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Norristown Family Law Blog

The basics of the collaborative law process

These days, couples around the country and here in Pennsylvania are no longer bound by the traditional divorce model that pits the parties against each other in court, which can often only increase the acrimony between them. One of the alternatives that is gaining popularity with divorcing couples is the collaborative law process. This approach to divorce allows the parties to avoid a contentious, time-consuming and expensive court battle.

In collaborative law, both spouses are represented by their own attorneys, but they share other parties brought in to assist with the process such as counselors, child psychologists and financial analysts. An important aspect of the process is that each party agrees to waive the right to take the case to court. Instead, they are bound by the results achieved through the process.

Help for Pennsylvania parents who have child support debt

Any kind of debt can be debilitating. However, child support debt can affect every aspect of a Pennsylvania parent's life and adversely affect the child for whom the support is intended. Unfortunately, once a parent falls on hard times financially, that child support payment may not be possible, and child support debt can add up. Several states have realized the way in which this debt affects parents and children and have initiated programs to help parents deal with the debt productively.

Some programs in place are now helping parents reduce the amount of debt instead of seeing it rise each month. One state will wipe out a percentage of back-due child support if a parent enrolls in parenting programs. More debt can be wiped out if a parent is employed and pays support consistently for a year.

Divorce decisions: duration and amount of alimony payments

Alimony is not set in stone, and there is no set amount ordered in every individual case. When someone in Pennsylvania is pursuing a divorce, alimony may factor into how that divorce proceeds and the lifestyles each person may expect as they venture into the next chapters of their lives. It is important to understand the facts about alimony, particularly the duration of the payments and the amount ordered, before agreeing to any alimony or property division agreement.

The amount ordered for alimony payments will depend on the spouses' incomes. Also, the ability of both spouses to earn their own livings will affect the amount of alimony ordered. If one spouse is disabled or unable to work, that person may receive more alimony when compared to someone who is fully able to work who can pursue a career that will result in that individual being able to support him or herself.

Unique circumstances impact child custody issues

Families are complex, and the challenges of one can be vastly different than the challenges of another. When Pennsylvania families need to decipher child custody issues, those unique nuances can play a role in how the process may be best tackled. Those unique circumstances can also impact the future of a child custody agreement and the potential for a modification at some point in the future.

While some people may envision a courtroom scene and battle in their future, child custody agreement resolutions do not have to play out that way. Some families may find alternative dispute resolution practices to be the best method for adopting an agreement. This form of conflict resolution can reduce the stress and level of anger that affect a case and lead to the best scenario for the children involved.

The importance of property division decisions during divorce

Sharing a mortgage with one's spouse may be perfect when times are good. However, when divorce is on the table and the time has come for a property division settlement to go forward, a shared mortgage can become quite imperfect -- and complicated. When it is time to decide if one spouse is keeping the family home, it is imperative for both spouses to understand the effects of their decision.

When one spouse decides to stay in a home, the person who decides to keep the house likely needs to have the mortgage put in her or his name. This means he or she must qualify for the mortgage without his or her spouse's income, which can be difficult when a home was purchased based on two incomes. In addition to qualifying for a mortgage, a spouse remaining in a family home must also be able to afford all of the other costs of homeownership, such as insurance and taxes. 

Family pet may take center stage during a Pennsylvania divorce

When a couple splits, the dissolution of the marriage also means a splitting of marital property. While many pet owners do not regard the pet as property, according to the law in Pennsylvania and other states, animals are dealt with in the same manner as other assets, and important decisions regarding the fate of those animals must be made during a divorce. Family courts all over the country are seeing an increase in pet custody situations, and attorneys are helping to negotiate resolutions much like the resolutions put in place for child custody situations.

The courts will weigh options and consider the individual circumstances of each case when deciding the fate of a dog. If there are children involved, the animals may go back and forth as the children do. If sharing the dog, or other pet, on the same schedule as the children is not a workable option, the dog may go with the party who had it first if one party brought it to the marriage.

Grandmother at center of child custody dispute ignores order

Decisions regarding visitation and custody of children can involve more than just the parents as seen by the rise of grandparents who either have custody or seek visitation with grandchildren. One recent child custody case is garnering attention as it involves a grandmother who has defied a court order to turn over her grandchildren to their biological father. Pennsylvania parents who share custody with grandparents may want to understand how this case is unfolding and how it has come to involve two states and a reservation.

The two children had been living with the grandmother when she was ordered to return them to the father. Instead, she took them to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, where her daughter is a member. Because she is on the reservation, the grandmother cannot be arrested by state authorities. The tribe was asked to take part in the proceedings involving custody, but it has not done so.

Help may be needed to uncover fraud during divorce

Divorce is typically a time of emotional upheaval, but it can and often is a time of financial upheaval as well. The property division process during a divorce may leave many in Pennsylvania wondering if financial fraud may be at play by the other party in the divorce. Experienced family law lawyers can enlist the help of outside resources to pinpoint if fraud in the form of hidden assets or missing assets is an issue that needs to be dealt with as a divorce proceeding moves forward.

An attorney might enlist services from forensic accountants to discover if fraud is an issue. This will allow for the tracing of funds and can outline a paper trail of what may have unfolded during the marriage. A thorough review of old tax returns, credit card activity and business spending can uncover many types of fraudulent or deceptive activity of which one party may be unaware.

High profile divorce leads to several being subpoenaed

Once a couple decides to split, the act of splitting assets, funds and child custody can be a more in-depth process than some may realize. Pennsylvania couples may find they need outside help from other professionals in various fields in order to move forward with the divorce process. One high profile couple is making news as their divorce has been on-going for over a year and has resulted in others being subpoenaed to provide information and insight.

The husband is the billionaire founder of Citadel. His wife signed a prenuptial agreement in 2003, and the husband filed for divorce in 2014. The couple has yet to settle issues regarding the validity of the prenuptial agreement and also child custody issues.

Financial steps for Pennsylvania couples going through divorce

Regardless of the status or length of a marriage, there are serious financial changes that will occur. Those financial changes need to be addressed by both parties in a divorce in Pennsylvania. Once both parties address these immediate financial concerns and obligations, the divorce process may move forward more smoothly, and each party may have a clearer sense of where he or she stands financially after the divorce.

First and foremost, important financial documents must be located and secured. This can mean tax returns, investment statements and any credit card company reports. Making copies and securing hard copies with a trusted friend or family member is recommended.