Equity in a home may be a married couple’s biggest asset. Before deciding what to do with the marital home in a divorce, you must find out how much that equity is and what the home would probably sell for if it was put on the market. Get professional help for this task. There is too much at stake to try to come up with some figures after a couple of hours of internet research. 

Why Does This Matter? 

The assets and debts of married couples are equitably divided in Pennsylvania divorce proceedings. If the couple has a house and a mortgage, who gets what is an essential part of the process. That starts with determining the home’s value and how much equity each party has.  

The home is usually a significant component of the overall agreement of how assets and debts are divided. If the parties cannot agree, assets and debts can be divided by a judge after a trial. This is the most time and resource-consuming way to resolve the issue, which is why it is the route of last resort if the parties cannot agree. 

This does not matter if the house is not marital property subject to division. It may have been owned by one spouse before marriage, though the other spouse may make a claim to its increase in value since the marriage began.  

The parties may also have a premarital or prenuptial agreement spelling out who will get the home in case there is a divorce or a formula to determine an amount. A prenup may also spell out the amount that one needs to pay to buy out the other’s interest. 

Another option is selling the house. After the mortgage, liens, taxes, and costs are paid, the profit left over is part of the cash the two of you will divide. 

What is Home Equity? 

Appraised Value – (Balance of Mortgages + Liens) = Home Equity 

The higher the appraised value and the lower the balances for your mortgage and liens (if you have any), the more home equity you have. The two of you should agree on a professional appraiser to determine the appraised value. Each of you could hire your own, and the result may or may not differ, but no matter the outcome, the cost is double that of just hiring one. 

Avoid a do-it-yourself appraisal. Unless you are a trained professional, you do not know what you are doing. Properties you think are comparable may not be, and you may miss properties that genuinely are similar. This approach could cost you far more than the money you save by not hiring an appraiser. If you are buying out your spouse, you may come up with an inaccurate value that is too high, or if you are the one receiving money or other assets, your figure may be too low. 

The spouse buying out the other should hire a home inspector. That extra pair of educated eyes could find hidden problems impacting the value. It is better to learn about them sooner than later. 

How Will I Pay to Purchase My Spouse’s Interest in the House? 

There are different options. If none are feasible, you will not be able to buy your spouse out. As much as you may want to keep the house, if you can not afford it, you must move on. 

The simplest way is to pay cash, but not many people have that much in reserve. You could refinance the mortgage, but interest rates are up, and qualifying may be difficult. You would pay off the existing mortgage balance through the refinance and use the equity to pay the other spouse. If your application is accepted, your monthly payment may be more than what you pay now. 

Another option might be that the other party will accept payments over time, and the property title changes after the last one is made. This will require a written contract, and both sides will want to protect their interests if, in the future, the paying party cannot afford full payments or complete the deal within the specified time frame. 

Because all marital assets are subject to equitable division, one way to buy out your spouse is to transfer or give up your claims to other assets. Read our blog article I Want to Buy My Spouse Out of the House for more information.

If you have any questions about what will happen with your home after a divorce or need legal representation, please contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss how this may play out and how we can help you through the process. 

If you and your spouse are divorcing and you own a home, you have some options. If you want the property, you will need to pay your spouse for their equity share. One way to accomplish this is to trade assets or property as part of the divorce process.  

Splitting up your debts, assets, and possessions fairly and equitably will be part of your divorce. It can be very contentious, but ideally, the parties should consider this a business transaction. The two of you will start a new personal life, and to accomplish that, you will need to split your financial lives in a way you can both accept. 

You can reach a resolution or litigate the issue and have the judge decide. If that is where the case ends up, you will give up controlling the outcome, which will cost you more time, energy, and money.  

How Can I Make This Work? 

If you prefer to live in your marital home, you will need to pay your spouse for their ownership interest. 

Often during divorces, the spouses agree and disagree on a mix of assets. You could offer your spouse something that is clearly yours and give up your rights to assets that are contested. Consider the following scenarios: 

  • The two of you have $100,000 in home equity. To buy out your spouse’s $50,000 share, you could give up your $50,000 interest in a joint investment account or a 401k. 
  • You are claiming spousal support. You may give it up or reduce it in exchange for your spouse’s home equity.

