Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

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!

 

How to Handle Shared Custody During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Custody can be one of the most fraught aspects of divorce for couples that have children. Partners who are angry, hurt, or disappointed at the dissolution of their marriage — or whatever led to the breakdown of the marriage — tend to allow either money or child custody to be the issue through which they express their ire. This outcome is hard on all involved and is especially so when the situation is exacerbated by a crisis.

If you and your ex-spouse are struggling with shared custody during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re certainly not alone, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no solution. Your children are likely already stressed by school being closed and plans being canceled, so it would be best for all involved if you find a way to work together. Here are some tips on how to handle shared custody during these difficult times.

  • Make sure that you are doing everything you can to adhere to the CDC and local guidelines for safe behaviors and precautions, including social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks while in the presence of others. Stay aware of current events and avoid conspiracy theories and rumors.
  • When speaking about the pandemic to your children, remain honest and calm, encouraging them to ask questions and come to you with their concerns. Keep the news channels off when they are around and make sure that any comments you make about the behaviors of others do not disparage your ex-spouse.
  • Do not make arbitrary or unilateral decisions about custody agreements or court orders. Your existing custody agreement remains in place unless both of you have agreed otherwise.
  • Use your imagination when it comes to ways to entertain your child. The events and outings that you normally participated in during your custody are likely not available to you right now, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. Be creative and take advantage of outdoor activities if they are available, books, virtual tours and games, and more. Do not hesitate to include your co-parent in Skype, Facetime or Zoom get-togethers, as your child may need the reassurance of seeing their other parent or family members out of fear about the virus.
  • Be honest with your ex-spouse about your own health, exposures and plans. By working together, you elevate your ability to protect your child from the virus. If you can, discuss plans for what to do if either parent or the child/children begin to show symptoms of COVID-19.

A crisis can bring out either the best in people or the worst, but by making an extra effort to be collaborative and cooperative with your ex in how you deal with your shared custody, you can help your child through one of the most challenging times in our collective history.

For help with divorce or custody issues, you can contact our team today!

What Happens to a Bankruptcy During a Divorce?

Divorce and bankruptcy are two of the most emotional legal processes that any individual can go through, and as a result, it is a good idea to pursue them one at a time if at all possible. Though it is understandable to want to escape or end a bad marriage quickly, doing so can complicate a bankruptcy proceeding, and potentially make it much harder for the divorce proceedings to move forward quickly. There are several reasons for this:

  • One of the first things to happen when you file for bankruptcy is that an automatic stay is placed on all of your debts and puts a freeze on all of your assets. The stay is effective through the entirety of the process, and though that’s great if you’re getting constant calls from debt collectors, it makes the equitable division of property in divorce nearly impossible. If possible, complete the bankruptcy process before the divorce.
  • Filing for bankruptcy prior to your divorce will allow you to split the cost of a bankruptcy attorney and all related costs. Additionally, it will eliminate debt for both of you instead of leaving one of you with debt on property listed in both of your names.
  • Depending on where you live, if you are married and file for bankruptcy together it will double the value of your home exemption, thus making it more likely that you can hold on to your house.
  • If you are planning on divorcing after bankruptcy, then Chapter 7 will probably be the best route for you to go. This is because the Chapter 7 process is much faster. Where Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally resolves within a matter of months, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is not completed until the payment plan has eliminated all debt, which generally takes years.
  • Bankruptcy does not address all debts and specifically does not eliminate alimony or child support payments.

Though these are important considerations, you should also keep in mind that calculating eligibility for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be based on your joint incomes. If your combined income puts you over the threshold, then completing the divorce process first may make more sense.

There’s an old saying about money being the root of all evil, and it is definitely the source of many marital problems. If you are considering a divorce because of money arguments, you may want to reconsider whether eliminating your debt would also eliminate your problem. If not, be advised that once you decide to divorce you and your spouse should probably each have your own bankruptcy attorney to represent your best interests. For more guidance, contact our experienced attorneys today.

