New DUI Law: Nothing to Blow Off

New DUI Law: Nothing to Blow Off

By Robert J. Iannozzi Jr.| Esquire

A new law set to go into effect August 25, 2017 will change the way first-time DUI offenders are punished in Pennsylvania. The new law will require most first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.10 percent to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle.

Under the new law, most first-time offenders would be eligible to drive with the ignition interlock immediately. Otherwise, they would have to have their driver’s license suspended for a year before installing the interlock device for 12 months. Those who are eligible can petition PennDOT for a new Ignition Interlock Limited License, allowing them to install the device for one year and continue to drive. The law will also apply to drivers who refuse to submit to chemical testing. They will be eligible for early interlock after six months.

According to statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nearly 2 million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlock devices, including more than 78,000 instances in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.

At DBD, we keep up on the latest emerging laws and procedures to assist you. If you have a pending DUI charge or need help with expunging a previous conviction, please contact Bob Iannozzi

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US!

On August 3, 1977, three partners began Dischell Bartle & Dooley with the goal of bringing superior legal services to the Lansdale, PA area. Though our offices and our reach has expanded, our mission remains the same: to bring outstanding legal services and a sense of civil commitment to our clients and our communities. We are so honored to have served you for forty year and look forward to serving you for forty more!

The Violent Side of Divorce

The Violent Side of Divorce

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

On these pages, we often write about the divorce process or even quip about new and interesting cultural trends emerging in the area of divorce. These articles, links and stories are sometimes light-hearted or present a curious issue in the area of family law. So it's easy to forget the enormity, life-changing and possibly violent repercussions of an individual's decision to seek a divorce. This decision can come with more than just emotional turmoil and a legal battle; in many instances, it may also come with violence. 

We were recently reminded of this fact when a Centre County, PA man killed his wife and attempted to burn his house down with his young child still inside. He did so because his wife was considering a divorce. 

Protecting our clients in potential domestic violence situations is a vital consideration when advising clients about initiating a divorce matter. If you have any misgivings about your spouse's possible reaction to a divorce, be sure to discuss your concerns with your attorney. 

PA Municipalities Push Employment Regulations Forward, Despite Federal Legislative Gridlock

PA Municipalities Push Employment Regulations Forward, Despite Federal Legislative Gridlock

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Philadelphia is leading the charge among Pennsylvania municipalities - and the rest of the country - in adopting workplace regulations such as anti-discrimination ordinances and paid leave regulations. Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvania cities are following suit. However, for companies that operate throughout the Commonwealth, keeping up with the rapidly-evolving local employment laws. 

At DBD, we are keeping up with trends in employment law, both locally and nationwide. To read more about local employment law developments, click here

 

Does Marriage Have Health Benefits?

Does Marriage Have Health Benefits?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Over the past few decades, there has been a general consensus in the medical research community that there are many medical health benefits to being married. Studies have declared that married individuals live longer and happier lives than their uncoupled counterparts. 

But if that "marriage benefit" existed at all, it might be evaporating, according to a study published July 5 in the journal Social Science Quarterly. Read more....

Divorce Hits a New High AND a New Low

Divorce Hits a New High AND a New Low

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

According a new Gallup poll, "divorce" in America has hit both a new high and low record. While the overall divorce rate has dropped to its lowest point in decades, the percentage of Americans who consider divorce to be morally acceptable is at it's highest level it. Seventy-three percent of Americans consider divorce to be morally acceptable, up 14% since 2001. To read more about this Gallop poll, click here

PA Supreme Court Makes Dramatic Changes to PA Workers' Compensation Law

PA Supreme Court Makes Dramatic Changes to PA Workers' Compensation Law

By Jonathon B. Young | Esquire

Since the mid 1990’s the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act has allowed what is called “Impairment Rating Evaluations” (IRE’s). An injured worker (Claimant) who is out of work because of an accepted work injury could be forced to attend an Impairment Ratings Evaluation after his or her receipt of two years or 104 weeks of wage loss benefits.

The evaluation was performed by a qualified physician who was designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the Claimant’s level of overall body impairment under the American Medical Association AMA Impairment Guidelines. 

In Pennsylvania a Claimant having a total body impairment rating of less than 50% under the AMA Guidelines would be relegated to “partial disability status”.  While this did not affect the amount of Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits a claimant received each week, it did effectively cap their receipt of wage loss benefits to 500 weeks or roughly 9.6 years from the date of the Impairment Ratings Evaluation (IRE).

