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Harrisburg Family Law Blog

Military father appeals through Facebook in child custody case

A life of military service can take a toll on family life due to deployments and relocation assignments. Unfortunately, these deployments can also interfere with child custody orders, which can, at times, result in service members losing their rights. Pennsylvania parents who are facing this situation may be unsure of where to turn for help. 

Recently, a deployed soldier and his current wife appealed to Facebook in an attempt to bring their plight to the attention of others. The father, who was recently deployed to an overseas location, had been awarded custody of his 11-year-old son approximately nine years ago. However, shortly after his unit was deployed, the child's biological mother filed for temporary custody of the boy. 

Your choice of divorce mediator could affect your negotiations

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be former spouse made the conscious decision to stay out of court. You want to use mediation to resolve your issues and reach a fair and equitable settlement. You both agree that this provides you with the best option for ending your marriage.

You will have the opportunity to retain control over the details of your settlement, which provides you the opportunity to construct your individual futures. Mediation often reduces the stress levels associated with divorce, which also help your children, if you have any. Finally, you can come up with solutions that a Pennsylvania court may not think of or may not be able to offer, but first, you have to choose a mediator.

Lawmaker touts benefits of collaborative law bill

The divorce process can be long, costly and emotionally draining. However, not every divorce must end up in a courtroom, as there are several alternative dispute resolution options available to separating spouses and parents. One Pennsylvania lawmaker recently extolled the benefits behind her new bill, which would help codify one such option that is known as collaborative law.

Pennsylvania representative, Kate Klunk, who has sponsored the bill, believes that having collaborative law statutorily defined will allow more divorcing couples to separate in a way that is least disruptive to them and their minor children. This type of alternative dispute resolution allows each spouse to retain separate legal counsel to represent their legal interests through each step of the collaborative process. Moreover, neutral third parties, including mental health professionals, financial advisors and child specialists are utilized to facilitate discussions aimed at reaching a settlement that meets both spouse's needs.

Managing special days when getting a divorce

After one family home splits into two, parents and children are tasked with celebrating special occasions and holidays in the context of a new family dynamic. Parents and children alike may be experiencing stress about the upcoming holiday schedule and both parents may worry about how to meaningfully celebrate a holiday with their children outside of their normal routine.

Pennsylvania parents in the midst of a separation or divorce use a variety of tools to handle these moments successfully. The most successful parents look to place the needs of their children first, which often requires advanced planning and communication between both parents.

Refinancing a home may be prudent after a divorce

When a couple decides that a marriage is no longer sustainable, they should consider and plan for the impact of a divorce on different parts of their life, including their financial stability.

Where a couple purchased a home during their marriage, Pennsylvania residents should consider all options available to them.  Do they wish to stay in the home or do they want the home to be sold and the proceeds divided? Each option requires the engagement of different professionals and can shape the final divorce settlement differently.

If one spouse wishes to keep the marital home, the departing spouse will need to consider the debt attached to the home and the equity their spouse will retain if they stay in the house. In many instances, the departing spouse will want to purchase another home in the future. To do so, they will need the spouse staying in the home to remove their name from the mortgage.  Additionally, the equity attached to a marital home can be a source of cash for a departing spouse where there are not any other liquid assets to draw from for a down payment.

Stepparent adoption is challenging and rewarding

Becoming a stepparent can be both challenging and rewarding.  Sometimes, you are learning to co-parent with two other active parents. Other times, you are filling a void left by an absent or inconsistent parent.  In those instances where you are performing duties a biological parent has failed to, you may be considering adopting your stepchild.

Adopting your spouse's child is not just an honorary title. It means taking on the legal, financial and everyday responsibilities involved in child rearing. Because this is a serious and permanent undertaking, the process requires adherence to various statutes and at least one hearing before the court.

Both reasons and trends for adoption have changed over time

Nationally, there are an estimated 100,000 children in the foster care system. National Adoption Day was recently celebrated as a way to draw attention to these children's needs.

According to historical notes, children were previously viewed as a contributing member of the household once they were old enough to work and provide for the overall good of the family. As a result, it was not unusual for an adoption to take place to ensure that a single man's legacy carried on through an heir.

Fortunately, society's view of adoption has changed over time, and the focus in adoptions in Pennsylvania is the welfare and best interest of the child.  This increased concern regarding the welfare of adopted children has made the legal process more costly and onerous for some, particularly where a home study is required.

Tax code revisions could add to burden of divorce for many

Asserting that the tax code needs updating, Congress is currently working on revisions to tax laws that will likely have an impact on every Pennsylvania resident in one way or another. One component that may make the divorce process more complicated would directly impact the spouse who is ordered to pay alimony. The law is expected to affect couples who enter into divorce agreements beginning January 1, 2018.

In its current form, the law requires the former spouse who receives alimony to report it as taxable income on their tax returns. The spouse who is tasked with making these payments is currently permitted to deduct them from his or her income when filing their taxes. The rationale behind the existing law was that the payer is likely in a higher tax bracket and already paying a higher tax rate. Thus, it made sense for the spouse paying tax at a lower rate to be taxed on the alimony they receive.

If the change is approved as part of the updated tax code, the government estimates an increase in tax revenue of an approximately $8 billion over the next ten years. Some financial professionals are concerned that the change will create economic hardship for all parties involved in that the payer may not be able to pay as much alimony because of the increased tax burden that they payer will have without the prior deduction. This will be an important consideration for both the courts when ordering alimony and spouses when entering into divorce agreements.

Pennsylvania residents who are contemplating a divorce may have concerns and questions regarding this change and how it will impact their case. An experienced family law attorney can provide assistance in ensuring that you emerge from a divorce in the best financial position possible.

NFL player, Jimmy Smith, in midst of child custody dispute

Relationships among high profile athletes often come under intense scrutiny from fans, especially when those relationships do not end happily. These sports professionals often find themselves caught up in acrimonious child custody disputes filled with allegations that may or may not be true. Football fans living in Pennsylvania may be aware of such a dispute involving Raven's cornerback, Jimmy Smith. 

According to a petition filed against the player for sole custody of the former couple's 3-year-old child, the mother alleges that Smith has engaged in illicit behavior in the presence of their son. These behaviors purportedly include the use of illegal drugs and other substances. The mother has also alleged that her former partner was physically abusive to her and that he is failing to provide a suitable home for the child whenever the boy is in the care of his father.

No fault doesn't mean no reason when it comes to divorce

You've probably heard of (or perhaps even known someone who has experienced) long, drawn out courtroom battles marked by emotional outbursts, contentious debates and mudslinging between spouses as they fight their way through divorce proceedings. In fact, this description of divorce is so common that you might have felt a bit out of the loop when you decided to sever marital ties for reasons that had nothing to do with fault. In Pennsylvania, no fault divorces are recognized by the court.

There are certain stipulations regarding this type of divorce. For instance, the reason you list for legally ending your marriage must be on the state approved list of reasons for no fault divorce. Not long ago, the governor of Pennsylvania signed new legislation that changed some of the laws governing no fault divorce in this state.

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