Articles Posted in Divorce

The United States Supreme Courts’ landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same sex couples’ right to marry is only the beginning of the journey through the world of Family Law for same sex couples and their families. Depending on the state and the domestic relations laws of the jurisdiction, adoption, assisted reproductive technology, custody among other issues remain to be decided.    Just recently, the Supreme Court  issued a stay blocking the Alabama Supreme Court from implementing a ruling which refused to recognize a second parent adoption, completed in Georgia, by a lesbian mother of the three children she shares with her ex-partner.

V.L and E.L. were in a long-term same-sex relationship in which they planned and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the two later broke up, E.L. kept V.L. from seeing the children, fighting her request for visitation, and arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live. On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring that it is “void.” Even though both women participated in the adoption hearing and consented to the adoption, the Court broke with more than a century of precedent requiring states to honor court judgments from other states.  Under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states. Disregarding this clear precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama can treat the adoption as void based on the Alabama Supreme Court’s view that the Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in 2007.

In Pennsylvania, any individual can become an adopting parent. The court process used by the unmarried heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or trans-gendered partner who is not the biological parent to adopt their partner’s minor child is called a Second Parent Adoption. This is different from the adoption of a minor child by their stepparent , which is called a Step Parent Adoption. Continue reading

Keep your eye on the full picture

it is essential to know what financial resources will be yours after divorce. When calculating your full financial picture be sure to consider social security benefits–your own or those of your ex-spouse. Yes, even if divorced, you may be entitled to claim social security retirement or disability benefits based upon the earnings of your ex. If you were the lower wage earner, you probably are entitled to claim on your former spouse’s earnings record. And, you also may have a right to collect a social security survivor benefit of your former spouse. The rules vary, but one essential key to the right to collect in both scenarios is that your marriage lasted ten (10) years or longer.

Social Security Retirement Benefit

Yes, it’s frightening to contemplate shaking up your comfortable life in your fortys, fifties or sixties, but it is happening with greater frequency these days. The US Census American Community Survey shows the rate of divorce among the 50- 60 year old population is increasing. href=”http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_1YR_S1201&prodType=tabler The reasons for this increase need further study, but perhaps as we live longer and healthier lives, we are demanding more fulfillment from our later years. The realization that a sour marriage is not the place for us to achieve this fulfillment may come with a sense of questioning, disappointment, sadness, embarrassment, dread, or even fear. It is important to acknowledge and work through those feelings. And, if the marriage cannot be saved, it is equally important to realize that there are a host of positive new feelings that will come with closure.

Middle age divorce presents its challenges as well as promises. Surely, there will be upheaval. There is the prospect moving or of living alone, something some people may never have done. You may have to leave the comfort of your established marital home, or the community in which you raised a family. There may be financial set-back as you divide assets. However, with these challenges also is opportunity. The community that you love may no longer suit your needs, you may have outgrown it, but without a catalyst you would not move. Divorce can provide just the motivation to branch out, perhaps move from the suburbs to the city. Or it may motivate you to downsize to a more manageable home, allowing you more time to spend on yourself.

Today, more and more people are living alone, and enjoying the independence and privacy it permits. The latest US Population Survey finds that in the 55-64 age group individuals living alone increased from 13 to 23 percent.–surpassing those age 75 and older. The changes discussed here do not mean isolation or losing the old friends, but rather an opportunity to branch out and find new friends –even lovers– who may enhance your life in all sorts of different ways.

Like anything else in life, things usually go better when we prepare for them. Not everyone can prepare for a divorce, sometimes it just comes at us when we least expect it. But if a divorce is something you are contemplating, taking the time to prepare for a divorce, and thinking about how to broach the subject with your spouse can have real benefits.

Understand your finances-
It may seem crude, but finances are a reality that must be considered when contemplating a divorce. You are breaking up not just an emotional partnership, but a financial partnership, as well. Thus it is essential to be knowledgeable about the assets and liabilities of your marital partnership. Gather your financial papers; make copies of recent bank statements, investment accounts, retirement fund statements, credit card statements and other important documents. Get a handle on the monthly living costs are for you and your family.

Consult with an Attorney –
It is wise to consult with an attorney to learn what the divorce, property division, and ,if relevant, child support and child custody laws, are in your state. Having this information may help you decide if divorce is the right thing for you at this time in your life. An attorney also may help guide you about things such as how to think about divorce, inform you about laws that may guide decisions about timing to file for a divorce or support. An attorney also can refer you to other professionals such as a divorce advisor, or divorce financial planner, who can help you make critical decisions.

