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Berks County Family Law Blog

Rowe Law Offices Coronavirus COVID-19 FAQ and Q&A

A message from Cheryl A. Rowe, Attorney & Founder

PA Attorney Cheryl A. Rowe"At this time, we urge you to contact us if you have a family law matter, or are considering divorce, setting up a custody agreement, modifying custody, modifying or establishing support, and so forth. If you call us for help, we are usually able to consult with you the same day. We are happy to speak with you to help in any way that we can!"

How will your divorce affect family business ownership?

Perhaps you and your spouse own a family business. Now that you have decided to end your marriage, what will happen to the company?

The family business may be your most important asset, whether you founded the company during your marriage or continued to add to the success and value of a business that was already up and running before you walked down the aisle. The fate of that business due to the impending divorce will be an emotional but particularly important decision for you and your spouse to make.

The Do's and Don'ts of a QDRO

Dividing your property in a divorce is often one of the most difficult tasks. While you may agree on the details, handling the legal aspects may be trickier. One of the most common situations that require a bit more work is dividing a retirement account.

Whether it is your account or you will receive money from your former spouse's account, the court must create a formal document to present to the plan administrator that allows money to go to someone other than the named account holder. The U.S. Department of Labor explains a document that allows someone else to get benefits from a retirement plan that is not the account holder is a Qualified Domestic Relation Order. Here is a look at some details about the requirements for this document.

What to consider when splitting an IRA in a divorce

Pennsylvania residents and others who have an IRA may have to give a portion of its proceeds to a spouse in a divorce. In most cases, splitting an IRA is an easy process to complete. However, this may not be true if an individual has opted to take scheduled annual payments before reaching age 59.5. Those who opt for 72(t) distributions can access money in their IRAs without having to pay a penalty.

However, once a payment schedule has been created, it is typically not possible to modify it until a person reaches age 59.5. If the payment schedule is modified, an individual will likely need to pay the 10% early withdrawal penalty on any funds that have been distributed. Furthermore, individuals may face an additional penalty for failing to pay the early withdrawal fee in the correct year. To complicate matters for those who are attempting to split an IRA in a divorce, the IRS doesn't specifically say what a modification is.

Parenting plans can change as children grow

When parents in Pennsylvania decide to divorce or separate, it can be a challenging transition to co-parenting. Even when parents have had conflicts in their personal relationship, co-parenting requires them to find a way to work together to put the best interests of their children first. A parenting plan can help to deal with scheduling as well as key agreements for the children's development. Of course, setting a child custody schedule can vary widely depending on the age of the child. Babies and toddlers may rely strongly on a primary caregiver but still need extensive time with the other parent in order to help the parent-child bond develop.

Older children can more comfortably move to full shared custody or overnight visitation with the non-custodial parent, especially if the changes are introduced calmly by both of their parents. Kids can feel emotionally torn when their parents involve them in child custody disputes, so it can be important to create a supportive, positive environment for the parenting plan to go into effect. Both parents may need to remind their children that they will see the other parent again soon, especially as young children may have difficulty understanding the periods of time involved in a custody schedule.

January is known for a high number of divorce filings

Happy New Year! Now is the time when people are working hard to keep the resolutions they've made for the year. For many individuals in Pennsylvania, that includes getting out of relationships that are bad for them. This is one reason why January has a high number of divorce filings -- people simply want a fresh start.

According to reports, some divorce specialists have deemed January "Divorce Month" just because the number of filings seen this time of year is one-third higher than what divorce law attorneys see in other months. It is not only filings either; more people spend time searching the internet for divorce information in January than any other month. Other than getting the fresh start one desires, why else do people choose January to start divorce proceedings?

Advocating in a child custody hearing

When parents in Pennsylvania decide to divorce or break up, they may face a particularly challenging issue when it comes to determining custody of the children. In most cases, courts want children to have both parents as an active part of their upbringing, so long as there is no abuse or neglect involved. Therefore, a growing number of family courts prefer joint or shared custody, or, where this is not possible, primary custody with extensive visitation rights. In many cases, parents are encouraged to work together to develop a custody agreement and parenting plan for the court's approval.

If parents cannot come to an agreement, they may ask the family court to make the decision about what custody agreement is in the best interests of the children. This may come about if negotiations fail, one parent later wants to change the child custody agreement or either parent files a formal motion to seek child custody. Most parents want to show the judge that they are a better parent, but judges are looking more for a solution that will reflect the interests and needs of the child. Again, in most cases, each parent will have, at the least, extensive visitation, especially if both parents have been an active part of the child's life.

Seeking insight on keeping emotions in check during a divorce

If you and your spouse decide to take separate paths in life, you might have concerns about how the outcome of your divorce will affect your future. Although taking steps to prepare for what comes next could prove imperative, you may also find it challenging during such a potentially stressful time.

With emotions running high, it may seem nearly impossible to approach the situation with a clear head and be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. However, there may be certain factors to consider prior to entering the process that might help you stay calm and collected as you focus on the future.

Modern family courts prefer both parents' involvement

Some Pennsylvania fathers may be afraid that they will face bias in family court when it comes to child custody. Indeed, some people stay in bad relationships because they are concerned about the legal and financial consequences of divorce, including child custody. For parents, spending more time away from their children may always be difficult. However, modern approaches to family law tend to strongly favor some form of joint custody or extensive visitation as long as there is no history of abuse or neglect. After all, studies have repeatedly affirmed that children benefit from a close relationship with both of their parents.

In the past, family court decisions were often based on social expectations of gender roles more than the individual case being considered. Mothers rarely worked outside of the home except for reasons of necessity, and they were often considered to be naturally more nurturing and appropriate parents. On the other hand, fathers' contribution was considered to be largely financial rather than emotional. As a result, mothers were expected to hold primary custody and fathers to pay child support and exercise some visitation. Many beliefs about family court date back to this era even though present public policy focuses on various forms of shared custody that may fit a particular family.

The benefits of drafting a prenuptial agreement

Pennsylvania law calls for the equitable division of marital estates, but that does not mean married couples in the Keystone State are unable to decide for themselves how their assets will be divided should they choose to divorce. Drafting a prenuptial agreement allows couples to avoid acrimony while addressing thorny issues like property division and spousal support, and these documents may also help marriages to endure by providing spouses with a clear understanding of where they stand.

Assents owned prior to a marriage and certain assets acquired during a marriage are considered separate property and are not divided during a divorce. However, determining what is and what is not separate property is sometimes difficult due to a process known as commingling. Commingling occurs when separate assets are mixed with marital property. A common example of commingling is using an inheritance, which would usually be considered separate property, to improve the family home, which is likely a marital asset. A prenuptial agreement can address these issues proactively.

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