Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

How to Keep a Divorce Civil

Though few of us actually hear birds sing or bells chime when we first meet our spouses, we do enter our marriage with high hopes for happily ever after. When it doesn’t work out that way and you end in divorce, it is easy to allow anger, grief, disappointment and betrayal to lead the way. Unfortunately, in the case of getting through the divorce process, giving in to what is easy is not the path of least resistance — in fact, it is the most destructive, time-consuming, energy-sapping thing you can do.

So how do you avoid it?

First, take a deep breath. As deeply personal as your divorce feels and as unique as your situation may seem, it is unlikely that what you’re going through is significantly different from what the courts have heard before. You may picture telling your side of the story to a judge who nods sympathetically, but that’s unlikely to happen. Blame has a remarkably small role in the legal process of divorce, and in the long run that is really what you need to make your way through. The rest is largely emotion, and though it doesn’t feel like it right now, the sooner you can stop fighting and get through the paperwork, the sooner you can move on with the rest of your life. With all that in mind, here are some tips for keeping your divorce civil.

  • Learn what really happens in a divorce. What you see in movies, television shows and soap operas has nothing to do with reality, and the truth is most of what you hear from friends doesn’t either. Divorce is a dissolution of a contract and there are certain steps you have to go through, with specific rules, formulas and order. The more you know, the less objectionable and unfair things will seem and the more in control you will feel.
  • Taking care of yourself is seriously important. That means eating right, getting enough sleep, and finding something to think about that is not your divorce. Obsessing will not get you anywhere but unhappy and angry. The more you remember who you were before your marriage (and divorce) and can get back in touch with that person, the better you will manage this process.
  • Get professional help – both legal and emotional. You need an experienced attorney, and you also need a therapist who can help you make sense of all the feelings that are overwhelming you. Your friends are great, and there’s no doubt that they want to be there for you. But they may not have all the tools that you need.
  • Remind yourself that this is temporary. No matter how bad things feel right now, the acute stage of divorce does not last forever, and you will have a different life on the other side. The fact that you don’t know what it will be does not mean that it won’t be better. Focus on the future instead of on the pain and anger that you’re feeling now.
  • Don’t let anybody pressure you into agreeing to something you don’t want. Though you may want the divorce process to be over, it can be a mistake to make a decision just because it will bring things to a quick end. This is where your attorney will be your greatest asset, as they will make sure you know your rights and are treated fairly.

If you have questions about divorce, contact our experienced attorneys today.

Common Causes of Divorce

Every marriage starts out with high hopes and an eye to a forever future, but only about half actually make it to happily ever after. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks divorce and marital disruption in the same way that they do diseases, and found that by the time couples reach the 5-year anniversary of their wedding, more than one in five have either separated, divorced, or ended as a result of a partner’s death. By 20 years more than half have ended, and when surveyed those that have divorced cite remarkably similar issues as the cause of their splits.

We’re all unique, but when our relationships are struggling there’s a good chance that we’re going through the same issues as most other couple. If you’re experiencing any of the challenges listed below it does not necessarily mean that your marriage has to end, but according to experts they are among the most commonly cited reasons for couples to divorce.

  • Infidelity – Cheating is an all-too-common occurrence, and though some are able to move past the pain, for others forgiveness is simply impossible, and this is true for both in-the-flesh dalliances and those that are referred to as “emotional affairs” occurring via social media.
  • Economic arguments – When a couple points to money as the cause of their divorce it is less about how much they have or don’t have then about how the money is spent. Couples who cannot come to terms with their finances find that those arguments permeate the rest of their relationship.
  • Addiction – There’s no doubt that alcohol and drug abuse can create pain and disappointment in a relationship, but those are not the only addictions that can end to a marriage. People point to their partner’s addictions of all kinds, including sex, shopping, and even being too consumed by work, as a reason to leave.
  • Traumatic situations – It is sad but true that when couples go through an extraordinary incident together it can become such a looming memory or pain point that they become reminders to each other of their loss and it is too much for them to survive together. In some cases this is the death of a child or an economic trauma, but other times it is one partner’s illness or injury that is too much for the other spouse to face or support. These issues can strengthen the team’s devotion to one another, but it can also do the exact opposite.
  • Incompatibility – The love and adoration that couples feel for each other when they first meet can blind them to potential pitfalls that become more apparent over time. Typical points of incompatibility have to do with religion or geographic preferences for where each wants to live but can also be as seemingly minor as one being a homebody while the other prefers nightlife.

If you are encountering any of these issues and feel that they are irreconcilable, it may be time to consider divorce. To explore your options with an experienced divorce attorney, contact our office today to set up an appointment.

Can a Stepparent Apply for Custody During a Divorce?

Child custody is almost always a fraught issue within a divorce. Presumably, both of a child’s parents want what is best for the child and believe that means spending a maximum amount of time with them. Their actions — and arguments — are also driven by their own sense of loss in the face of spending less time with the child. These scenarios are both heartbreaking and all-too-familiar, and they occur whether a parent is biological, adopted, or even a stepparent. Each state has taken its own approach to whether and when a stepparent can apply for custody during a divorce, with some states holding that custody is only available to a stepparent if they have legally adopted the child. In other cases, including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the rules are less stringent and allow custody based on established relationships and what is in the child’s best interest.

In the state of Pennsylvania, a stepparent or grandparent who has taken on responsibilities for a child is considered “in loco parentis.” When a marriage ends and a stepparent has an established relationship with the child and has performed care duties for the child, they are able to seek custody. Pennsylvania’s courts will consider awarding these stepparents custody without making them responsible for the child’s financial support.

The state of New Jersey has taken a similar view to the question of stepparent custody following a divorce from the child’s biological parent. The New Jersey appellate court recently handed down a decision that granted a stepparent the right to petition for custody or visitation. The child in the case had known the stepparent in a parenting role for over seven years, since they were eighteen months old. In reviewing the case the New Jersey court indicated that the stepparent was permitted to seek custody as a “psychological parent,” noting that the child would actually suffer harm if the bond they had formed with the stepparent were to be broken.

Both the Pennsylvania position of “in loco parentis” and the New Jersey doctrine of “psychological parent” are true to the notion that custody should be determined by what is in the best interest of the child. If you are seeking guidance regarding a custody issue within a divorce, our compassionate attorneys can help. Contact us today to learn more.

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.

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