As long as there has been litigation, there have been parties willing and able to use fraudulent evidence. It’s used to sway a judge or jury or pressure the other party into an unfavorable settlement. The only thing that’s changed is that the technology used to create these fakes has improved, but they can still be exposed as fraud.  

Why This is a Really Bad Idea 

Using fabricated evidence is an all-or-nothing strategy. Depending on the situation and the materials used, a spouse could get away with this and reach their goals. But if it’s exposed, no judge will tolerate a party trying to engage in fraud against the court. If this happens and your case goes to a trial, the judge may not permit your spouse to present any evidence, so the case will be decided based on your side of the story. 

No competent attorney will be involved in knowingly presenting falsified evidence in any legal matter. If they do, they risk being professionally sanctioned and their reputation tainted. No client is worth it. If your spouse falsifies a government document or forges your signature, they may be criminally charged. 

That Doesn’t Mean Your Spouse Won’t Try It 

The fake evidence someone may use is only limited by their imagination and ability to produce it. It can be as simple as falsely describing a conversation the two of you had. If there are no witnesses or recordings, it’s your word against your spouse’s. Other kinds of fake evidence are more complicated: 

  • Text messages or emails can be altered or fabricated, but you should have copies of the messages you send. You should keep copies of any messages sent by your spouse in case they later change something sent to you.
  • Faked phone messages would require changes by audio editing software. This software is free, openly available, and with a little practice, your spouse may be able to create a new message that sounds natural. If this happens, its authenticity can be challenged. If they claim you left it on a specific date and time, through your phone records you should be able to show you didn’t call your spouse then. A judge should only accept a voicemail recording from your husband’s service provider, not one downloaded from your spouse’s laptop. 
  • Your spouse may alter or create pictures and videos using Photoshop, Filmora, or similar software. You and others present when the event took place may testify what’s presented didn’t happen. An expert can also analyze the images and testify that the photos or videos have been altered and how it was done. 
  • The next frontier of fakery is using artificial intelligence to create audio or video recordings. Software and apps are available to do this, but the result would need to be convincing if someone wants to use it as evidence. There can be testimony asserting that what’s in the video never happened, and expert testimony could show it’s the result of video and audio manipulation 

If your spouse presents you with faked material they threaten to use, don’t panic. It may be good for your case. After it’s shown to be fake, your spouse will have no credibility, which is critical in divorce and child custody cases, and it may substantially hamper their ability to tell their side of the story to a judge. It also shows how desperate your spouse is and how fearful they are of your evidence. 

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust 

If you need help with a divorce or child custody dispute, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

Smart devices and social media are integral parts of our lives. But they can cause problems if you’re getting a divorce or preparing for one. The biggest issues are making damaging statements on social media and losing your privacy on your smartphone, laptop, or computer. It may be best to put your hands up and step away from your smartphone.  

Your Spouse the Casual Snooper 

Your smartphone may be how you make phone calls and view and send emails and texts related to your divorce. If you’re still living together, your spouse may look through your smartphone to see who you’re calling and who’s calling you. Your spouse may also read your texts and emails.  

You should make your devices as secure as possible. Change the password on your phone, shut off notifications, and delete unnecessary apps. Cancel accounts you own jointly, like Netflix or Apple. 

All remaining accounts and apps should have two-step authentication. If someone tries to access the account or change a password, you should get an email or text confirming that you’re the one taking the action. If you weren’t, don’t permit the change to happen. 

You should also go “old school” to protect your privacy by getting a post office box. If someone mails something divorce-related to you, your spouse won’t have access to it. 

Spyware and What You Can Do About It 

Changing passwords will make devices hard to use if your spouse is physically looking at your device when the opportunity arises. But if your spouse is knowledgeable and under-handed enough, your spouse may install illegal spyware, which may render your security efforts useless. 

Spyware is hidden software that secretly records information and tracks your activities. It may monitor and copy everything you enter, store, upload, and download. It also may be sophisticated enough to track your location and, without you being aware, turn on a device’s camera and microphone so your spouse can spy on you in real-time. 