Ideally, your spouse will be open to swapping assets to cover their home equity, and it will be enough to cover the whole amount. If that is not the case, you could pursue a cash-out finance but keep in mind the following:

  • You would refinance your mortgage, but in your name only. 
  • This is only an option if you qualify for the loan and can afford the new monthly payments, which will probably be higher than what the two of you now pay. You are also subject to the going loan rates, which are going up and down. 
  • If you are the sole owner, you must also be able to afford all the other costs that come with home ownership, such as taxes, utilities, maintenance, repairs, and insurance. 
  • The refinance gives you access to the home equity, which you can use to pay your spouse.

Given the number of divorces, this is nothing new for mortgage companies. However, if this is your first divorce, it is new to you. Refinancing a mortgage during a divorce will probably involve substantial potential financial liability, so this should not be decided upon quickly without advice from an attorney. 

What Could Be My Plan B? 

As much as you want the house, depending on your post-divorce income and assets, buying out your spouse could make you house-rich and money-poor. You may end up with not enough money to go anywhere or do anything, and being one major house repair away from living on credit cards. Your spouse could buy you out, or the two of you could sell the house and split the profit. The money you receive could be your down payment on a more affordable house.  

Who Will Own Your House is Just One of Many Issues 

If you are considering getting divorced and concerned about where you’ll live afterward, contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., so we can answer your questions and discuss how we can help you.   

A will is a document that sets out your wishes for how your property should be divided among heirs when you pass away. You can also use this legal document to name guardians for your minor children and appoint an executor for your estate.

When choosing an executor, you can select a friend or family member you trust to handle the job in a way that best honors your wishes. You can also choose to work with a probate lawyer or hire another type of professional to administer your estate.

No matter who you select as executor for your estate, you have an expectation that they will follow the will and carry out their duties in keeping with your instructions. If you’ve lost a loved one and feel that the executor of their estate is not following the will, you have some legal options.

Does an Executor Have to Follow the Will?

Yes, an executor’s job is to probate the will, and that includes following the instructions in the will when it comes to disbursing the assets of the estate.

The one exception is if there is a conflict between state estate laws and the provisions of the will. In these cases, the executor may need to act in accordance with the law, though it can be a good idea to consult a lawyer if there is any potential conflict. If a lawyer helped create the will in the first place, it should be compliant with state laws. However, if someone created a will in one state and moved to another state before passing away, the state laws governing their estate may make some parts of their will invalid. (It’s a good idea to update your will if you move to another state for this reason.)

When Will the Courts Intercede?

If you believe the executor is not following a will, you may be able to petition the court to appoint another executor. Typically, you must be a beneficiary, potential heir, or someone else with a valid interest in the matter to make this petition.

Once a petition is filed, the court schedules a hearing on the matter. You’ll have to make a case that the executor has acted in a way that supports their removal from the position. Some reasons courts may remove an executor and appoint a new one include the following:

  • The executor has not upheld the wishes recorded in the will, such as not disbursing assets as the will instructs
  • The executor has not done anything at all, and enough time has passed that there’s a reasonable expectation they should have handled some tasks of estate administration
  • The executor has managed the estate very poorly, including actions such as unnecessarily wasting assets or stealing from the estate
  • The executor has a compelling conflict of interest at this time that makes them not suitable for the role
  • The executor has been convicted of a felony, which may make them ineligible for the role

The burden of proof is typically on the party filing the petition to demonstrate why the executor should be removed. The courts don’t typically remove an executor simply because there’s a minor disagreement or the beneficiaries think the executor is moving too slowly and they want their inheritance faster.

What If You Don’t Agree With the Will?

In some cases, the executor may be following the will but you don’t think it’s valid. Perhaps you believe there’s another, later will that should be followed or you don’t believe your loved one would have signed the will in question without being coerced.

In these cases, you wouldn’t challenge the executor. You would need to challenge the validity of the will. Contesting a will involves making a case in court for why the will is not valid; a probate lawyer can help you understand what your options are for making such a case. They can also file the necessary petitions and make the arguments on your behalf.

Can You Sue the Executor if They Don’t Follow the Will?

In addition to petitioning the courts to replace an executor, you might have a civil case if the executor didn’t follow the will and you can show you suffered damages related to that fact.

For example, if the executor failed to act in a responsible way when handling investments, you may be able to show that they were negligent in protecting the estate assets. If that resulted in a smaller inheritance, you might seek compensation for those losses. Or, if the executor stole from the estate or misused estate resources, you might seek compensation for what he or she took.

