to determine what grounds you are going to file under. Most couples opt for a no-fault divorce and simply agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, but some are based on fault issues such as infidelity or abuse. These factors can be important in certain situations, and if proven can impact child custody, support, and other elements of how the divorce is decided.

If you file your paperwork and find that your spouse is being non-cooperative, failing to respond to your filings for the sake of being difficult or for some other reason, your attorney can file what is called a motion for default judgment and get a court date. If your spouse doesn’t show up on that date, the judge can record the divorce order based on your submissions, without your spouse’s cooperation. However, every issue will have to be addressed in order for this to happen.

However, when your spouse argues against the divorce, whether entirely or on a specific issue, then things get significantly more complex. The court will require that both sides submit testimony and evidence to the judge for them to make decisions about each aspect of the divorce, including how to allocate child custody and assets. The process will entail numerous hearings and will take significantly longer. It is also likely to be far more expensive because it demands so much more intervention from your attorney.

Marriages deteriorate for many reasons, and a contested divorce may simply be an extension of your already unhappy situation. Having an experienced attorney representing you is the best way to make it through this challenge. Contact us today to learn how we can help.






Are There Limits to Alimony?

When you’re anticipating or in the midst of a divorce, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the details and the various rules as they apply to equitable distribution, child custody, spousal support and alimony.  Part of the confusion is a natural outcome of how many decisions need to be made in the midst of an extremely painful and emotional time, and part emanates from the fact that different states around the country have different laws. The state of New Jersey recently passed groundbreaking laws that put an end to permanent alimony and that make it easier to lower alimony payments, and there is a significant amount of buzz that the rules may end up being adopted or replicated around the country.

Though the law is specific to the state of New Jersey, residents and attorneys in other states are paying close attention, as the change that it has introduced is significant. It puts an end to the previous possibility of endless alimony and replaces it with a limit equal to the marriage’s duration. If a couple has been married for one year then the alimony will not be available to the receiving spouse for longer than that period. The payer of alimony is also able to stop making payments once they retire. Though the law does make room for what it calls “exceptional circumstances” such as a permanent disability that prevents the payee from earning an income, its changes are clearly meant to make things easier for the payer. In fact, it also makes it easier for the alimony amount to be reduced or terminated in instances where they themselves have lost their jobs, or when their ex moves in with a new partner.

Your opinion on whether these changes are for the better or worse will clearly be colored by whether you are the person who is on the receiving end of alimony payments or are the person who is making the payments. It is important to note that the shift is not retroactive, so those with existing alimony arrangements will not be affected by the new law.

Laws regarding the elements of divorce are constantly changing, so it’s important that you work with an attorney who is well versed in the most current legislation around subjects involving alimony, child support and custody, and more. For information on how we can help you, contact us today to set up a consultation.



How to Handle Quarantine if You’re Contemplating a Divorce

Ask anybody who has been through a challenging divorce about the day that they finally separated from their ex and they’re likely to say they felt a huge burden lift from their shoulders. Even those who express a sense of sorrow over their marriage ending also acknowledge the physical separation as an important day that represented the start of a new phase in their lives. For those who are contemplating a divorce in these days of quarantine and coronavirus, there is much less of a chance to have that landmark day come any time soon. Many already-unhappy couples are finding themselves forced to remain together with no place to escape to. The pain and drama of their crumbling relationship are being exacerbated by being together 24/7, as well as the stress of job furloughs or losses, children being home and requiring constant attention, and the fears of the virus itself.

If this is the situation that you find yourself in, divorce professionals are suggesting that you use this time to evaluate your situation and determine whether divorce is truly what you want. You may discover that in times of stress, your spouse steps up in a way that makes you think better of them, making it worthwhile to work out existing problems and try to stay together. On the other hand, the quarantine may make divorce something you may want even more passionately. With courts closed around the country, you are going to have to wait, but that does not mean that you can’t get started on collecting pertinent financial records and, depending upon your specific situation, even speaking to your spouse about what your divorce could or should look like.

The stress of the quarantine may lead the two of you to be open and honest about the state of your marriage and the need for you to divorce. If that is the case, then mediation may provide you with a way to expedite the situation and reduce the costs involved. Mediation can help you avoid going to court entirely or significantly shorten the period of time that it takes to accomplish your goals. It may even be possible to pursue mediation via Zoom or other virtual tools, giving the two of you the possibility of coming out of quarantine already divorced – or close to it – and ready to start your new lives.

For more information, contact the Reinherz team today!


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