Instead of trying to find and delete spyware, you could use your devices for everything other than divorce-related matters but buy a “burner” phone or laptop. You pre-pay for time using a “burner” phone, then dispose of it when you’re done. If possible, keep it secret, locked away when you’re not using it, and password protected. You could do the same with an inexpensive Chromebook which you can use for emails and internet research. 

Social Media is Not Your Friend 

You need support from friends and family to get through a divorce. Just don’t use social media to discuss it with them. Talk on the phone or in person. Anything you post on social media could be evidence that may be used against you. Complain about your spouse and the divorce process all you want, but not in a way that could damage your case.  

If you’re disciplined enough, maintain your accounts and post about things unrelated to your spouse and divorce. If you’re someone who blows off steam online, stop using social media to avoid the temptation. 

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust 

If you want help with preparing for a divorce, have questions about the process, or need legal representation, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

Legal representation in a divorce costs money. But it’s an investment that helps you prevent serious problems that you may encounter during and after your DIY divorce. A lawyer can save you time, energy, stress, and in the long run, money, by avoiding mistakes that you’ll make representing yourself.  We help couples here in Bucks and Montgomery Counties efficiently negotiate their divorce to save money on legal bills while still providing all the protection necessary.  

The more you have going on in your life, the more you risk in a DIY divorce. You may make it through the process alone, but you can’t go back for a do-over if serious problems arise after your divorce is final. If you agreed to something or an issue is decided by a judge, it might be impossible to change. 

Ignorance is Not Bliss 

Are you ready for these issues?  

  • You’re a stay-at-home parent while your spouse earns an income, or you worked to help your spouse improve their education and make more money. Are these factors impacting alimony or asset distribution? 
  • Your spouse owns a business. Is it profitable or not? How much has your spouse invested in it? Is it used to shelter marital assets so you won’t get a share? Is your spouse or the pair of you in debt due to the business? How will these issues impact your divorce? 
  • Your spouse has had extramarital affairs. Does that affect your divorce or your child custody claims? 
  • You have children. How are custody and child support determined? Do you feel your child should not be with your spouse? If so, how do you convince a judge you should get custody? 
  • You and your spouse have strong disagreements over how your child should be raised. How will they be resolved after your divorce? Who will decide what? 
  • A divorce will impact your current and future finances. Tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars may be at stake. Nearly all divorce cases settle through negotiations. How much negotiation experience do you have? Would you be comfortable negotiating a settlement with so much on the line? 
  • Your spouse has legal representation. Do you still go through the process by yourself? 

The time to learn about divorce, the law, and court procedures is not while representing yourself in your divorce. Mistakes can be costly. 

Your Life is Already Stressful. Do You Want to Add to It? 

It’s very stressful if you file legal documents and they’re rejected by the court clerk or a judge denies your motion. You may or may not be able to try again. Your spouse (or maybe worse, their attorney) may become very demanding and put you under a lot of pressure to agree to something that’s against your interests. How will you respond? 

Benefits of legal representation include the fact that we will handle the details, map out the strategy, execute our plan, make adjustments as needed, and deal with your spouse, their attorney, and the court system.  

Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, will save you time you don’t have to spare and prevent stress you don’t want. We also have knowledge and experience that you lack. We will zealously defend your rights and protect your interests during negotiations and in court so you won’t have to. 

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust 

If you have questions about divorce or want representation, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

A prenuptial agreement, if properly executed, can make a divorce much simpler, so the process consumes less time, energy, and money. If you plan on getting married, it’s something worth considering. Here in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, we make sure that you have an airtight prenup when you get married and also skillfully use your prenuptial agreement should you get divorced.  

What is a Prenuptial Agreement? 

A prenuptial agreement, or a premarital contract or “prenup,” is a contract between two people planning to marry. It’s a written, signed document containing mutual promises. It goes into effect when the two marry. The parties release their rights when they divorce, or one dies.  

It can cover who pays what expenses during the marriage and what will happen if there’s a divorce: 

  • Who will receive how much alimony 
  • How property will be divided 
  • How assets and debts will be divided 

Who will get what kind of child custody and who will pay how much child support are not topics in a prenup. Those agreements will be part of your divorce agreement.   