On June 20, 2017 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in PROTZ v.  WCAB (Derry Area School District). In Protz, the Supreme Court found the Impairment Ratings Evaluations process to be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. Although the retroactivity of the court’s ruling is not yet fully defined, the court’s ruling ends further modification of wage benefits by an IRE.

Specifically the decision held that Section 306(a.2) of the Pa. Workers’ Compensation Act was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.  The court’s opinion makes clear that the entirety of Section 306(a.2) is unconstitutional.  Therefore, effective immediately, the Department of Labor & Industry/ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will no longer designate physicians to perform Impairment Rating Evaluations.

If your benefits have been modified as a result of a prior IRE, or you are unsure and have questions, pleasespeak to DBD Partner, AttorneyJonathan B. Young to determine your options.   All initial consultations are free of charge.  

At Dischell, Bartle & Dooley we stand ready to serve you in many areas of law.  Give us a call.

Is a 401(k) Withdrawal Pursuant to a Divorce Settlement Taxable Income?

Is a 401(k) Withdrawal Pursuant to a Divorce Settlement Taxable Income?

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

Yes!  A withdrawal from a 401(k) creates income for which the recipient of the withdrawn funds will be taxed.  For example, if the parties are contemplating transferring retirement assets from one spouse to the other, and do not want the funds to be taxed, they should transfer the monies from one party’s retirement account to the other.  Under this procedure, the money is not actually withdrawn from the original account. Rather, it is merely moved from one retirement vehicle to another following a procedure outlined by the retirement plans. Thus, as no cash has actually  been received by either party, there is nothing to tax.  However, don’t forget that when the receiving party withdraws those funds at retirement, those monies are taxed at that person’s income tax rate.  

In many cases, there is little cash available for division in a divorce settlement.  However, there are many instances when a party needs to withdraw monies from a retirement plan in order to satisfy debts, pay bills, etc. prior to retirement.  In that case, the transferring party should still transfer the monies to the other’s retirement account to avoid paying taxes. After the transfer, the receiving party may withdraw part or all the funds subject to income taxes and early withdrawal penalties. Unfortunately,  divorce is not a life event that makes these withdrawals exempt from IRS penalties.  It is best to consult your attorney and/or accountant before make such financial moves to best avoid any unnecessary payments to Uncle Sam. 

Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

When we hear the words “prenuptial agreement” or “prenup,” most of us think of wealth, celebrities, or even unreasonable demands we’ve seen in the movies. Prenuptial Agreements have had the misfortune of being seen as unromantic, fatalist, and unseemly. However, a prenuptial agreement – or a contract entered into before marriage that outlines the rights and obligations of both spouses in the event of divorce – can prove to be useful for individuals in a variety of financial circumstances.

Many clients wonder, “Why do I need to know about a prenuptial agreement now that I’m going through a divorce?” The answer is simple: A prenuptial agreement can help you reduce conflict in a future relationship and can serve as valuable financial planning tool.

You may be aware that Pennsylvania’s Divorce Code provides for a process, called equitable distribution, by which marital property is divided. In addition, our divorce and support laws provide for support remedies such as alimony pendente lite and alimony in the event of divorce. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, these laws largely govern what happens to your finances in the event of divorce. Unsurprisingly, many of us are not too keen about how these laws are applied to our lives. A prenuptial agreement can help you predetermine how your financial circumstances will be resolved in the event of divorce.

A prenuptial agreement can assist you with:

  • Financial Planning – A prenuptial agreement is a vehicle by which you and your future spouse can determine for yourselves what kind of property is and will remain separate, and what kind of property, if any, will be marital. It also permits the spouses to designate whether income earned during the marriage remains the separate property of the person who earned it, whether and to what extent retirement accounts may be marital, and who gets what in the event of divorce. By clearly establishing these understandings prior to the marriage, you may be able to better gauge what your financial picture may look like upon divorce.
  • Estate Planning – A prenuptial agreement can be a critical estate planning tool, particularly if you have children from a previous relationship. Designating your spouse’s ability to inherit from your estate, and to what extent, can help you provide for your spouse, children from a previous relationship, and/or other family in your desired manner.
  • Debt Allocation – In a divorce action, the court will distribute and divide marital debts in addition to marital property. Many clients are frustrated by the idea that they must assume a portion of marital debts that may have been incurred solely by the other spouse. A prenuptial agreement can be an effective way of shielding you from debts incurred by the other spouse during marriage.
  • Support – Our support law provides for alimony during and after the pendency of a divorce, with factors and guidelines that often prescribe how income and support are calculated. A prenuptial agreement allows individuals the freedom to determine some of these support issues for themselves. However, it should be noted that issues of child support and child custody are not binding and are always modifiable.

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.