Are Military Pension Payments Divisible in Divorce? SCOTUS says, "No."

Are Military Pension Payments Divisible in Divorce? SCOTUS says, "No."

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

Can your military benefits be divided in divorce? The United States Supreme Court has said, "no."

The United States Supreme Court recently issued a decision in Howell v. Howell finding that a portion military pension benefits that were mandatorily waived pursuant to federal law are not divisible by state courts in divorce proceedings. John Howell and SandraHowell were divorced in 1991 in Arizona while John was serving in the United States Air Force.  In resolution of their economics issues, the Court issued an order awarding Sandra fifty percent of John’s Air Force pension.  John retired from the Air Force in 1992.  Thirteen years later, the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs determined that John was disabled and was entitled to monthly disability benefits. 

Federal law requires that such disability benefits automatically reduce the veterans’ total retirement pension benefit and, in effect, result in a waiver of a portion of the final pension benefit equal to the disability payment.  Sometime thereafter, John began collecting his pension.  However, his monthly payment was reduced by $250.00 per month to account for his receipt of disability benefits, which, in turn, reduced Sandra’s fifty percent share by $125.00. 

As a result, Sandra filed an action with the Arizona trial court and requested that John be order to pay to her 50% share of the pension as calculated on the original amount and not the reduced amount.   Both the trial court and the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with Sandra, holding that the federal law requiring that pension payments be automatically reduced when a veteran receives disability payments cannot preempt a family court order regarding division of that pension. 

The US Supreme Court disagreed with this finding and held that a state court does not have the authority to divide the waived portion of a military pension when that portion was  mandatorily waived pursuant to federal law.  John did not chose to reduce his share of his pension.  Rather, it was automatically reduced when he began receiving disability benefits. The Court did opine that a family court can certainly take the possibility of such a reduction into consideration when crafting an equitable distribution or support award.    The Court also pointed out that it did not matter that the finding of disability occurred after the Order was entered as a right to a pension benefit is based on a future contingency and does not have a final value until the benefit begins being paid. Click here to read the full opinion.

How Many Marriages Really End in Divorce?

How Many Marriages Really End in Divorce?

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

We've all heard the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. But, where did that statistic come from? And is it even correct? According to a recent report from Psychology Today, the divorce rate has been falling for decades, making this commonly cited factoid outdated.  In fact, only 25% of recent marriages are likely to end in divorce.  Moreover, the divorce rates vary based on whether you were divorced previously (higher probability) or your partner was also divorced before (even higher). Read more about the reasoning behind the higher rates if you or your spouse were previously betrothed here.

What is a Post-nuptial Agreement?

What is a Post-nuptial Agreement?

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

Post-nuptial agreements have become more popular in recent years but . . . what exactly are they? While a pre-nuptial agreement is an agreement signed before the marriage, a post-nuptial agreement is signed after the parties have already tied the knot.  Similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, a post-nuptial agreement sets forth how the parties will divide their property and/or if either would receive alimony in the event of a divorce.  Parties generally sign post-nuptial agreements for two reasons: one, they simply didn’t get a chance to sign a pre-nup before they got married or two, they have hit a rough patch in their marriage but aren’t quite ready to call it quits.  For more information about the rise of post-nuptial agreements and different states’ treatments of such agreements click here.

Is Your Marriage Being Impacted by the Trump Effect

Is Your Marriage Being Impacted by the Trump Effect

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Research from Wakefield Research, a marketing research firm, has found that one in ten couples (both married and unmarried) have ended their relationships over political disagreement. Among millennials, this rate of occurrence is 22%. 

Indeed, multiple dating websites and other online information gathering sources report that more couples than ever are arguing and breaking up due to opposing political stances regarding the current president. Read more...

The Ambition v. Marriage Trade-Off

The Ambition v. Marriage Trade-Off

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

While our cultural consciousness may be changing, research shows the change may be slow. According to the Harvard Business Review, even today, research shows men prefer women who are less professionally ambitious than they are.