Whatever action you want to take in regard to an executor or a contested will, having an experienced estate attorney on your side can help increase the chances of a positive outcome. If you’re looking for help shoring up your own estate plans, need assistance with the estate administration process, or believe you have a case for replacing an executor, contact Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, attorneys at law to find out how we can help.

The master in divorce is an experienced family law attorney appointed by the court who may help you and your spouse resolve your differences. Masters resolve contested divorce and annulment cases, including post-divorce alimony and equitable division of debts and assets. A divorce master will not provide legal advice or help you file for divorce.  

The master does most of the court’s work in a divorce case. This process aims to lessen the judges’ workload, resolve disagreements and prevent cases from going to trial. A master’s duties include conducting conferences to resolve the following issues: 

  • Equitable division, alimony changes, and child custody disputes 
  • Counsel fees, costs, and expenses 
  • Special relief and discovery (the process by which the parties exchange information, documents, and testimony before a trial)  

The master (the term “hearing officer” is used in the statute) can hear testimony and take evidence. 

How Does This Work? 

After discovery, the parties may agree on the division of your assets and debts, for example. If so, we will draft a settlement agreement outlining the agreement’s terms, file it with the court, and if all goes well, it will be part of the divorce decree. If we cannot reach an agreement, we can request a masters hearing, which may come four to six months later. 

Before the hearing, we will create a document for the court stating the relevant information in your case, including facts about you, your children, spouse, incomes, and assets. With it will be copies of relevant documents the parties exchanged during discovery. Your spouse and their attorney will do the same. The master will review both sides’ submissions before the hearing to understand the issues the two of you have resolved and those still in dispute. At the hearing, both spouses, their lawyers, and the master meet in a courthouse conference room.  

If the master feels the need, testimony would be taken to create a complete record of the relevant facts. If some facts are disputed, the master may use testimony to make credibility judgments about the parties and witnesses. 

The master makes recommendations to help the parties reach an agreement.  If you do so at the hearing, the agreement is read to a court reporter, who records it as a court transcript. The master sends the file to the judge, who signs the final decree. 

If there is no agreement at the hearing, the master writes a report with a statement of facts, conclusions of law, and a recommendation to resolve the issue. It is sent to the attorneys in the case. We would have 20 days to discuss and accept or reject it. We could also ask the master for a new hearing. If one or both sides disagree, the recommendation can be appealed, and a hearing with a judge will be requested. The judge will hear arguments on the exceptions at the hearing and issue a final decree. 

Get the Help You Need From Attorneys You Can Trust 

A divorce has many moving pieces. You can get into trouble if you do not understand how it all works together. A critical component is court procedures. You may have a strong case that should help you reach your goals, but if you do not know how the court system works, what you need to do, and who does what, you may fall far short.  

The attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can answer your questions and represent you in your divorce so you will have the best chance possible for a positive outcome. Contact us today to see how we can help.   

Adoption is almost always a joyful event. Over 100,000 children are legally adopted in the United States every year. A Pennsylvania adoption attorney can explain this state’s own adoption rules to prospective adoptive parents and guide them through the adoption process.

Like almost everything else in the law, an adoption is seldom straightforward or simple in this state, so prospective adoptive parents must have the right adoption attorney protecting their rights and providing sound legal advice from the very beginning of the adoption process.

As you may already know, an adoption is permanent. Those who seek to adopt will need to comprehend – thoroughly – the gravity and magnitude of the choice they are making.

What Are the Different Types of Adoptions?

If you adopt a child in Pennsylvania, you assume legal parenthood and have the right to decide about that child’s healthcare, education, and well-being. A Pennsylvania adoption lawyer handles these types of adoptions for prospective adoptive parents:

  1. step-parent adoptions
  2. domestic adoptions (of non-related children from within the U.S.)
  3. international adoptions (of non-related children from another nation)
  4. adult adoptions in particular circumstances

What Should Prospective Parents Know?

Prospective adoptive parents in Pennsylvania need not be affluent, but they must be able to offer a stable environment and a safe home that fosters and enables a child’s physical and mental health along with the child’s social and educational needs.

If you and your spouse adopt a child, you will both become legal parents with considerable legal and financial obligations. If you and your spouse legally separate or divorce after you’ve adopted, your responsibilities to the child do not cease until that child becomes a legal adult.

What Are the Legal Requirements for Adoption?

To adopt a child in this state, by law, there are no gender, sexuality, or marital status requirements. However, particular adoption agencies may have some of their own requirements. Prospective adoptive parents should be financially, emotionally and physically ready to adopt before beginning the process.

