An agency adoption is utilized my prospective parents who do not have direct contact or a pre-existing relationship with the natural parents. When working with an adoption agency, the agency serves as an intermediary between parties looking to adopt and parties looking to relinquish their rights as a parent and place a child for adoption. There are numerous requirements and background checks for parties looking to adopt to complete to be eligible as a prospective family. Parties looking to relinquish their rights can often view the profiles of parties looking to adopt to find a good match and vice versa.

Using an agency for an adoption does come at a cost for prospective parents. Fees vary by agency and state but can be in the range of $40,000. You may be eligible for a tax credit for a portion of these costs. Below are some of the adoption agencies in the Greater Philadelphia area:

Open Arms Adoption Network

Adoption Network Associates

Adoptions From The Heart

Adoption ARC

Living Hope Adoption Agency

Haven Adoptions

There are always a number of children looking for quality foster parents to provide a stable, loving environment while waiting to be reunited with family or transition into a forever home. To get started as a foster parent, you will need to apply and pass several background clearances. Your home will also be inspected as part of the process. Training is available as well as support throughout the process including, but not limited to, financial support, medical assistance, respite care, and other caseworker services. You can indicate your preferences for which children you would take into your home in terms of age, sex, etc.

Serving as a foster parent can also be an avenue to adoption if reunification is not possible. When working with a social service agency, they will handle all the paperwork and guide you through all the procedures to complete the adoption. This can alleviate the financial costs associated with other methods of adoption such as attorney fees or agency fees. Additionally, many of the services you receive as a foster parent may still be available to you post-adoption. For more information on how to become a foster parent, visit:

Improvements in the housing market mean that more couples again have equity in their homes. Division of marital property is one of the challenges in any divorce. When a marital home will be too expensive or more than one spouse can maintain, selling the home is again becoming an option. The sale of a home can result in a sizable profit, but consider the tax consequences and timing of the sale.

In Pennsylvania, the court equitably divides property in a divorce action by reviewing certain factors including some of the following:

The duration of the marriage;
Age, health and sources of income available to each of the spouses;
Contributions or dissipation of assets made by each party; and
Whether there are any minor children.
Equitable division does not always mean an equal award of the equity in the home. If one of the spouses owned the home prior to the marriage or sold a previous home prior to the marriage to secure a down payment, part of the equity may be considered non marital. This means it would belong to the spouse that brought the asset to the marriage and would not be divided.

While a divorce is pending, the court can award one or both of the spouses the right to continue to live in the martial home. When it is not practical for either spouse to stay in the home, the spouse who lives in the home may need to list the home for sale.

When certain rules are met, the seller of a principal home can avoid paying federal income tax on up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married joint-filing couple) of the gain in value. When a couple has owned a home for many years in an area that has appreciated this becomes very important.

The Internal Revenue Service test requires that the seller owned and used the property as a principal residence for two years during the five-year period preceding the sale. To pass the joint-filer test, both spouses must pass the use test and one must pass the ownership test.

This is very straightforward when the sale occurs before a finalized divorce decree or within the same year. The couple could file jointly for one more year and claim the $500,000 exclusion.

When a sale of the principal residence happens after the divorce and the court awards the home to one of the spouses, then that spouse may only be able to claim the $250,000 and will owe taxes on any additional gain from the sale.

When considering divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney. Advice at an early stage in the process often means avoiding costly mistakes down the road.

When you meet with your lawyer or mediator to begin the divorce proceedings, you need to have many documents with you, both personal and financial. Not having access to these documents could delay proceedings or damage your case and limit your settlement options. A partial list of documentation includes:

  • Personal data: birth certificate; marriage license; life insurance and healthcare insurance; employment information and income; will and living will or advanced directive; power of attorney
  • Financial data: complete list of assets (bank accounts, investments, pensions, and value of homes, cars, and personal property like jewelry, furniture, etc); expenses (all bills, loans, mortgage, etc.); income tax returns for the past several years; list of assets or expenses obtained or incurred singly before marriage or given to individual as a gift after marriage (both spouses)
  • Childcare data: costs of childcare, evidence of each parent’s involvement in the child’s upbringing (involvement in school, sports, etc.) for custody settlement

This is a lot of information, and you may not have access to the records for a variety of reasons. But there are ways of getting what you need, although in some cases you may need help from your lawyer.

If vital personal records were lost or destroyed: For items such as birth certificates, green cards, income tax statements, and more, you can contact the federal government for duplicates. You will need to supply your social security number and you may need to show some other identification. In some cases, you may need to apply in person, while in others, like tax statements, you can make your request online.

