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September 2015 Archives

Determining Marital Status

If there is a question as to the validity of a marriage, Section 3306 of the Divorce Code discusses how either party may file for declaratory judgment with the court at any time. The court will declare the marriage valid or invalid based on the proof presented. Under 23 Pa C.S. 3304, void marriages include those where (1) one of the spouses is still in a former marriage, (2) the parties are too closely related, (3) either of the parties was incapable of consenting to the marriage, usually due to mental disorder, or (4) either of the parties was under 18 if claiming a common law marriage. A void marriage is one that is invalid because it violates some public policy.

Mortgage Deviations in Support

Mortgage payments may be considered in the course of establishing a support award. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-6 covers adjustment to basic support awards and allocation of additional expenses. Under sub-section (e) mortgage payments, real estate taxes, and homeowners' insurance may need to be considered. Second mortgages, home equity loans and other obligations secured by the marital residence may be considered but are within the discretion of the court and addressed on a case-by-case basis. The expenses to maintain the marital residence can be considered if the total expense exceeds 25% of the obligee's (party receiving support ) or obligor's (party paying support) income. If the obligee is in the marital residence and paying the mortgage, the court would look to see if the mortgage payment exceeds 25% of the obligee's income after considering the basic support award. If the mortgage is still more than 25% the court can direct the obligor to assume up to 50% of the excess resulting in an increased support award.

Pensions in Pay Status

Pensions already in pay status at the time of separation require additional considerations in a divorce matter. The pensions can still be divided as a marital asset however the method of valuing the total value of the pension for distribution is altered. This is because often elections for survivor benefits are made at the time the benefits commence and are usually irrevocable. Accordingly, any survivor benefit should be valued separately and set against the value of the pension itself. Pensions in pay status also present a unique issue when it comes to support.

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