Depending on the type of adoption, you may also have to satisfy requirements like submitting to a home study or completing parenting classes. Most prospective adoptive parents will also be subject to fingerprinting and a criminal background check.

It is illegal in this state for prospective adoptive parents to pay a birth parent any living expenses. Before you pay any of a birth mother’s expenses, please contact a Pennsylvania adoption lawyer to ensure that your adoption is handled properly and is fully compliant with the law.

Is Your Adoption Domestic or International?

Prospective adoptive parents in Pennsylvania who are not adopting a related child or a step-child may choose to work with a domestic adoption agency, pursue an international adoption, or adopt a child who is currently in the foster care system in this state.

Some of the domestic adoption agencies are “full-service” agencies that provide counseling and guidance to both birth parents and to adoptive parents as well. These domestic adoption agencies may also conduct “home studies” of individuals and couples who are seeking to adopt.

International adoptions are usually more complicated and costlier than domestic adoptions, and laws in the child’s nation of origin may apply. A birth parent, a lawyer, or a judge in the child’s nation of origin could unexpectedly delay or disrupt the process. Consult a Pennsylvania family law attorney before you take any steps regarding an international adoption.

What Are “Open” and “Closed” Adoptions?

Pennsylvania law allows for open adoptions, which maintain the lines of communication among the biological parent or parents, the adoptive parent or parents, and the adopted child.

In a closed adoption, all records of the adoption are legally and permanently sealed, and a biological parent may not under any circumstances attempt to reach, to harass, or to interfere in any way with the child or with the adoptive parents.

Adopting parents should thoroughly understand what an open adoption entails and should settle only for an agreement that they are comfortable and pleased with.

What Should Birth Parents Know?

If you are a prospective birth mother, a Pennsylvania adoption attorney can help you decide if adoption is the best choice for you and your baby. An attorney can help you understand the applicable adoption laws so that you will know your baby’s adoption is handled properly.

To complete the adoption process, birth parents must legally consent to the adoption and the termination of parental rights. This consent may only be signed seventy-two hours or more after your child has been born, and you will have thirty days to revoke your consent.

The laws that address fathers and adoption are complicated, so whether a father’s consent is required for an adoption will depend on your particular situation. An attorney will explain the details about the father’s involvement and will take the legal steps to protect you and your baby.

It does not matter what stage of pregnancy you are in or even if your baby is already born. Let an adoption lawyer discuss adoption with you and guide you through the process.

Prospective Adoptive Parents Must Be Cautious

Not all adoption agencies are professionally operated, but a good adoption lawyer will protect your interests and ensure that your adoption is conducted ethically and legally.

Seeking to adopt without an attorney’s help or without the help of an established and reliable adoption agency may make prospective parents vulnerable to adoption fraud.

Some couples have lost thousands of dollars to savvy con artists with pictures of smiling children who are supposedly waiting to be adopted. Don’t be a con artist’s victim. Have a Pennsylvania family law attorney handle your adoption from the start.

What Else Is Important to Know?

As you might expect, prospective adoptive parents will need some patience. Depending on the details of your adoption, the adoption process in Pennsylvania can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more.

When all of the other requirements have been satisfied, your attorney will schedule a final adoption hearing, and a Pennsylvania judge will issue a final decree that grants you full legal parental rights and completes the adoption process.

Scores of children need adoption right here in Pennsylvania; thousands more around the world also need adoption. Whether you are placing your child for adoption or seeking to adopt a child, when you are ready to begin, a Pennsylvania family law attorney will be ready to help.

Going through a divorce is one of the toughest experiences a person can have. This is true even when the divorce goes rather smoothly. The reason divorce is so difficult is intimately linked to our emotions.

Love is an emotional experience. But it can be hard to maintain a relationship and over time your emotions can move from love to hate or frustration with them. This then often leads to self-doubts about ourselves. Were we not good enough people for them? Were we not good enough people for love? Do we even deserve to find love again if we’ve messed it up this time?

Dealing with questions like these is a normal, though extremely difficult, facet of going through a divorce. All of these emotions can be mixed up and confusing, especially when there was physical or mental abuse present in the marriage.

That’s why divorce counseling exists. Today we’re gonna learn what divorce counseling is, the purpose it has, and what you can expect from a divorce counselor should you decide to visit one.

What Is Divorce Counseling?