How to Handle a Divorce After Infidelity

Infidelity is damaging to any marriage and often leads to divorce. In some cases, the affair is the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back in an already faltering marriage, while in others the innocent spouse is caught entirely off guard and is simply too heartbroken or angry for reconciliation to occur. Whether you fall into one of those camps or somewhere between, it’s a good idea to be aware of how infidelity will impact the various aspects of your divorce proceedings. Though people assume it will have a big impact on standing in the court’s eyes, in most cases it has very little effect.

Though it is true that Pennsylvania law permits wronged parties to pursue a “fault” divorce based on spousal misconduct, most divorcing couples opt for a no-fault divorce. There are several reasons for this, but it really comes down to two things: to win a fault divorce you need to have proof of the adultery that you can present in court, and a no-fault divorce usually takes a great deal less time to execute and can often be accomplished outside of court.

This can be a hard lesson for an innocent spouse. Their pain can lead to wanting to punish the adulterer, and in divorce, the two most obvious ways of doing so are either financially or by taking away access to any children there may be in the marriage. Let’s look at those two aspects of a Pennsylvania divorce and how infidelity affects each:

  • When it comes to child support and child custody, infidelity is unlikely to have any impact on the court’s allocation of access to children unless the parent or their relationship has a potential negative impact on the children. If the cheating spouse or their new partner represents potential harm to the children, that should be raised in court.
  • When it comes to finances, equitable distribution is likely to remain relatively unchanged in a no-fault divorce, even where there has been cheating. However, alimony is a different story. Though it may be awarded for a period of time, alimony can be used to deny spousal support for the cheating spouse or to increase it for the spouse who was cheated on.

If you need information about ending your marriage and cheating has been involved, you need an attorney with experience in navigating these difficult emotional elements. Contact us today to set up a time for us to meet and discuss how we can help.

 

 

How to Limit Divorce Fallout and Stay Amicable

When you get married, you see nothing but possibilities. But when your marriage falls apart and you start considering divorce, the idea of having an amicable relationship with your spouse probably feels like an impossibility.

Keeping an open line of communications and minimizing animosity is not only doable – it is also important, especially if you have children together. To limit the nastiness and keep things amicable going forward, here are five important tips:

  • Think beyond yourself – It is easy when you are divorcing to only think about how your split will impact you. The economic, emotional and logistical issues can be maddening, and can easily inflame anger. But if you think beyond yourself to the others who are impacted by your marriage’s collapse – especially your children – you give yourself the opportunity to set aside your hurt feelings and outrage and try to act in the best interests of everybody involved.
  • Make sure that you have the emotional support you need – Getting a divorce can lead to intense loneliness, and that in turn leads to even more resentment towards your ex. It is important to have a strong circle of family and friends who let you know that you are loved and supported and that doesn’t criticize you. It is even better if they don’t criticize your spouse either. The more people try to work towards being accepting of both of you and not taking sides, the more positive your future interactions can be.
  • Figure out what you can agree on between the two of you – Though it is important to work with legal guidance, it is also both a money saver and a relationship saver to determine what you can agree on between the two of you, without intervention.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon – If you are focusing on all of the little things that need to be resolved, then you end up fighting battle after battle. If you make it your long-term goal to get things resolved and move ahead to a place where you can have a different – and respectful – relationship with your ex, you will be a lot less likely to engage in bickering that can derail your best intentions. Pick your battles and be willing to acknowledge that the only reason you’re fighting over small items is because you feel a need to win a battle.
  • Hold your tongue – There is no doubt that you are a lot less likely to get nasty when you let your mouth do your talking than when you put your thoughts to paper – or computer, as the case may be. If you compose what you want to say in writing and then walk away from it for a few minutes before sending it – then come back and re-read it – you are more likely to take some of the heat out of it and edit out the inflammatory comments that can lead to anger.

If you’re considering divorce the attorneys at Reinherz are here to help, contact our team today!

 

 

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