If your spouse has the records of bills or assets and refuses to share: You may need to have your lawyer request a subpoena be issued to give you access to all the critical financial data you need. And as soon as possible upon deciding to divorce, sever all joint accounts, whether bank accounts, credit cards, or other things like family email, iTunes, social media, and others. See Shared Accounts and Your Divorce for more details.

If your credit card is in your spouse’s name but you are a secondary name, you can just call and have your name removed. If it’s a joint account, however, it may not be that simple. If both names are on any account, the company will hold you jointly responsible for the balance, and both of your credit scores will be affected by unpaid balances.

To prevent further use of joint credit cards or the withdrawal of money from joint bank accounts, your lawyer may have to request a temporary restraining order to freeze these accounts. Please discuss this with your attorney as soon as possible.

If you need evidence of child support and involvement: Contact your child’s school or daycare for copies of payments sent or parent-teacher conferences where the teacher would have recorded which parents attended. Photos and social media posts may also demonstrate the level of involvement in a child’s life by either parent.

Remember, it’s critical to have your documents as complete as possible in order to put you in a position of strength for your settlement or court appearance. You want to get the best financial and child custody arrangements to help you and your children be as comfortable as possible and be able to move on in a new life. Contact us here at Ulmer Law in Doylestown for our legal and mediation services. Let us help you.

In Pennsylvania, if a divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement outside of court, all marital assets will be divided according to equitable distribution, which means, effectively, whatever the court thinks is appropriate after considering a number of factors. As long as both parties are reasonable, we encourage divorcing couples to avoid court so they can retain control of the division of their marital assets.

This is true for all assets, including vacation property. Even if the property was given to one spouse exclusively or purchased exclusively with one spouse’s income, and no family money was ever used to pay for its mortgage or upkeep, such property may be considered marital and will factor into the division of assets. Whether your divorce goes to court or not, you will probably have to decide what is to become of your vacation property.

Appraise the asset

Before you decide what to do with the property, you need to get an accurate appraisal of its market value. Also important is a complete listing of all costs associated with owning and maintaining the property: mortgage, interest, taxes, utilities, repairs, landscaping, and more.

With this clear, factual foundation, you can begin to evaluate the course of action that will best benefit the two of you and any children you have.

Decide your best option

Selling the property might be the easiest choice, allowing you to divide the funds received between you. It can be emotionally difficult to let go of a place where you may have created fond memories, but consider your need for liquid assets and the simplification of the process, which are important advantages to this option.

If you and your spouse are on reasonably good terms, you could choose to keep the property and divide its use. This is advantageous if children are involved, since they would still have the familiar vacation home to go to, providing them with much-needed security and continuity. But be sure to create a written document, signed by both of you, that will clearly delineate the times and seasons each will be using the home, the expenses each of you will be responsible for paying, and the dates those payments must be made. Your lawyer will be able to create a comprehensive document that will ensure that you both get good use out of the house without increasing tension.

You may also decide that one partner gets the family home and the other gets the vacation home. The complication here is in the valuation of each residence. If one house is worth significantly less, the spouse with the less expensive house can negotiate additional assets or benefits in order to balance the value of the two properties. However, if that house also has much lower expenses, the spouse with the more expensive home should insist that this benefit be factored into the negotiations.

 What about timeshares?

Treat a timeshare in the same manner you would treat a vacation home or vacation yacht or any other additional asset. First, get it appraised so you know what it is worth. Then, negotiate.

Get help

A seasoned divorce attorney can help you through all the nuanced legal and financial issues involved in divorce because we have helped many people through the process. Contact us here at Ulmer Law to see how we can help you, too.

What happens on social networking sites stays in the public domain, which more and more divorcing couples are experiencing to their detriment. Evidence found on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is increasingly used in family law courts. Judges take information gleaned from these sites as a factor in child custody decisions, alimony awards and property division.

Even dating sites, like have been used by Judges in deciding incomes for support purposes. If you think it is a good idea to inflate your income to look more attractive to prospective partners, you might want to reconsider doing that unless you are prepared to be held to that income for purposes of support. Remember, Judges have the power to decide credibility and if they don’t believe the income you present on paper and you are self-employed, they can and do hold you to a higher income, especially if you boast about how much you make on dating websites.

One ex-spouse’s claim that she could not work because of injuries sustained in a car accident was repudiated by her posts regarding her belly dancing activities, which prompted a New York Judge to deny her claim for spousal support. Parents seeking custody of their children can have their hopes crushed when posting photos online involving alcohol or drug use. Claims that one spouse cannot afford a certain level of alimony ring hollow when he or she “tweets” about buying a brand-new car or about vacations they are taking with others.

