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Berks County Family Law Blog

Common divorce mistakes: 5 things that could go wrong for you

Divorce is painful, and it can be messy -- emotionally, financially and socially. But there are things you can do to make the process less complicated and reduce your stress as you move through a difficult phase of your life.

It's a fact: You can avoid certain pitfalls with the right legal guidance. Or you can risk allowing one or more of these things to happen to you by making the wrong choices or opting for quick fixes to complex problems.

How immigration enforcement can change children's lives

While many people in Pennsylvania expect to consider child custody only in the case of divorce, emergency situations could bring custody matters to the surface in unrelated cases. The escalated immigration enforcement actions against undocumented people -- and alsome documented immigrants -- have led to children being left in the hands of grandparents and other family members if their parents are deported. Since the children in question are often U.S. citizens, their parents may want them to remain behind.

Of course, extended family situations are not limited to immigrants facing detention or deportation. Around 20 percent of all kids being raised by grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts or other extended family members come from immigrant backgrounds. These number more than 500,000 children across the country. Researchers have noted that if the harsh immigration policies continue, this number can also be expected to rise. When the new carers are also vulnerable to attention from immigration authorities, they may be hesitant to make their child custody arrangements known or seek assistance from social services.

Alex Rodriguez in child, spousal support dispute

Pennsylvania fans of baseball player Alex Rodriguez may have heard that he and his ex-wife are in a dispute over child and spousal support. Rodriguez currently pays her $115,000 per month to his former spouse.

The initial support agreement was supposed to be revised when Rodriguez retired from the MLB. While the now-retired star used to make $30 million a year playing for the Yankees, his income has since dropped to $3 million annually as a broadcaster. Meanwhile, his ex-wife has a masters in psychology as well as a new fiancé with whom she also has a child. Rodriguez has cited these as reasons why she no longer needs as much spousal support. Allegedly, she has several cars, three homes and millions of dollars.

Dividing an art collection in a divorce

If a divorcing Pennsylvania couple has an art collection, dividing it may be complex. In several high-profile divorces, what happened to the art collection become a major point of contention.

There are a number of potential issues. For example, a person going into a marriage with a significant collection might want a prenuptial agreement. However, in one case, the prenup was thrown out because it was written in German, and the spouse who signed it could not read German at the time. Another issue is record keeping. While a bill of sale might list one spouse as the buyer, what is actually more important is where the funds came from and whether it was a joint account. Art may need to be appraised, but different appraisers may have wildly different figures. One attorney who works on such cases has pointed out that the only way to truly determine the value of a piece of artwork is to sell it.

How to jumpstart a conversation about prenuptial agreements

You have found the love of your life, and you are looking forward to tying the knot and spending the rest of your life together. Divorce is probably the last thing on your mind, but you may need to consider the fact that something could go wrong with your relationship in the future.

Since divorce is possible, it makes sense to consider creating a prenuptial agreement before your wedding day. If this is something you want, it's important to discuss the agreement with your soon-to-be spouse.

Child support arrearages may hurt credit

When people in Pennsylvania fail to keep up with child support obligations, it can impact their ability to qualify for a mortgage. Delinquent child support, also referred to as child support arrearages or back child support, can harm the person's credit and make it more difficult to secure loans. People who are interested in purchasing homes should know that not every loan program will disqualify borrowers who owe back child support, but high monthly payments may impact qualifying ratios, and loans backed by the government are generally stricter about back child support.

Typically, if a person's credit score is sufficient to get a bank loan or other non-government loan, he or she is unlikely to be disqualified for owing back child support. Mortgage applicants are usually required to list the amounts of current support obligations and any extra payment to cover delinquent support.

Financial recovery from "gray divorce"

An increasing number of older Americans in Pennsylvania and across the country are considering divorce. Since 1990, the divorce rate for people age 50 and older has doubled, a trend that shows all signs of continuing. This has taken place even as the same rate has flattened out or even declined for younger Americans or across demographic groups as a whole. While people in remarriages and those who have been married for a shorter period of time are most likely to divorce, "gray divorce" can impact even couples who have been together for decades.

Dividing retirement funds can be a significant part of divorce at any age, but it can be particularly important for people at or near retirement age themselves. Those savings and investments were often made with the idea of being shared, and planning two retirements on the same amount of money can be far costlier. In addition, people have less time after the divorce is finalized to rebuild their accounts for their retirement. It is possible to divide assets and come out successfully on the other side of divorce, and planning for the financial changes to come can help people do so.

Important questions about modifying your child support

As you pay child support, month in and month out, you recognize that you're doing something that betters the life of your child or children. You may also realize that these payments are taking a toll on your financial wellbeing.

If you become unable to make child support payments in the future, perhaps because of a medical problem or job loss, you have the legal right to request a modification. A modification is a change to an existing court order.

Reasons to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

Pennsylvania couples who are planning their marriages might want to consider a prenuptial agreement, and they might want to think about a post-nuptial agreement if they are already married. While it may be impossible to imagine a divorce before even getting married, a prenup can actually strengthen a relationship and can protect people later if the marriage falters.

Financial issues and poor communication are two of the main reasons that marriages end in divorce. Creating a prenuptial agreement forces people to communicate effectively about finances. Some of the topics that a prenup might address include how assets and debts will be split in divorce, who owns what property, and whether alimony will be paid. Issues regarding child support or custody cannot be addressed in a prenup.

Some advantages of shared custody

If a parent in Pennsylvania seeks sole physical custody during a divorce but a judge decides to grant joint custody, the parent may struggle with that decision. However, there are some advantages to sharing custody. Parents may remind themselves of these advantages, and in some cases, they might even consider sharing custody as a result.

Joint custody creates a predictable schedule for parents. This is not a reason to seek custody, but it can be helpful for parents who want to take time to have coffee with a friend or work on other projects. It can be difficult for parents to adjust to not having children in the home all the time, but when children are with the other parent, there may be opportunities to pursue an exercise program or other activities. Joint custody may even make it easier to date. With joint custody, a parent may also have more opportunity to pursue education or build a career.

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