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Norristown Family Law Blog

Ruling in international child custody case makes headlines

The family court system works diligently to make decisions based on the best interests of the children involved; however, the rights of parents to visit or have access to children must also be respected. When Pennsylvania families need to seek family court assistance for an international child custody situation, a temporary order may be handed down to further explore the situation. A television star, Kelly Rutherford of Gossip Girl fame, has made news for her win in her international child custody fight.

The actress mom and her ex-husband married in 2006, and they then separated in 2008. A divorce was finalized in 2010. During that time, the couple had two children. Rutherford's ex-husband took the children overseas, where they have been living without Rutherford.

Child support payments sought decades after child is grown

Child support issues can be extremely contentious for some families. While the family courts in Pennsylvania hand down child support orders that are as fair as possible, some families find legal action is needed to garner owed support or to modify an order to reflect changing needs over time. In one recent case, a famed Harlem Globetrotter basketball player is being sued by his ex-wife and son for missed child support totalling $250,000.

What makes this case noteworthy and unique is the fact the couple divorced in 1977. The hoopster, Meadowlark Lemon, is now 83 years old, and his son is 48. The basketball player and his wife were married for 22 years before their split.

Terminating parental rights can be part of adoption process

Adoption is a very emotional and complicated area of family law. Each case can vary widely compared to the next. In many cases, the adoption process may entail the termination of parental rights. This aspect of an adoption is one area that can either be a simple matter of consent or can lead to litigation for a Pennsylvania family.

One approach to termination of parental rights in order to proceed with an adoption is to explain the benefits of a parent willingly terminating those rights. For some parents, termination of parental rights can free that parent from the financial responsibility of the child and pave the way for an ex-spouse to let the child be adopted by a new partner or spouse. This can be a delicate process and also the least confrontational way to go forward with an adoption.

Marital home issues can impact divorce process in Pennsylvania

Regardless of how amicable a divorce may be, couples in the midst of one may find various sticking points when it comes to the fate of the marital home. During a divorce in Pennsylvania, all marital assets are subject to equitable division. Since it is impossible to actually split the residence a couple has shared, tough decisions about the fate of that home need to be made as the divorce unfolds.

If one party decides she or he wants to keep the house, that spouse may have to purchase the interest of the other. That buy-out amount may depend on an appraisal of the home. The spouse who stays in the home may have to agree to refinance any existing mortgage within a given time frame. Any agreement concerning these issues must be drafted with careful attention to detail, including specific provisions for transfer of the title.

Aspects of divorce to consider for older Pennsylvania couples

While the divorce process is governed by law, each divorce will have unique aspects because each couple is unique. One aspect of a divorce that can set a couple apart and require special considerations can be the ages of the spouses and the number of years they have been married. There are aspects of gray divorce, a term used to describe divorces involving those older than 50, of which Pennsylvania couples should be aware.

One aspect is spousal support. Temporary support is not uncommon among younger couples. However, alimony for life, known as permanent alimony, is often normal for couples who have been married for an extended period of time. Retirement funds are also an issue for older couples, as there may be much more at stake than with younger couples. Retirement funds are likely to be split in half, which can drastically alter the retirement dreams of both spouses.

We can help with smooth navigation of adoption process

Adoption is a highly personal and emotional journey for families under any circumstances. When the adoption process involves same sex couples or step-parent adoptions, the adoption process should be as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania parents and soon-to-be parents may find the process anything but smooth, necessitating the help of legal representatives.

When a step-parent or same sex partner wants to adopt his or her spouse's child, the biological parent of that child must give up, or have terminated, his or her parental rights. That parent also must not have contact with the child for six months before that termination takes place. This may be smooth in some cases or highly contentious in others. Everyone involved should work tirelessly to ensure this part of the adoption process is non-confrontational, for the sake of the child and everyone involved.

Divorce will affect future finances and retirement

Divorce leads to changes in all aspects of a person's life, including where a person lives and what the financial future may look like. Aside from an initial divorce settlement, including any alimony payable, Pennsylvania residents may want to think about the long term financial impact of a split, namely retirement. Regardless of how close or far a couple may be to retirement age, the divorce will usually affect any accounts already in place.

Any joint retirement accounts will typically be split between the parties. While this is all well and good, the ability to keep adding to those accounts may be altered. This is due to the simple fact that, with separate incomes that are no longer combined, there is less money available for investing.

Judge allows unusual means of filing for divorce

The divorce process can vary from couple to couple. But, it mostly entails the same step of one partner first filing for divorce, and the other person being served with papers. It was only a matter of time before the old paper filing of divorce system was outdone by technology. Pennsylvania couples may want to be aware that a judge in a neighboring state has approved a new way to file for divorce, at least under the specific circumstances presented to the court.

The case involves a couple who wed back in 2009. Apparently, the wife has only been able to communicate her husband through social media, namely Facebook, and through phone calls. This fact led the judge to rule that the woman could file a divorce summons by sending a private message to her husband through Facebook.

Divorce can factor into a Pennsylvania couple's benefits

For many, Social Security benefits are a much needed source of support as they age. When a divorce is in the works, a Pennsylvania resident may not be fully aware of how that divorce can impact Social Security benefits for a partner who may have not earned enough to qualify for benefits or may have earned less than a former spouse. The length of a marriage is the key to determining whether a person is entitled to Social Security benefits based on the earnings of an ex-spouse.

If a marriage lasted for 10 years or more, a person can claim benefits based on the earnings history of an ex-spouse. This holds true as long as the person seeking Social Security benefits is single. If a marriage lasted less than 10 years, there is no way to claim any Social Security benefits related to the earnings of an ex-spouse.

The divorce process can entail much more than end of marriage

The decision to divorce may not ever be an easy one to make. It can entail a great deal of gut-checking and even pre-planning before anyone even files. However, once the divorce process begins for Pennsylvania couples, those couples may benefit from learning how a divorce can entail much more than simply ending a marriage. Indeed, there are many ways to go about a peaceful, less stressful and smooth dissolution of a marriage.

If there are children involved, the divorce process will undoubtedly affect them in a wide variety of ways. Issues that need to be dealt with fairly and lawfully include both child custody and child support. Having a comprehensive source of information about the custody laws and child support laws in Pennsylvania can help a couple prepare or understand the process as it unfolds.