There are many different types of counseling available for a variety of different reasons. Divorce counseling is the type we use to explore, understand, recognize, and then resolve the conflicts that have arisen due to the divorce.

As a type of psychotherapy, it focuses on discussion with a trained counselor. Depending on where in the divorce process you are, you may start at a different point in counseling. For those who are just considering divorce, divorce counseling might be an option to determine if a divorce is the right choice.

A safe space is provided for individuals to discuss the challenges that they face in the relationship and their emotions, as well as their feelings about their partner as well. Your counselor will likely have some tools they can offer you to help you better manage all the emotions you are dealing with as part of the process.

Divorce counseling can be pre-divorce or post-divorce. Each presents its own issues that can be worked through and counseling can help with both.

What Is the Purpose of Divorce Counseling?

The purpose of divorce counseling, first and foremost, is to help those who are considering divorce, going through a divorce, or those who’ve just finished a divorce to better cope with their emotions during and throughout this turbulent experience.

It’s impossible to overstate how emotionally charged divorces are. Countless studies have shown that divorces bring up a range of negative emotions, even when separating from each other is the right choice to make.

The reason makes sense when you break it down. When we get married, we promise ourselves to each other until death does us part. But divorce is not death. It might be the right choice because the relationship is toxic, but it still represents a failure of the original stated goal. This can leave a lot of confusing feelings. We wonder if it was our fault or theirs. We wonder if we can ever get married again if our word, our vows, turned out not to be true.

There is an incredible amount of self-doubt involved in a divorce. This self-doubt may be mixed with anger and resentment but it is often a source of that anger and resentment rather than a separate emotional experience to it. When all sorts of emotions like these get mixed together, it can make it impossible to move forward with a divorce in a reasonable manner.

By meeting with a divorce counselor you are taking a proactive step in untangling this emotional web. As a result, you will build better tools for managing your anger, resentment, and self-doubt. These in turn can allow you to react with more calm and thoughtfulness during the divorce proceedings. Rather than just arguing and fighting because of all those pent-up emotions, you can develop the tools that allow you to deal with the situation in a healthy manner, one that allows the proceedings to move forward smoother and thus finish up quicker.

How Does Divorce Counseling Work in Practice?

Divorce counseling can be quite varied in practice. Some divorce counselors may work in a private practice while others work at a counseling center and still others only practice online. These will all function differently in the minutia, such as arriving at the practice and checking in with the receptionist or logging onto a designated website or video conferencing program.

However, the actual meetings will follow a much similar format. Your counselor will want to meet with you to get an understanding of the reasons behind the divorce. This will also allow them to get a much better sense of the situation, not just the divorce itself but where each party lies in terms of their emotions and rationalizations.

This will be done through discussion and conversation. But the conversation can actually be much broader than people expect. A divorce counselor wants more than to just help with the divorce. They want to provide you with tools and resources that will allow you to heal and grow into a stronger individual. To this end, they may teach coping skills for dealing with your emotions or offer self-care advice for individuals whose emotions make it hard for them to care for themselves. They can also help you in developing a new plan for your life now that you are going forward on your own again.

How Can I Tell If I Need Divorce Counseling?

If you are having a difficult time with the divorce then divorce counseling could help. But it may be hard to tell because everything is so stressful.

That stress is a sign that you could use counseling. Other signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Destructive tendencies
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Random crying fits
  • A reliance on drugs and alcohol

These are just a few of the signs. If you are going through a divorce, chances are good that you could benefit from divorce counseling. At the very least, it is worth reaching out to a divorce counselor to ask their opinion.

A divorce ends a marriage, but if the spouses are parents, divorce does not end their relationship. If you are divorcing in Pennsylvania or if you are involved in a dispute over child support after your divorce, you must be advised and represented by a Pennsylvania child support attorney.

After a divorce in Pennsylvania, will a parent be obligated to pay for a child’s college tuition? What are a Pennsylvania parent’s rights and obligations when it comes to child support? What do divorced and divorcing parents need to know about the child support laws in this state?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of a divorced parent’s child support obligations in Pennsylvania, these questions will be answered, and you will also learn how a Pennsylvania family law attorney will provide the legal help you may need in a child support dispute.

How Does Pennsylvania Law Address Child Support?

All Pennsylvania parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children. When a divorce is finalized, a child support order will be issued by the court requiring one parent to make monthly payments to the other parent to share the expenses of child-raising.