What Makes a Prenup Valid? 

To be enforceable, the agreement must be: 

  • Written 
  • Voluntarily signed by the parties 
  • Not severely unfair and one-sided (one party will not be left destitute)  
  • A result of both parties fully disclosing their financial information 
  • Free of fraud or duress 

Both parties need to have attorneys help them put the agreement together and review it. This is a significant component in ensuring that the prenup is enforceable.   

Can a Prenup Be Disputed? 

A prenup can be challenged if a party can make a good faith argument that it isn’t enforceable. A court should uphold the prenup unless there’s clear and convincing evidence showing legal requirements weren’t met. A prenup may have been very fair when it was written but due to a change of circumstances, one party is going to now be left destitute.  That will not be allowed.  

What are Potential Complications? 

When a marriage starts, both parties make assumptions based on what they want to do or what they think will happen. But life is complicated: 

  • Both parties may be employed, so the agreement may be made based on that continuing. One or both may be temporarily unemployed at some point. One may suffer a disability, so that person has a lower or no income.  
  • A party may own a business before the marriage or start one after the wedding. The business may do very well, so there’s more income and assets than expected, or very poorly, so the income is much lower than what they planned for, or a spouse (or both spouses) may be deep in debt.
  • The two may have a child and one spouse may become a stay-at-home parent. If they weren’t planning for a child, expenses might be much higher than expected and income much lower 

Prenups should account for many possibilities, not just what the couple plans to do. If they encounter financial challenges that aren’t covered, it can cause conflicts during the divorce. 

Get Help With a Prenup From an Attorney You Can Trust 

If you have questions about prenups, want help creating one, or feel the one you signed shouldn’t be enforced, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

Traditionally, American couples got married, lived together, and when they had enough money, they bought a house. However, the country is constantly changing. Now fewer couples are getting married, but people still want to buy a home. If you and your partner plan to purchase one without getting married and want legal protection if the relationship ends, a cohabitation agreement is worth considering. We have helped many couples in the Greater Philadelphia area put together cohabitation agreements.  

Fewer Marriages, More Demand for Houses 

Marriage rates have generally declined from 1982 to 2009, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They stabilized from 2009 to 2017 but dropped again during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Meanwhile, people are eager to buy houses. The inventory of houses for sale can’t keep up with demand and prices are moving skyward. The median house price in Bucks County in February 2018 was $277,250. Four years later it’s up to $400,000, according to Redfin. Currently, the average time a Bucks County house is on the market is three weeks. 

State Statutes Cover Married Homeowners. Contracts Can Cover Homeowners Who are Not Married

Under Pennsylvania statutory law, if you’re married, buy a house, then divorce, your marital assets and debts are divided. If you’re not married, you can use contract law, through a cohabitation agreement, to do the same whether you’re of the same or opposite sexes. Without marriage, there aren’t statutes you can rely upon to fairly resolve shared housing issues if the relationship ends. 

Such an agreement can include many things, but topics that could be covered include: 

  • Assets like real estate, bank accounts, and vehicles 
  • Debts such as the mortgage, car loans, student loans, and credit card debts 
  • How housing-related bills and obligations will be paid 
  • What will happen if one or both of you become unemployed or too disabled to work 
  • Whether each party will obtain life insurance with the other party as a beneficiary so their share of the mortgage can be paid if they die unexpectedly 
  • How the home is titled  
  • How the home and property (including household goods and furnishings) will be split if the relationship ends 
  • What happens if a party breaches the agreement 

What’s in a cohabitation agreement is up to the parties, but an experienced attorney can suggest language that’s needed to protect your interests. 

An Oral Agreement May be Valid, But Proving It May Be Difficult 

If the two of you make a verbal agreement on splitting mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and maintenance, it may or may not be legally binding. More importantly, it’s generally much more difficult to prove one was made and, if so, its terms. You may claim the two of you agreed. Your partner may deny it. Without further proof, your claim will go nowhere. 

