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A Messy Process Made a Little Messier...

A Messy Process Made a Little Messier...

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

In December, we touched upon an emerging challenge for family lawyers and litigants alike: crypto-currency. Unfortunately, this new form of asset acquisition continues to be an ephemeral safe-haven for those determined to shield assets in a divorce action and, in the process, makes an already messy divorce process even messier. 

As reported by Bloomberg, not only is crypto-currency volatile, making it difficult to value, but it can be traded with relative anonymity. Crypto-currency holdings that are traded online can be traced and valued with a bit more ease, while holdings that are moved offline (and to a USB) are much more difficult to assess.  

As regulatory agencies grapple with the best method of tracking, disclosing and reporting crypto-currency, it is safe to say that some couples may encounter even more bitterness and frustration in their divorce matter. 



*This article was written and originally publish by Judy Malmon on and can be found in its original form here.

By Judy Malmon

Divorce is ubiquitous. Many of us know someone who’s been through the process, or have been divorced ourselves. Stories of divorce are on TV, social media, the internet—nearly everywhere you look. Despite this, there remain a surprising amount of misconceptions.

What you think you know about divorce isn’t necessarily true.

Kids Don’t Choose

Lansdale family law attorney Elizabeth Billies, of Dischell Bartle Dooley, says that one of the most common errors she encounters is the belief that children over a certain age (usually 12 or 14) can decide their own custody arrangement. I have so many people that come in and say, ‘My kid can decide where they want to live.’ And I have to tell them, ‘No, that is not what the law says.’”

Pennsylvania custody law outlines 16 factors that go into a judicial determination of custody based on finding what would be in the best interest of the child. Within these factors is one that takes into account a child’s “well-reasoned preference.” But this is only a factor, not dispositive in itself, and is considered in light of their maturity and judgment.

Billies shares a story from early in her career to illustrate the rationale behind this law: “In one memorable case I worked on, the girl was 15 or 16, back when MySpace was popular. The dad lived out of state, and he found evidence in his daughter’s MySpace postings that she was hanging out with guys who were 19 years old and drinking. They showed in the custody trial that mom was trying to act like a friend, not like a parent, and exercising poor judgment. In that case, custody was transferred to dad, and the child had to move. Obviously, that was not the child’s preference, but it was in her best interest, and is an example of why preference can’t rule the day. Because why should a 12 year-old know what’s best for them?”

No Fault Means Exactly That

Another common misconception Billies sees regularly has to do with property distribution under no-fault divorce. “People think if someone cheated on them, abused them, was not good with money, that should really count for something in the division of property. And it just doesn’t.”

In a no-fault divorce there is no examination of the behavior of the parties related to the dissolution of their marriage. “When it comes time to divide up assets, I tell my clients to look at it as a dissolution of a business,” says Billies. “It’s a business transaction. That makes the emotional piece really different.”

Billies recommends working on emotional issues with a therapist or friend, while keeping the legal end of things more practical. This also helps keep the legal bill down, as fighting with your ex through your lawyer can be very costly.

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property between divorcing spouses is not divided evenly in half, but apportioned according to what a judge considers fair in light of factors such as relative income of each spouse, anticipated retirement income of each, duration of the marriage, and other factors deemed relevant (but not fault-related behavior). Assets that were owned prior to the marriage or a gift or inheritance are generally not part of the marital estate.

Prevalent misinformation can leave you with incorrect assumptions about your divorce or custody situation. Talk to an experienced family law attorney to make sure you have the best information and advice.

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.

Can Your Divorce Stunt Your Career?

Can Your Divorce Stunt Your Career?

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

No one needs to be told that divorce is a Big Life Event with personal and emotional fallout. Indeed, research shows that divorce is second on the list of traumatic life events…second, only to a death of a close loved one. While we naturally focus on the personal consequences of divorce, the impact of your divorce on your job is often overlooked.

As with many things, our TVs have provided a reminder over the past couple of weeks. In recent months, it’s been revealed that two of HGTV’s popular shows are impacted by the personal family law matters of its stars. Tarek and Christina El Moussa, stars of HGVT’s “Flip or Flop,” recently revealed that they are divorcing but intend to keep working together in their home-flipping ventures. Similarly, Nicole Curtis, star of “Rehab Addict,” has been privately going through a difficult custody battle over her 16-month-old son, Harper. Both shows have been impacted by the personal turmoil of their subjects. Questions about whether “Flip or Flop” will continue (or whether viewers will tune in to the divorcing couple) have abound amid tabloid press regarding the details of the El Moussa divorce. Curtis’ filming schedule has likewise been on hold as she appeared to be dealing with the fallout of her custody case (happily, filming is now back on).

These famous examples beg the question: can your divorce stunt your career? Being aware of the very notion that your divorce may impact your job performance may just be the best way to stem its effect.