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Posts tagged "family law"

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.

Mortgage Payments

A jointly owned property is frequently addressed in family law actions. It may be defined as a marital asset hence subjecting it to equitable distribution. Financial responsibility for the property may also be a factor in the context of a support action. If only one party is making payments on a marital residence while a divorce is pending, they may be able to seek a credit for payments made. This may be the case if both parties are residing in the home or if the party not contributing to the mortgage is residing in the home. Mortgage payments may also 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.

Treatment of Veterans' Benefits

Former military members may be eligible to receive a number of different veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Possible benefits include disability compensation, pension benefits, life insurance, educational benefits and more. Veterans benefits cannot be divided as an asset in a divorce case. This is due to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA). The Pennsylvania Divorce Code confirms this rule. Under 23 Pa. Section 3501(a), discussing the definitions for marital benefits, veterans' benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure are defined as non-marital. Additionally, the veteran gets to decide how to use educational benefits and who to designate as beneficiary for their life insurance.

Receipt of an Inheritance

The receipt of an inheritance may impact your divorce or support case. Section 3501 of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code defines what will be considered marital property, and up for division, versus what will be considered non-marital property. Marital property includes all property acquired by either party from the date of marriage through the date of separation. There is a presumption all property acquired during the marriage is marital regardless of how title is held (e.g. individually vs. jointly). However, property received as a gift, bequest, devise or descent is non-marital per 23 Pa. C.S. 3501(a). Accordingly, an inheritance that is received during the marriage can still be claimed as non-marital property. As a practical tip, parties should avoid commingling inheritance funds with other marital funds. Inheritance funds may still need to be disclosed since the separate assets of the party are a factor for equitable distribution under 23 Pa. C.S. 3502.

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.  

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is the process whereby a third party is used to assist couples in having a child. Surrogacy may be traditional wherein the third party will have a biological tie to the child however has agreed to relinquish any legal rights as a parent. The other option is gestational surrogacy where the third party is just a carrier and the egg and sperm of the intended parents are implanted in the surrogate. Pennsylvania does not have a statute in place as it relates to surrogacy, however, case law has upheld a surrogacy contract. In J.F. v. D.B., the carrier mother attempted to keep the children following birth despite having entered a surrogacy agreement. 897 A.2d 1261 (2006). The court eventually held she didn't have standing for a custody action and turned the children over to the intended parents per the contract. The courts went a step further in In re Baby S, when it explicitly upheld a surrogacy agreement. 2015 Pa. Super. 244 (2015).

Donor Agreements

Donor agreements are vital for identifying the legal rights of parties considering artificial insemination as part of assisted reproduction. An agreement should indicate that the donor does not have any rights subsequent to the donation. Specifically, the agreement should explain that no parental relationship is intended for the donor. It should be clear that donor's parental rights are terminated and that the donor forever forfeits the ability to file for any type of custody or visitation if a child is subsequently born. The agreement would allow the recipient to dictate what happens with the donation or any embryos created using the donation.

National Adoption Day

National Adoption Day is observed nationwide each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. 4,500 children were adopted on National Adoption Day last year and 400 different cities participated in some form of celebration. There have been approx. 54,500 children adopted since 2000. The month of November is National Adoption Month. This is the 20th year for recognition of National Adoption Month after President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November in 1995. The week-long celebration began in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan. Pennsylvania participates in presentation of a proclamation every year regarding National Adoption Month pledging its commitment to make sure every child has a place to call home.

What to wear to Family Court

What you wear to Family Court is less important than how you act when you are there. That being said, however, it is important that you give the Court the respect it deserves. Do not show up wearing flip flops, tank tops, shorty shorts, beat up jeans, sneakers. Whether you have a conference or you have a hearing before the Judge in a Courtroom, you should dress like you were going to Church back in the day when people dressed appropriately for Church. If you have tattoos, cover them up. If you have piercing or gage earrings, take them out. Since Family Court is often based on subjective opinions, it is best to not give any reason to the Court to side against you, whether they do so consciously or not.

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