Given this perception, many single women face an age-old dilemma: Should I sacrifice my career for marriage, or vice versa? 

Research suggests that single women tend to avoid actions that would help their careers because of marriage considerations. The effect is seen not only macro decision-making, such as making schooling determinations, initial career decisions, taking on leadership roles and asking for promotions. Daily decisions such as speaking up at meetings, working late, taking charge of a project, even certain outfits, haircuts, and makeup may be impacted by a single woman's weighing of whether the choice will make her more or less attractive to a potential partner. Read more....

 

 

Can Posting Videos of Your Kids Get you in Trouble?

Can Posting Videos of Your Kids Get you in Trouble?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

In November, we explored how the life we post on social media can have serious consequences. Sadly, one need only look to recent news reports to see an example.

Youtuber "DaddyOFive" and his wife have recently lost custody of his children as a result of "pranks" the couple played on them, recording and posting the incidents for public viewing. The posted "pranks" ranged from  smashing the youngest child's Xbox with a hammer in front of him, to convincing the child that he was being adopted out of the family for his bad behavior, to cursing at him for spilling ink on his bedroom floor. In several of the videos, the child can be seen crying and seems to be visibly, and understandably, distressed by what has happened.

While these videos went viral and garnered the couple thousands of online views, the results were devastating. The couple lost custody of the children based on a court's finding that their behavior was abusive. Read more.... 

 

Come See Us at Lansdale Day!

Come See Us at Lansdale Day!

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Come visit Jon Young at the DBD booth at the 2017 annual Lansdale Day Arts and Crafts Festival! To learn more about the event, visit the information page.

DBD is proud to sponsor this family friendly event and the support the North Penn Rotary Club. 

Are You Entitled to a Child Support Raise?

Are You Entitled to a Child Support Raise?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Whether you are paying child support or receiving it, a new revision in the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines may impact the child support amount in your case.

Child support in Pennsylvania is calculated according to state guidelines. The guidelines are based upon a statistical model that seeks to measure the portion of household income that parents in intact families spend on their children. Our laws then apply these models to divorced, separated and/or otherwise unmarried parents based on the idea that children in separate households should receive approximately the same resources as children in a single, intact-family household. The guidelines are revised every four years to keep up with the realities of our economic circumstances and the cost of living.

The most recent revision, which goes into effect on May 1, 2017,  results in a modest increase in the child support amount at most income levels, though it is not the same at all income levels. For example, in a family where both parents earn approximately $4,000 net of taxes per month, the increase due to the guideline revision may be approximately $30 per month.

It is important to remember that Pennsylvania Courts do not automatically adjust child support Orders to reflect this change when the guidelines are updated. Instead, a parent must file a petition to modify support to obtain a new Order. Though the petitioner (the person seeking a new support Order) must demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred that warrants a modification, a change in the guidelines qualifies as such a change if it results in a material change in child support.

Speaking with your attorney before filing a petition to modify is essential. While the revision may entitle you to a slight increase in support, it is crucial to remember that this change in the law is not considered in a vacuum. Once a petition to modify is filed, the court can consider changes to the each parent’s income, healthcare costs, extracurricular activities, childcare costs and/or any other circumstances of the family. It is possible that changes in these variables may offset any increase you might other see due to the guidelines revision. Furthermore, the cost of potentially litigating a child support modification case may outweigh the increase to which you might be entitled.

Discuss the new guidelines revision with an attorney to address the pros and cons of a  possible support modification in your specific circumstances. Having a full understanding of the possible outcomes of your case can help you make the best decision for your family.

We're Giving Back. Come Join Us!

We're Giving Back. Come Join Us!

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

We understand that to really improve the lives of our clients, we must improve the communities in which we all live. That's why DBD is giving back to stellar organizations throughout our region, as a sponsor and participant. We've already given back to Knights for Life, NPUW Super Hero Event, and Beacon Mega Event. We've also sponsored the Montgomery Township Baseball and Softball Association, the Souderton Area Baseball League, Pottstown Little League, and Towamencin Ball Parks.

