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Starting a Divorce

The first step in pursuing a divorce is to have a Complaint filed with your local court. The Complaint would include the grounds under which you are seeking divorce as well as any other types of relief requested. For example, your complaint may also include counts for equitable distribution if there is marital property, custody if there are minor children involved, and support for minor children or between spouses. There is a filing fee due at the time the complaint is filed. The amount of the filing fee varies by county. Once a divorce complaint the court will assign a case number. This case number is to be used on all future filings regarding the case.

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Social Security Benefits

Social Security retirement benefits are payable based on an individual's prior earning's history. A party in divorce may be entitled to collect social security benefits based on the earnings history of their spouse instead of their own. For this to be an option, your spouse must already be at least 62 years old and receiving their social security benefits. Additionally, you must have been married to your spouse for at least ten years and be at least 62 years old. There is an exception to the age requirement if your spouse is deceased in which case you can start collecting at 60 years old or 50 years old if you are disabled. You cannot be remarried at the time you are electing to receive a spouse or ex-spouse's benefits however, remarriage is permissible if it occurs after age 60 or age 50 if disabled.

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How to Help Your Divorce Lawyer Help You

Our goal is to help your divorce proceed with the least amount of stress and difficulty. We know our business, but regarding your particular case, we only know what you tell us. There are things you can do to help everything run smoothly.

5 Reasons to Avoid Going to Divorce Court

The familiar phrase "ugly divorce" usually refers to those that have gone to divorce court because they could not or would not agree on specific items (or anything!). There are some situations in which divorce court is the only option, but it should be avoided if possible. Afterall, a judge will be making decisions about your life, financial situation and how you spend time with your children.  Court should be a last resort, because of the serious negative aspects of this particular means of settling marital dissolution.

Child Custody Expenses in High Income Cases

The definition of "high income" and the calculation of support varies from state to state. In Pennsylvania, Rule 1910.16-3.1. of the Pennsylvania Code defines high income as the combined net income of both parents in excess of $30,000 per month. The monthly child support formula, which includes a base figure plus a percentage of income, is calculated depending on the number of minor children to be supported. This figure is then divided between the parents according to their income and the number of overnights a child spends in each home.  

Child's Opinion in Custody

Any custody award in Pennsylvania is to be based on the best interests of the child. Section 5328 of the Domestic Relations statue lays out 15 factors to be considered when awarding custody in addition to any relevant factor. One of enumerated factors is "the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment." Accordingly, there is no magic age at which a child is permitted to give their opinion on custody. Instead, the court weighs the child's opinion and generally gives it more weight as the child is older. Children mature at different paces and perhaps the weight to be given to a 10 year old's opinion could be greater than a 13 year old's opinion. I think it is safe to assume teenagers are able to give a reasoned preference, will be permitted to do so, and that opinion would carry some weight.

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Birth Certificates

Additional copies of a birth certificate may be ordered from the Department of Vital Records. An application is required along with a fee. Fees may be waived for members of the armed forces Parties that may request a birth certificate include attorney or legal representative (documentation may be required), spouse, parent or step-parent (must submit marriage record supporting the relationship), grandparent or great-grandparent (specify maternal or paternal), and power of attorney for person named on birth certificate or immediate family member listed above. The following individuals may also submit an application if over age 18: person named on the birth certificate, siblings (including half siblings), children or step-children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Improper Custody Relocation

23 PA C.S. 5337 is Pennsylvania's custody relocation statute which requires any party seeking to move with minor children to get court approval or the other parent's permission prior to the relocation. A relocation is defined as any move that would "significantly impair the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights." A move that is only a few miles away would not count as a relocation. Procedurally, the party intending to relocate must give at least 60 days' notice, or notice as soon as possible, of the intended move. The party would include a counter-affidavit with the notice which allows the non-moving party to designate their position. If the move is contested a hearing on whether or not the relocation should be granted should be held prior to the move. In addition to addressing the 16 factors as to what's in the child's best interests required in any custody case, the moving party must also address 10 relocation factors. The moving party has the burden of proof to show relocation will serve the best interests of the child(ren) and that there is no improper motive in seeking to move.

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Earning Capacity

In a support matter, the incomes of the parties will be used to calculate an appropriate award based on the support guidelines applicable throughout the Commonwealth. At the initial appearance for a support matter, both parties are asked to bring in proof of their income in the form of W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, or other documentation of income received. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the rules specify that an earning capacity may be imputed. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.16-2(d)(4) explains the first step is a finding that a party willfully failed to obtain or maintain appropriate employment. Involuntary reductions in income (e.g. lay-offs or unemployment due to illness or disability) generally do not trigger earning capacity arguments.

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Wills for Heroes

Wills for Heroes is a program in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Bar Association that provides free wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders and their families. Appointments are required along with proof of military or public service. There is also a limit on the size of the estate to utilize this service. Appointments can be made online at the Pennsylvania Bar Association website. Each appointment slot is one hour. Each participant will have their final, notarized documents to take home with them by the conclusion of their appointment. If a spouse or significant other is also participating, their appointment will be immediately following that of the first responder. The program is made possible through the time of volunteers including attorneys, reviewers and witnesses.

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