The parent who has the most time with the child (the “custodial parent”) usually receives child support payments from the other (“noncustodial”) parent. Pennsylvania law presumes that a custodial parent already supports the child financially.

The amount of child support ordered by the court is based on the state’s child support guidelines, which take into account the number of children and the income of each parent. Judges have some flexibility to account for a child’s needs, a parent’s ability to pay, and the custody arrangement.

When May Judges Diverge From the Child Support Guidelines?

On the basis of the factors listed below, a Pennsylvania judge may increase or decrease the amount of child support indicated by the state’s child support guidelines:

  1.  a parent’s or child’s unusual needs or unusual obligations
  2.  a parents’ other child support obligations
  3.  the child’s age
  4.  the combined assets and liabilities of the parents
  5.  medical costs not covered by health insurance
  6.  the family’s standard of living
  7.  most importantly, the child’s best interests

In any matter involving a child that comes before a Pennsylvania court, the child’s best interests will always be the court’s highest priority.

For How Long Are Child Support Payments Required?

In most cases, a noncustodial parent in Pennsylvania must make child support payments until a child reaches the age of 18. If the child is physically or emotionally challenged or disabled, the court may order child support payments to continue beyond the child’s 18th birthday.

Generally speaking, the expenses of a child’s education are addressed in the divorce process along with the other child support issues.

While several states require some divorced parents to pay for their children’s college expenses, Pennsylvania does not require college expense payments or reimbursement for those payments from a parent.

Should You Negotiate College Costs With the Other Parent?

Nevertheless, to keep a dispute over child support payments from emerging in the future, you may choose to negotiate college tuition costs during the divorce process. Take into account scholarship opportunities and other tuition payment options, and adhere to your lawyer’s advice.

A modification of the child support order may be requested at any time, and is sometimes necessary, but you will save time and money by negotiating with the other parent and reaching agreements, if possible, during the divorce process. Here are several possible options:

  1.  In some cases, a parent who served in the military may transfer GI Bill benefits to a child or spouse. If that parent is the noncustodial parent, he or she may negotiate, for example, that the transfer covers a child’s college expenses or decreases child support payments.
  2.  If one parent is employed by a college or university, these institutions often reduce tuition for employees’ families, but a negotiated agreement with the other parent must consider what happens if the parent leaves the job or a child doesn’t wish to attend that institution.
  3.  When parents negotiate a child support agreement, they should also determine what effect a scholarship award to the child may have on the amount each parent has agreed to pay.

When May a Child Support Agreement Be Changed?

The courts understand that life’s circumstances change. When you divorce, it is impossible to know the future. Over time, parenting plans and child custody orders can become outdated or unworkable.

However, if you need to change a negotiated child support agreement or a court-ordered child support arrangement, you will need to have a Pennsylvania child support attorney request a modification of the agreement or order on your behalf.

Pennsylvania courts will approve only those modifications that are considered to be in the child’s best interests. Child support modifications may be sought for reasons that include but are not limited to:

  1.  a change in the amount of time either parent spends with the child
  2.  a change in the child’s medical, educational, or child care needs
  3.  a remarriage by either parent or the birth of a new child to either parent
  4.  either parent’s loss of a job, a parent’s new job, or a parent’s need to relocate
  5.  the serious injury, incarceration, or institutionalization of either parent
  6.  anything that greatly impacts the child, either parent, or the child support arrangement

What Else Should Parents Know?

As mentioned previously, Pennsylvania does not require college expense payments or reimbursement for those payments from a parent. Nevertheless, it is a smart idea to reach an agreement in the divorce settlement regarding a child’s college expenses.

If you are a parent who is divorcing, considering a divorce, or anticipating a divorce, if you need a modification of your child support order, or if you need to challenge the other parent’s requested modification of the child support order, you must be advised and represented by a Pennsylvania family law attorney, and you must contact that attorney as soon as possible.

Divorce and family law are complicated in the State of Pennsylvania. You can’t go it alone. Get the help you need – as quickly as you can – from a family law attorney you can trust.

The right family law attorney will help you obtain a fair and proper child support arrangement while ensuring that your rights – and your child’s best interests – are protected throughout the legal process.

You may read stories about people trying to avoid being served with legal papers. This rarely happens, and in most divorces, this critical step is handled without drama by spouses who understand their marriage is ending. 

A divorce is a legal action. A necessary step in the process is serving the non-filing party (the defendant) with the complaint. Most divorces are not surprises, and agreements are often worked out before a divorce complaint (which is filed with the court stating the party seeks a divorce, why, and the basic facts of the case) is finalized. Usually, service, though necessary, is a formality. 