A written agreement is literally on paper, in black and white, signed by both parties, with the terms spelled out. One party could claim it’s invalid (because you engaged in fraud to induce them to agree to it or because performing the contract is impossible), but when both parties are represented by attorneys and the agreement is negotiated in good faith, establishing that should be very difficult. 

A Cohabitation Agreement May Only Be the Beginning 

If you share not only a house but have children together too, you should also have child custody and support agreements even if you’re on “good terms” on these issues. Situations change, so it’s best to work these issues out now in case the relationship ends in the future and the parties become angry and emotional. 

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust 

If you have questions about a cohabitation agreement or want help putting one together, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200.

Making the decision to get a divorce is difficult, inciting many stresses and uncertainties. It may be challenging to envision what a life without your relationship, your routine, and your home might look like. But the fact of the matter is that you may walk away from your divorce without ownership of some of your most valued assets, like your house. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and enlist the help of a divorce attorney who can guide you through the process as you divide assets between you and your spouse.

In order to move on after divorce, you and your spouse must reach an agreement on which of you will keep the house, and which of you will move elsewhere. To ensure you’re receiving all that you deserve and making the best decisions for you and your family’s future, we’ve come up with a guide to help you navigate how to decide who gets the house in your Pennsylvania divorce.

Analyze Your Assets

An important concept to understand as you navigate divorce is your assets. An asset is anything that holds real value. There are many types of divorce assets, including:

  • Real estate (marital property)
  • Liquid (cash)
  • Retirement investments
  • Personal property
  • Business (owned businesses or streams of income)

Any items acquired over the duration of your marriage could be considered assets, and the list can become long and complex. In this article, we’ll focus on the house as an asset, as it’s often one of the most significant deliberations amongst divorce mediations.

Assess Ownership

The first step in the process is to figure out who owns the house. Is the house marital property or separate property? If the house was purchased before marriage, it’s considered separate property, and that spouse may have rights to keep the house. However, if both spouses have a history of making mortgage payments (assets are commingled), both spouses have rights to ownership post-divorce. If the house was purchased during marriage, it’s marital property, which makes splitting things a bit simpler. Knowing this information will help you understand the possible next steps.

Discuss With Your Spouse

As you follow the steps for divorce in Pennsylvania, have a discussion with your spouse. Each partner should express what their goals are regarding where to live after divorce. Should you want to keep the house and your partner does not, or vice versa, you may be able to come to an agreement or a buyout without the help of an attorney. If you both want to keep the house and are unable to agree on how to go about it, the court will analyze your situation and come to a decision for you both. Think deeply about your emotional attachment to the house before you take it to the court, as this will require a lot of time and money. That said, the harder you work as a couple to sort through this, the smoother the separation process will go. 

Determine What You Can Afford

Whether you hope to keep the house or find alternative housing, you need to take a deep dive into your finances to determine the most affordable option. Your emotional attachment to the house may leave you fighting to keep it, however, your new single income may not be sufficient for staying, especially with children. Consider your individual income, child support payments, and credit health in order to decide whether or not you can afford to keep the house, or if you can afford to buy one of your own. Buying a house on a single income will likely shrink your selection of available homes compared to your combined income. Apply for a mortgage preapproval to see how much house you can afford and compare it to prices of homes in your desired area to determine if buying a home, keeping your existing one, or renting is a viable option.

Understand the Court’s Decision-Making Process

Should you decide to put your fate in the court’s hands, it’s important to know what’s taken into consideration when designating ownership. The court will take a look at each spouse’s financial situation and consider any children the couple have, along with their custody plans. Also, know that the court will always rule in the best interest of the children. If you don’t have children, the court can rule a buyout as the best option, or order that the house be sold, splitting the profits evenly between the couple. To split accurately, the court will also consider the amount paid toward the mortgage if the house is considered separate property.

It can be difficult to navigate how to handle your house during a divorce, but with the help of a reliable attorney, you can come out the other side of divorce happier than ever. Contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. for additional guidance centered around family law, custody agreements, and all things divorce.