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divorce

Parenting Coordination Returns To Family Law

Parenting Coordination Returns To Family Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in August issued new rules for Parenting Coordination. Effective March 1, Parenting Coordination will again be a part of Family Law. It was eliminated by a Court ruling in 2013.

The new rules state that a “Parenting coordinator shall attempt to resolve issues arising out of the custody order by facilitating an agreement between the parties and, if unable to reach an agreement, recommend a resolution to the court.”  

The Parenting Coordinator does not determine major issues such as who obtains physical custody or a parent’s relocation, but rather the nettlesome issues such as places and conditions for transitions, the child’s participation in recreation, childcare arrangements, clothing, and many more mundane issues that trouble parents and custodians.
 
“Parenting Coordination is a very good thing for clients, lawyers, the courts and, most importantly, the children of the Commonwealth,” said Dischell Bartle Dooley attorney Mark Dischell.
 
After a final custody order has been entered, a judge may appoint a parenting coordinator to resolve parenting issues in cases involving repeated or intractable conflict between the parties affecting implementation of the final custody order, according to the Court’s rules. A parenting coordinator should not be appointed in every case. The appointment may be made on the motion of a party or the Court’s motion, the rules state.
 
A Parenting Coordinator must be licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as either an attorney or mental health professional with a Master’s degree or higher, according to the Court’s rules.  
 
A Parenting Coordinator can be helpful when the parties in a custody dispute have difficulty reaching an agreement, Dischell said.
 
“There are times when the parties in custody litigation can’t emotionally or financially continue with a process in the courts,” Dischell explained. “Parenting Coordination is an important option in those situations.”
 
For more information on Parenting Coordination, call Mark Dischell at 215-362-2474 or click here to email him.

 

Click Here to File for Divorce

Click Here to File for Divorce

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

These days, you can complete nearly any task from your digital device. Purchase groceries? Done. Print photos? Yep. Design your perfect bedroom and purchase furnishings? Absolutely. Send a payment to a friend for last week's lunch? In seconds. 

File for divorce? In China, you can now do this, as well. 

The Chinese app WeChat, which is used by one billion active users worldwide, rolled out a new function permitting its users to schedule appointments with their local divorce registration office. In addition, the app permits users to enter information regarding themselves and the spouse they intend to divorce and store personal documents. Indeed, WeChat is so widely used across China for a multitude of purposes that in one case a woman was contacted via WeChat during a court proceeding when she failed to appear in court. 

Swipe right to file for divorce? Read more here

The Expanding and Evolving American Family

The Expanding and Evolving American Family

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

"What do you call, for example, your stepmother’s son’s live-in girlfriend’s 11-year-old son?" inquires Ben Steverman of Bloomberg. This question gets to the heart of a consideration many family law litigants and practitioners may be encountering more and more.

Us family law practitioners are mostly consumed with what occurred during our clients' marriages, what is taking place during the pending litigation, and protecting our clients' future financial prospects. However, though we may wish our clients well and love to receive updates, we don't always know how their families evolve and grow after the completion of their family law matter. 

With many American families reconfiguring through divorce and remarriage, there is no doubt that many families expand in unexpected ways. Perhaps taking the complexities of post-divorce families into consideration is an important part maintaining familiar relationships. 

The New High Tech Trend in Hiding Marital Assets in Divorce

The New High Tech Trend in Hiding Marital Assets in Divorce

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

It's hard to read or see the news  these days without running into mention of bitcoin, the crypto-currency that has exploded onto the scene and exponentially increased overnight. Even so, most of us are left scratching our heads when it comes to understanding how it all works or what it all means. 

For family law litigants and practitioners, the prospect of a "bitcoin divorce" is even more of a puzzler. Are bitcoin divisible in equitable distribution? If so, are these asset in the nature of currency or personal property or stocks? Are bitcoin transactions traceable and able to be regulated? Perhaps most importantly, can bitcoin and/or other crypto-currency be withdrawn or sold for actual dollars?

There are currently few definitive answers to these questions. However, we are already seeing the impact of the electronic cash system on divorce matters as some appear to be using the currency as a high-tech method of hiding cash

If you or your partner own crypto-currency, consult with an attorney regarding the best way to deal with this new type of asset. 

