Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
Legal & Mediation Services
“Calming the Chaos, Creating Solutions”
Call for a Confidential Consultation
866-567-9029 or 215-752-6200
Practice Areas
Watch our Video

November 2017 Archives

Spousal Support

Section 4321 of the Domestic Relations laws provides that married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support as provided by law. Similar to child support, spousal support will be calculated based on a statewide guideline. Without children, spousal support is 40% of the difference of the net incomes of the parties. If there is also a child support order, spousal support will only be 30% of the difference of the net incomes. There is a defense to the duty to pay spousal support where the spouse seeking support has engaged in conduct that would constitute grounds for a fault-based divorce. The fault grounds under the Pennsylvania Divorce Code include: (1) willful and malicious desertion without reasonable cause for at least one year; (2) adultery; (3) cruel and barbarous treatment of an injured and innocent spouse; (4) bigamy; (5) imprisonment for at least two years after conviction of a crime; and (6) indignities to the innocent and injured spouse which makes that spouse's condition intolerable and life burdensome.

Reconciliation

Pennsylvania allows a no-fault divorce on the basis of one year separation period. Separation is defined in Section 3103 of the Divorce Code as follows: "Cessation of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not. In the event a complaint in divorce is filed and served, it shall be presumed that the parties commenced to live separate and apart not later than the date that the complaint was served." Cohabitation, though not specifically defined in the divorce code, is generally understood to be living and dwelling together as husband and wife with the mutual assumption of all marital rights, duties and obligations. It requires more than just remaining in the same house overnight or for the weekend or taking a week-long trip together. Any reconciliation between parties can negate a prior separation period. Specifically, if a party is pursuing a divorce on the grounds of separation, a reconciliation may result in a new date of separation date and hence a new one-year waiting period.

Separation for Divorce

Separation is one of the no-fault grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. A no-fault divorce simply means there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Grounds for a divorce can be established if a one year separation period is established. One party would need to file an affidavit of separation setting forth the separation date. This affidavit is to be served on the other party along with a counter-affidavit. If no objection is made by the other party the date of separation as stated in the initial affidavit is accepted.

Jurisdiction for Custody

Pennsylvania abides by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in terms of determining where a custody case should be handled. The preferred method for establishing jurisdiction is based on the home state of the child. The homes state is defined as the state where the child had been living for at least six (6) months prior to the custody action or since birth if the child is less than six months old. If jurisdiction is not clear based on an analysis of the home state, the courts then look to see where there are significant connections and substantial evidence relevant to the custody action. Significant connections is more than just mere presence in any state.

Alimony and Tax Implications

Alimony is support paid after a divorce has finalized. Alimony is deductible from the party paying alimony and taxed as income to the party receiving it if it meets certain requirements established by the Internal Revenue Service. For starters, you need to make sure the specific terms of your alimony award are spelled out in a settlement agreement or court order. Second, alimony is intended to be a cash payment. There is some flexibility here however in that payments of bills on behalf of the recipient are still treated as "cash" payments to the recipient. For example, alimony can consist of payments to upkeep a property such as mortgage payments, taxes and insurance though only half of the payments would be deductible.

Asking for Custody if you are not a Parent

Parties other than parents and grandparents may be able to file for custody. Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws discusses who has standing to file for legal and physical custody. First, a person who stands in loco parentis may file for custody. In loco parentis status means you are acting as a parent even though there isn't the biological connection. It has been defined as an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between a natural parent and child. This requires more than just a frequent care-taker role.

Changes to Military Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits can be a substantial asset up for division in the context of a divorce action. The same is true in the case of military retirement benefits. There is a certain time requirement for service in order to be eligible for military retirement. Once this threshold is reached, a spouse is then entitled to their share of the military retirement benefits no matter how insignificant. Under the ten year rule, where the parties have been married for 10 years and the service member has accumulated 10 years of service, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services) can pay the spouse directly. When the ten year rule has not been met, the spouse can still receive a portion of the military retirement benefits however the service member will be responsible to pay the spouse themselves. A court can only award a division of a military pension if it has jurisdiction over the service member via residence, domicile or consent.

