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Berks County Family Law Blog

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.

Tips for fathers seeking child custody

Pennsylvania fathers who are going through a divorce might wonder whether they will be at a disadvantage in family court if there is a custody dispute. This was often the case in the past, when the practice was usually to award custody to mothers with the assumption that fathers would continue working outside the home to support them. However, this has changed over the years.

In some courts, fathers may still find themselves fighting against assumptions that they are not qualified to care for their children. A judge may think fathers lack the time, the nurturing ability, or the knowledge to care for children. They can prepare themselves by working with an attorney and gathering evidence that shows that they have a close relationship with their children. They can also work on a parenting plan and good communication with the mother.

I want a divorce but my spouse does not

When you are ready to end your marriage, you hope that you can get the dissolution process over with quickly and without too much drama. Unfortunately, some Pennsylvania residents will find that, even though they are ready for divorce, their spouses are not. How is a divorce case like this handled?

Just because your spouse does not want to end the marriage does not mean you are stuck with no options to get out of the situation. You can still file for divorce. However, you may end up having to fight tooth and nail to finalize it.

Do you need a separation agreement prior to filing for divorce?

In order to obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, you must separate from your spouse for at least 90 days for an uncontested divorce and two years for a contested divorce. A lot can happen in those periods that could put your post-divorce financial life at risk.

Even though Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation, you may still enter into a separation agreement to resolve some issues prior to filing for divorce. In addition, since your separation date is vitally important in the process, you can clearly identify it in such an agreement in order to avoid any confusion later.

Actions that indicate a divorce may be imminent

Some individuals in Pennsylvania are pretty sure they want a divorce but have doubts in the back of their mind, perhaps wondering if they are making the right decision. The whole process would be much easier if there was one thing that indicated the marriage should end, like abuse. Normally, though, it is not so easy to make this decision since there are many factors that combine to cause a person to want to end their marriage.

There are several things that show marriage mates lack respect for each other. It could be that they make fun of each other, mock each other or call each other names. They may not consult each other when making big decisions or actually make decisions knowing that their mate would not approve. This lack of respect is a big indicator that their marriage is heading for divorce.

Prenups can benefit people of various backgrounds

Couples in Pennsylvania planning their wedding may not want to put too much thought to divorce at a time when they are celebrating their relationship. However, given that nearly 50% of all marriages end with a divorce, it can be an important consideration to keep in mind. After all, people take out insurance to cover far less likely risks. In addition, planning for divorce at a time when people are enjoying a healthy, loving relationship can help to ensure a fair outcome and generosity between both parties.

This is one significant reason why many people are choosing to consider prenuptial agreements. While some once thought that they were mainly for the ultra-rich or celebrities, prenups have much to offer people of all financial means. Prenuptial agreements can help to protect an inheritance or other family assets, and they can be especially important for startup founders. Investors may even want to see a prenup on file before getting involved with a privately held company that could be vulnerable in a divorce. It is important to note that a valid prenuptial agreement should not be one-sided, designed to benefit the wealthier partner at the expense of the less well-off.

Pregnant? You may wish to consider a postnup

When Pennsylvania couples are expecting a newborn, this may be the last time that they want to consider the possibility of divorce. However, it can be an important time to think about issues that could arise if the couple separates while they are feeling positive about one another. Child custody and child support can be some of the most contentious issues in a divorce. However, they are far from the only issues of concern. Prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements can help people to prepare in advance for some major divorce matters.

While many people are familiar with prenups, post-nuptial agreements less common but are similar in many ways. Rather than taking place before the marriage, this type of contract is signed after the marriage has already started. It addresses the same types of issues, including financial matters and asset division. It can establish rights and obligations and should reflect the interests of both parties signing the agreement. Both parties should be represented by their own attorney during the process to ensure that the outcome is fair and will later be upheld in court. While many people may wish to include child custody and support in a postnup, most judges do not allow parents to decide on these matters for unborn children in advance.

Here's how to make co-parenting easier

Sharing joint custody after divorce is becoming increasingly common, but that does not mean it is easy. You and your ex may have to put in a lot of time and effort into communicating with one another before you fall into a practiced routine. While there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to 50/50 custody, you can try a few things to make the process easier.

Some of the suggestions might feel hard at first. Keeping negative feelings about your ex to yourself can be hard, especially after an emotional divorce. Still, if you and your ex remember that joint custody is about your child and not yourselves, then some of these tips might be easier than you think.

Property division and spousal support in gray divorces

Divorces involving older couples are becoming more common in Pennsylvania and around the country. What is known as the gray divorce rate has more than doubled in the last three decades, and property division and spousal support negotiations tend to be more complicated when spouses over the age of 55 are involved. These talks frequently touch on complex financial matters, so it may be wise for spouses to prepare themselves thoroughly even if a bitter court battle seems unlikely.

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means marital assets and liabilities should be divided equitably but not necessarily evenly. This can be a complicated process in a gray divorce when retirement and investment accounts are involved and the spouses have signed several joint loans. Cashing in these accounts and dividing the money may be a straightforward approach, but taking this path will usually lead to early withdrawal penalties and higher tax bills.

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