Many social networking sites have privacy features, but this does not always protect such information from being used in court. Judges are increasingly allowing access to online photos, posts and other information, even if protected or reserved for “friends,” by the opposing party in discovery (the legal process of obtaining evidence in a court case). In addition, many people unfamiliar with various privacy settings do not use those features, meaning anyone can access that information, including opposing attorneys.

Many experienced divorce lawyers urge their clients to practice caution when posting online, especially when in the middle of a contested divorce. While it can be tempting to vent online, negative posts about the ex-spouse or the divorce process, for example, can actually harm the poster. Generally, it is best simply to stay away from social networking sites altogether when going through divorce; if that seems too extreme, at least be aware that what is posted may very well end up in court. If inappropriate to say in front of a Judge, chances are posting it online isn’t a good idea either.

If you are facing divorce, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney who can advise you on property division, child custody and potential alimony.

After your adoption hearing, you will still need to take a few steps to obtain a new birth certificate. A Certificate of Adoption is forwarded by the court to Vital Records to alert them the adoption was finalized. You would then contact Vital Records with a request for a new birth certificate and submit the applicable fee. Pennsylvania presently charges $20 for a new birth certificate, unless you are a military member, in which case the fee can be waived. The adoptive parents’ names and child’s name after adoption should be included in the application for birth certificate. The completed application, ID and payment would then go to Vital Records.

Processing times for receipt of the new birth certificate vary. The average time for adoptions is currently five (5) weeks. These steps are for a child born in Pennsylvania. If the child was born in another state, the Certificate of Adoption would be forwarded to Vital Records in the state where the child was born. You would need to follow that state’s procedures for obtaining a new birth certificate. For additional information on requesting a new birth certificate through Pennsylvania visit:

Prior to filing an adoption petition you should make sure you have all the requisite documents to submit to the court simultaneously. This will permit the court to schedule your petition sooner rather than later. Exactly which documents you will need to include depend on what type of adoption you are seeking. All petitions will require signed verifications by the petitioners. You must also submit proof that all parties received information regarding Act 101 and the opportunity for post-adoption contact by mutual agreement. You will need the original birth certificate for the adoptee. Additionally, prospective parents and any other adult household members will need to have the requisite clearances completed and the results of those clearances should be attached to the petition.

In a situation where the adoptee is over twelve years old, you should also have the consent of the adoptee attached to your petition. If the natural parents consent to the adoption and are voluntarily terminating their parental rights, their consent(s) should be attached as well. In some circumstances parental rights do not need to be terminated. For example, if the natural parent has passed away you do not need to request their rights be terminated however you should include a certified copy of the death certificate with the petition. Another scenario may be if you have used an anonymous donor to conceive, that documentation should be included with your petition. You should consult with an experienced adoption attorney to be clear on exactly which documents you will need to include with your adoption petition to make the process as efficient as possible.

One of the final steps in the adoption process is the adoption hearing. The hearing is often ceremonial in nature. It is common for family and friends to attend along with the prospective adoptee parents. The adoptee(s) must be present as well. At the hearing, the Petitioners should be prepared to show all legal requirements for an adoption have been met. Any documents that were attached to your original petition or subsequently filed with the court should already be in the court file (i.e. original birth certificate, background checks, home study report.) Additional requirements may include service on the opposing party in which case you should be sure to have valid proof of service with you for your hearing.

As adoption is permanent, there are some questions to make sure the prospective adoptive parents understand exactly what they are taking on. For example, prospective parents will be asked if they understand the adoption confers all the legal rights and duties between a parent and child that the law provides for natural born children. Those rights and duties include, but are not limited to, the right of the child to inherit through you and your family, the legal obligation to financially support the child, the right of the child to seek support from you, the principle that these rights and duties would continue if you and your spouse separate or divorce as well as if the child develops any physical, psychological problems or becomes ill or disabled for any reason in the future.

The Judge presiding over the case will often allow for pictures at the conclusion of the proceedings. As a family member or friend, you can bring gifts or cards however, the court has a strict no balloon policy. After receiving the final decree of adoption, you can follow up with getting a new birth certificate for the adoptee.

Each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing involuntary termination of their parental rights. Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This is a permanent act and accordingly, the courts ensure that the natural parents understand and have a chance to discuss with a qualified professional. A portion of the filing fees paid to the court for adoption/termination proceedings go towards supporting that county’s counseling fund which subsidizes the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.

The court should inquire as to whether the natural parent(s) had an opportunity to utilize counseling services if they appear at the termination hearing. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court can postpone a decision on termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling. If the natural parents are not present, the court at least expects proof of valid notice of the proceedings on the parents. The required notice does make it clear that they have a right to appear at the hearing and if they fail to do so their rights can be terminated by the court. The notice also apprises natural parents of their right to seek an attorney and strongly advises that they do so.