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. This is the 22nd year for recognition of National Adoption Month. It started as National Adoption Week in 1984 on the motion of then President Ronald Reagan. In 1995, President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November. This year's initiative is finding homes for teenagers. Teenagers are often less likely to find a forever home due to their age however it is still vital for teens to establish stable connections as it reflects on their overall wellbeing and increases their likelihood for success as adults.

Custody and Domestic Violence

Emotions run high in any child custody discussion.  When you are fighting with your soon-to-be-ex, in person or through your attorneys, that arguing adds extra pressure to the process.  When violence and abuse are already present in the relationship, there is added urgency along with a fear of you or your children being victimized.  

How to Change Your Custody Agreement/Parenting Time

If you have children and are getting divorced, you will negotiate a parenting time schedule, typically called a custody agreement. This dictates the amount of time that each child will spend with each parent. It can include overnights, holidays, and special arrangements like pick-ups and birthdays. If you are divorcing with younger children, your schedule will more than likely need to be adjusted in the future to accommodate different schedules.  If you have already been divorced for a few years, you may be concerned that your custody agreement is no longer working. After all, your schedule, as well as the activity schedules of your children, have probably changed over time.  

Accounting for an Estate

An accounting is one of the final steps in administering an estate. It is the final reconciliation of all assets in the estate, all expenses of the estate, and any interim distributions. A formal accounting is filed with the court. An informal accounting may be done as well and is presented to the beneficiaries as a summary of the administration of the estate. Pennsylvania and New Jersey accept the national standard form for filing of accounting. The accounting should list all the items that were received into the estate. This may be separated into categories such as real estate, cash accounts, personal property, bonds, mutual funds, etc. 

Inventory for an Estate

An inventory of probate assets will need to be filed with the court in the process of probating the will. The first step for the executor or administrator is to gather information on what assets exist. For real estate, ownership should be confirmed first via review of deed or a title search. If the home is not promptly sold, it should be appraised to obtain an accurate value. Be sure to inventory the contents of the home as well. This is particularly important if the will provides for specific bequests of personal property such as jewelry, collections or automobiles. For bank accounts and securities, statements should be obtained from the financial institution or broker. 

Putative Father Registry

A putative father is a man whose legal relationship to a child has not yet been established. This may occur in a situation where the Mother of a child is not married and she alleges someone as the father or the man believes he is the father. Pennsylvania maintains a registry of putative fathers for the purpose of giving a man in such a position notice prior to any termination proceedings. Unmarried parties can agree to execute an acknowledgement of paternity to confirm the legal relationship. This acknowledgment is then submitted to the Department of Vital Records to update the birth records. If the parties are not agreeable to execute the acknowledgement, the alternative course of action is to file a petition for genetic testing. 

Pension Valuations

Pensions are often one of the assets up for division in a divorce. The marital portion of a pension plan may be divided amongst the parties. The marital portion of a plan would be the portion that accrued from the date of marriage through the date of separation. In some cases, the entire pension will be marital depending on the timing of the marriage alongside the start date of the pension plan. The marital portion will also include investment experience on the marital portion that accrues post-separation. It will not include contributions by the employee made post-separation. Parties can divide the marital portion of the plan by way of percentage or fixed dollar amount.

  • Avvo Rating
  • 10.0 Superb
  • 2014 top 100 lawyers ASLA
  • Overall Client Rating in Family Law - 4.8 out of 5.0

Office Locations

Langhorne Office
174 Middletown Boulevard
Suite 300
Langhorne, PA 19047

Phone: 215-752-6200
Fax: 215-752-6202
Langhorne Law Office Map

Doylestown Office
44 East Court Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

Phone: 215-348-3800
Fax: 215-752-6202
Doylestown Law Office Map

Norristown Office
516 DeKalb Street
2nd Floor
Norristown, PA 19401

Phone: 215-752-6200
Fax: 215-752-6202
Map & Directions