But we're far from done. Come find us at these great events, sponsored in part by DBD!

DBD Attorney Teaches Civic Education at Local School

DBD Attorney Teaches Civic Education at Local School

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

At DBD, we believe that serving our community means more than providing legal representation - it's about giving back to even the smallest of our residents. Indeed, on Friday, April 21, 2017, DBD Partner Jon Young was one of six professional, including Judge Andrea Duffy, to teach civic education to students at Montgomery Elementary. 

Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself...

Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself...

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

There are few other times in a couple's life together as gleeful, romantic, and exciting as getting engaged and married. However, while it's not exactly the stuff of romance novels, discussing certain legal and logistical matters before tying the knot may protect your marriage from unraveling in the future. Before you say "I do" consider the following:

1. Do we need a prenuptial agreement? Most of us have some preconceived notions about prenuptial agreements. These agreements - meant to specify in advance each spouse's rights in the event that the marriage breaks down - are not just for the rich and famous. If you or your spouse own a family business, family real estate or property, or other interests you'd like to preserve, you may want to consider putting your intent to paper to ensure that those interests are protected in the event of death or divorce. Likewise, couples who anticipate a certain lifestyle (such as one spouse becoming a stay-at-home parent) may want to predetermine how either spouse will be maintained in the event of separation or divorce. Lastly, couples who are marrying for the second time and may have children from a previous marriage may want to preserve certain property or income for their children of the first marriage. 

2. Will we purchase a home and/or how will we maintain a home? If you and your partner intend to buy a home together, consider the source of the funds for the purchase. Discussing how such a large purchase will be made ahead of time can stave off issues down the road. Consider whether you and your partner intend to title the property in joint names and how you intend the property to be passed down upon your death. If either you or your partner intend to move into a home owned by the other, you should discuss how each of you will contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the home and who would receive the proceeds from the same of that home in the event that you choose to sell it down the road. 

3. What is Pennsylvania's law regarding assets and marital property? Knowing your rights and obligations pursuant to Pennsylvania's divorce and estate laws may not be the most romantic way to enter a marriage. However, being mindful of your rights and obligation to your spouse can help both of you determine the best way to plan your financial life together. Some couples choose to maintain joint accounts and pool their finances, while other prefer to maintain separate finances while contributing to joint expenses. Furthermore, you and your partner may have different ideas about how you want your property and assets to pass in the event of your death. Before you tie the knot, it is important to learn how Pennsylvania's law would handle your finances so you can prepare wills or other estate documents if you'd like your property to pass in a different manner. 

4. If we have children, how will we raise them financially? Discussions regarding future children and parenting styles can be thorny. Not only can you and your partner have different ideas about prefered parenting styles, but you may also have different ideas about what kind of life you'd like your children to lead. Do you or your spouse intend for your children to attend private school? What kind of activities or expenses do you anticipate for your children? Do you wish to help your children pay for higher education? Discussing the kind of obligations and expenses you foresee for your children and how you, as a couple, intend to handle those expenses can help keep you on the same page.  

When It Comes to Custody, Hard Circumstances and Choices Abound

When It Comes to Custody, Hard Circumstances and Choices Abound

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Courts and legislatures across the country are grappling with the question of what to do when the parent seeking custody has committed an egregious act in the conception or birth of that child. 

In Maryland this week, a legislative bill that would prevent a man who impregnated a woman through rape from seeking custody of the child conceived and born of the rape has fizzled out. The bill, which had support on both sides of the political isle and the state's governor, lost traction and left Maryland as one of a handful of states without such legislation. In another state, Washington, a 19 woman who threw her newborn child into a trash compactor is "on track" to regain custody rights of her son. After receiving a six-month sentence for felony abandonment, she was recently awarded supervised visitation with the child and is expected to see her time increase if she continues to follow the court's instructions. 

These shocking circumstances beg the question: In these drastic situations, what is really in the best interest of the child?