Schedule a time to meet with your spouse –
Invite your spouse to meet with you at a neutral, quiet and public place. It is better not to meet at home, since for each of you the moment of the talk will be difficult and it is better to limit emotional attachments. One of you may end up living in the family home, and it is better not to have the reminder of “this is the room where he/she told me…”

Plan for the immediate future –
Think about whether you will be moving out of the marital home after you tell your spouse that you want a divorce. , It may be helpful to have a temporary place lined up. If there are children involved, plan for your children. Do not have your children present when you tell your spouse. Your children should be told separately (see blog entry on Talking to the Children) Always it is preferable whenever possible for the two of you to work out custody between yourselves in an amicable way rather than have the Court determine custody.
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One of the issues facing divorcing couples, especially women, is how medical coverage will be provided for her, and perhaps the children, after the divorce. In most families, medical coverage is provided by the husband through his employer or a business. After divorce, along with the loss of many other financial securities, this coverage goes away. Women who did not work outside the home, or who had part-time positions with no health benefits can find themselves overwhelmed at the prospect of no insurance. Obtaining a “swing” period of medical coverage post -divorce is a valuable benefit to many women that could be the basis for some to negotiate away other valuable items. Some women, perhaps those closer to Medicare eligibility, might choose to remain in less than happy circumstances, rather than risk losing their health insurance.

A positive and perhaps unintended effect of the Affordable Care Act (AFC) is that it benefits those facing divorce–particularly the non-working spouse. Because under the AFC everyone can purchase insurance, and it is based upon their ability to pay (“Affordable”), no one will be left without insurance after a divorce. Moreover, through the “portability” provision in the Act, the non-employee spouse facing divorce may be able to take the family insurance. Going forward, no one will have to give up valuable assets for a few extra years of medical coverage. No spouse will have to worry whether she/he will qualify for or be able to afford individual insurance coverage. if a woman has breast cancer or hypertension, she no longer has to fear divorce, because the AFC bans discrimination on the basis of illness or pre-existing condition. Nor will the newly divorced have to worry about affording coverage because under the new law the average person should pay less rather than more for health insurance coverage.

Divorce is not easy for anyone. Removing one of the most stressful issues–how we take care of our health and the health of our children–is a benefit of the Affordable Care Act. As Judy Resnick of Johnston Resnick Mittman Group commented to MarketWatch “It gives the non-working spouse the freedom to move on and not worry about their health… It will take one of the fears out of divorcing–I think it ‘s huge.”

Marital property or the marital estate includes all property acquired by either party during the marriage until time of separation. increases in value of certain non-marital property also may be part of the marital estate, but the rules regarding this are beyond the scope of this this entry. It is important to know what constitutes your marital estate because that is the whole of what gets divided subject to the Pennsylvania laws of equitable distribution.

There are different types of assets that fall into the general category of marital estate. Broadly these assets are: Financial this includes financial assets such as bank accounts, investments, such as stock and bond holdings; Personal Property such as, furniture, art, cars, and yes, pets; Real Property such as the family home any vacation home, time share or investment property; Retirement Benefits such as, a pension, IRA, 401Ks, profit sharing plan or any other deferred compensation plans;  and Business Interests

In Pennsylvania, as in most states, assets are divided equitably, which means in a fair manner. This could mean fifty/fifty (50/50), but not always. Depending upon the circumstances, one spouse may get a slightly different percentage, such as 55/45% or 60/40% . A range of circumstances determine the percentage proportion of equitable division.

Or Tissues in the Bed

Family Therapist, B Janet Hibbs, PhD. in her book, Try To See it My Way, writes that people who are committed to relationships know how to navigate the annoying issues of daily life that can cause fights between couples. Every couple has issues that need to be worked out because when two people are involved, things naturally will be seen differently. The question is how exasperated do you become when he/she does not walk the dog, or when he/she is late for dinner, or leaves Kleenex in the bed after you asked him/her not to?300148_walking_the_dog.jpg

Your ability to resolve disputes in a fair way, without name-calling, criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling are critical to the difference between healthy fights and destructive relationship breakdowns. Oftentimes, it appears to be a small incident that brings a client into the divorce lawyers’ office. He didn’t like what I said about his driving, and the next thing I knew he packed his things and moved into a hotel. One partner may be blindsided by the reaction to what seemed a stupid fight, but in a troubled relationship there is no such thing as a stupid fight.

My spouse cheated on me “I Want a Divorce”

597241_troubled.jpgIf you feel emotionally injured because a spouse is unfaithful, I want a divorce may be the first response. If the adultery is longstanding, and the love and trust are gone from the marriage and cannot be repaired then divorce may be your best option. However, I counsel my clients first to be sure their marriage is irreparably broken before considering divorce. If you want a divorce to ‘get back” at your spouse and take him/her for all they are worth, because he/she cheated, then learn a bit about Pennsylvania Divorce Law.

While, under certain circumstances, adultery still may be a basis for a “Fault ” divorce in Pennsylvania, it may not prove to be the answer that you seek. The process may be complicated, protracted and have unintended effects on children. Pennsylvania also is a No Fault state, which means that if both parties consent to a divorce, or if the marriage is broken beyond repair and the parties have lived separately for a minimum of two years, so long as conditions are met, the parties may get a divorce, even if one party objects.