Tax Reform Bill Takes Aim at Adoption and Alimony

Tax Reform Bill Takes Aim at Adoption and Alimony

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

The recently-released House Tax Reform Bill has seemingly sent analysts and experts in all kinds of field scrambling to determine how the proposed changes may impact the rest of us. 

Family law practitioners, litigants, and policy-makers are no exception. Indeed, the Bill would eliminate certain deductions and exemptions many of our clients rely upon. Some family law veterans are concerned about the Bill's plan to eliminate the adoption tax credit. Others debate the choice to eliminate the alimony deduction used by many litigants and attorneys alike to negotiate as mutually acceptable deal in their divorce. 

As the House and Senate continue to debate the merits of the new Bill, it is important to consider how these changes may impact your case, if your matter is still pending. Be sure to speak with your attorney regarding the possible tax implications of your family law matter.

Your Family Law Case and Counseling

Your Family Law Case and Counseling

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

For better or for worse, mental health and counseling are frequent topics of conversation in the offices of family law attorneys and in family law courtrooms. It comes as no surprise. As a family dissolves and possibly reconfigures in the process of divorce and/or custody, the stability of the all involved takes center stage.

For many clients, however, it can be difficult to differentiate the various mental health terminology and services referenced in their case. Below is a guide to the types of mental health services and counseling you may encounter in your family law matter:  

  1. Marriage Counseling. Marriage counseling, sometimes also referred to as couples therapy, is a type of psychotherapy. Many clients attend marriage counseling prior to separating. Clients are often surprised to hear, however, that the Divorce Code permits the Court to order marriage counseling upon the request of either party (when the no-fault grounds for divorce, as well as the fault ground of indignities, is asserted). Marriage counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees — and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
  2. Anger Management Counseling/Treatment. In the context of custody litigation, litigants  at times assert that their co-parent has anger management issues. An evaluation by a mental health professional is necessary to truly determine whether those claims are correct. If necessary, Anger Management counseling refers to the process by which a person learns how to identify stressors, take necessary steps to remain calm, and handle tense situations in a constructive, positive manner. The purpose of this type of individual counseling is to help a person learn how to control reactions and respond in a socially appropriate manner. 
  3. Co-parenting Counseling.  Co-parenting counseling is by far the most prevalent type of therapy considered and ordered by our family court judges. Communicating and working cooperatively with the other parent can be difficult, particularly in the stressful and oft-contentious process of a pending divorce. Co-parenting counseling allows parents an opportunity to talk about the best interests of their children in a neutral environment, voice concerns and/or issues and, when appropriate, to get input and advice from a professional who is experienced in working with children and families of divorce. Issues ranging from custody schedules to day-to-day parenting can be discussed. Co-parenting counseling may be short-term or long-term, as the litigants may agree or as may be ordered by the Court.
  4. Reunification Therapy/Counseling. Sometimes a child can lose contact with (or be resistant to such contact) a parent during the challenging and confusing process of separation and divorce. Reunification therapy is often sought to reunite an alienated parent with his or her child(ren). The primary goal of the therapy is to reestablish the relationship between the parent and child so that they can resume a healthy parent-child relationship. The process of reunification and the role of the reunification therapist can be complex and much depends on the source of the alienation. 

While not a form of counseling/therapy, many custody litigants will encounter the term "custody evaluation." This assessment is conducted by a mental health professional and strives to analyze the 16 custody factors for the Court prior to a custody hearing. Mental health and psychological evaluations, as well as interviews with the parents and observations of the family dynamics, are utilized. The process is short term but may take several months to complete. It may be agreed-upon by the parties but must often be ordered by the court. 

Speak with your attorney if you believe any of the above forms of counseling can be helpful to your family. 

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

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.

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...

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.  

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.  

Rhode Island Latest State to Move Toward Recognition of Pets in Divorce Cases

Rhode Island Latest State to Move Toward Recognition of Pets in Divorce Cases

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

Taking the lead from recent legislation passed in Alaska (read all about it here), a state representative in Rhode Island has introduced legislation that would require judges to consider the welfare of the family pet in divorce cases when deciding which party should be awarded custody of the animal.  Presently, Rhode Island's divorce statute treats domestic pets no different than couches or cars.  Will Pennsylvania be next?  Read more about the proposed law here.