There are two options for ending a marriage in Pennsylvania: divorce or annulment. An annulment may only be pursued where the marriage itself was void or voidable. A marriage is void where either party was still married at the time of the current marriage, the parties are related to a certain degree, either party did not consent to the marriage due to incapacity or serious mental health disorder, or either party was under 18 at the time of the marriage. These grounds for annulment can be pursued so long as there was no confirmation of the marriage by continuance of the marital relationship after one of the above-mentioned grounds was discovered.

Grounds for annulment for voidable marriages include instances where either party was under the age of 16 without express court approval, either party was 16 or 17 without parental consent or court approval, either party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a party is incurably impotent and the other party has no knowledge of the same prior to the marriage, or where a party was induced into marriage by fraud, duress or coercion. For several of the grounds, a complaint for annulment must be filed within sixty days after the marriage ceremony. Also, similar to the grounds for a void marriage, the parties cannot subsequently ratify the marriage by continuing as spouses after they have learned of the potential ground for annulment. Procedurally, annulments move forward in the same way as a divorce through the filing of a complaint with the Prothonotary. Any property acquired during the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution.

Support in Pennsylvania is calculated based on a statewide guideline amount. Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1910.16-6 outlines potential adjustments to a basic support obligation. Reasonable child care expenses paid by either parent can be added to a support calculation. The additional cost is then allocated between the parties in proportion to their income. Most additional expenses will be similarly divided among the parties based on their net income. Health insurance premiums on behalf of the other party and/or children can be included. Further, the portion of the premium attributable to the party paying it can also be allocated as long as a duty of support is owed to that party. Unreimbursed medical expenses are also covered. The first $250 is built into the calculations such that the party receiving support is expected to cover it. Expenses over $250 are split by the parties based on their relative amount of income. Expenses include co-pays, deductibles, dental and optical services as well as orthodontia. Expenses that are usually excluded include chiropractic, cosmetic and psychiatric/psychological services.

Private school tuition and summer camp may also be included in a support award if the court deems the expenses reasonable and necessary. Parties usually need to agree on private school in order for the tuition to be shared through a support award. Mortgage payments are the final category of potential adjustments. This provision only applies for a marital residence where only one of the parties continues to reside there. If the mortgage payment exceeds 25% of the net income of the party residing there, there may be a deviation resulting in an increase in support if the residing party is receiving support or a decrease in support if the paying party is residing there. The term “mortgage payments” is inclusive of all real estate taxes and homeowners insurances. At the court’s discretion, it may also include second mortgages, home equity lines and other obligations secured during the marriage secured by the marital residence.

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New Jersey is waiting to hear whether the long sought-after changes to their alimony laws will be adopted. Many view NJ’s alimony laws as unfair and inconsistent. The proposed changes to the law would seek to fortify a more uniform and rational framework for determining what amount and duration of alimony is appropriate as well as circumstances that would warrant a change or termination of the alimony award. One of the key provisions of the proposed new law is the “elimination” of permanent alimony which would be replaced with open durational alimony. Additionally, the court would be required to consider all the relevant factors for an alimony award and provide specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of their decision. The factors would be expanded to include a consideration of support that has already been paid prior to finalization of the divorce as well as the standard of living of both parties such that neither would be entitled to a greater standard of living than the other post-divorce.

The proposed revisions to the alimony law also attempt to put a cap on alimony such that for marriages of twenty (20) years or less, the alimony award cannot be longer than the length of marriage. The court could still get around this general rule in the case of exceptional circumstances. Additionally, alimony awards could be modified and/or terminated upon the retirement of the spouse paying alimony if at full retirement age. If seeking to retire earlier, the paying spouse would have the burden of proving retirement is reasonable and made in good faith. Finally, alimony could be suspended or terminated if the party receiving support cohabits with another person. It is still the burden of the party alleging cohabitation to provide proof of the same to be successful in terminating the alimony award.

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Vacations are a staple of the summer season and you want to make sure your children are able to enjoy vacation with you. A vacation schedule can be included as part of a custody order to alleviate any confusion or disagreement. Standard provisions specify how many weeks of vacation each party is entitled to per year, how the weeks may be exercised, what type of notice should be given, and what additional information should be provided. A sample vacation schedule paragraph is below:
Each party shall have two non-consecutive weeks of vacation each year with thirty days advance written notice to the other parent. If there is a conflict on vacation where both parties plan the same week, the party who gives written notice first shall be entitled to the week. Written notice may be via email or text message. The parties agree that they will each exercise their vacation week to include their regular scheduled time so as not to unnecessarily disrupt the regular custody schedule.

The parties agree will provide the other parent with a travel itinerary, and names of anyone traveling with the children and provide contact information for how to reach the children while on vacation. The parties agree that if either parent intends to remove the children from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for any purpose for any length of time over two days, that he or she will provide one (1) week notice to the other and indicate the destination where he or she intends to take the children, names of anyone traveling with the children, the length of the trip and a phone number and address where the children can be reached. Neither party will be allowed to travel out of the country with the children unless both parties agree in writing or a Court Order is obtained. The parties acknowledge that the vacation schedule takes precedence over the regular schedule and the holiday schedule takes precedence over the vacation and regular schedules so that neither party may take vacation during the other party’s holiday time.

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