What is Being Served? 

That complaint is completed and filed with the court. A copy is provided (or served) to the defendant. The court will not want to proceed without proof the other spouse has a copy of the complaint. 

In Pennsylvania, your spouse must be “personally served” with the complaint (though that does not necessarily mean they are handed the complaint), a notice that the party can defend their rights, a counseling notice, and any other documents filed with the complaint at the courthouse. This must be accomplished within 30 days of the complaint’s filing (90 days if they live out of state). 

How Can My Spouse Be Served? 

Service can be accomplished by: 

  • An unrelated individual older than 18 hands the documents to your spouse and fills out an affidavit describing how that happened. There are companies whose employees provide this help (people referred to as process servers) as well as the local sheriff’s department. 
  • Certified mail with restricted delivery is a cheaper route and an option when the two of you cooperate to end your marriage. With this kind of delivery, there would be an acceptance of service form for your spouse to sign. 
  • The defendant’s attorney accepts service on their client’s behalf. If your spouse is not represented, they may consent to our office mailing them the complaint, and then they fill out the acknowledgment of service form. 

The defendant has 90 days after service of the complaint to file an answer in response. The service process is similar in New Jersey, but the defendant has 35 days to file an answer. 

Why Should I Not Do This Myself? 

There are many benefits to hiring an attorney to represent you in a divorce. The process can involve several steps involving various filings with different requirements and deadlines, depending on your case’s complexity and how much the two of you work together to finalize the divorce. 

A significant benefit of retaining our services is we deal with all these details, including service, not you. You do not have to worry about whether your spouse will try to run and hide from the process server or if the service will be on time. You will not have to spend time recruiting your neighbor’s unemployed son to serve the papers. 

Divorce is stressful enough. Why add to it by trying to do it on your own? Making sure all the requirements of the divorce process are followed is a crucial part of what we do. This allows you to spend your time and energy on more important things like your well-being, job, and kids.  

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, today because we are here to help. If you are considering getting divorced and have questions, or you have decided it is right for you and you need legal representation, call us today.

Divorce will cause many changes in your life, but one thing never changes – no one lives forever. Life insurance is an essential financial tool to help those you leave behind. Whether you are married or not, life insurance is critical if you have minor children. 

Many potential life insurance issues may arise during a divorce. We can help you navigate them so you and your children can avoid legal and financial problems later on. 

Your Policy May Be a Marital Asset Subject to Equitable Division 

Whole and universal life policies have a cash value, so they are part of your net worth. It must be listed as a marital asset to be divided, and it may be cashed out and divided between you and your spouse. A term life policy does not have a present cash value, so it is not a marital asset and is not subject to division. But it can still come into play because, as part of the divorce order, you may need to maintain life insurance coverage to benefit your children. 

Changing the Beneficiary After Your Divorce 

Married couples typically name each other as life insurance beneficiaries to cushion the financial blow when one dies. Pennsylvania estate law automatically nullifies the ex-spouse’s beneficiary pre-divorce designation in a private life insurance policy.  

Your ex could still be the beneficiary if your settlement agreement or divorce order clearly provides they are to continue. If you and your ex are on good enough terms and you feel your ex is capable, part of an agreement can be that they will care for your minor children after your death.  

If that is the case, you could create a trust funded by your policy’s proceeds with your ex as the trustee and your children as the beneficiaries. If your ex is the policy’s beneficiary and you pass away without a trust, they could spend the money on themselves if they wish. 

You May Be Legally Obligated to Carry Life Insurance 

You may need to maintain life insurance if you will pay child and/or spousal support (or alimony) either as part of the agreement with your spouse or due to the divorce order. If you pass away unexpectedly, the benefits will replace the support you would have paid during your lifetime. 

Not everything goes as planned. A spouse required to have life insurance may stop paying premiums without you or the court being aware of the problem. This can be addressed by:  

  • Providing the insurance carrier with a copy of the divorce decree with instructions that the beneficiary is to be notified if the policy changes or if the premiums go unpaid 
  • Having the beneficiary own the policy and make payments 
  • Adding the premium amount to the child and/or spousal support with the beneficiary using this money to pay the premium 

Planning on unforeseen, potential problems like missed premiums and addressing them before they happen can be the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure. 

If You Have Children and Are Getting Divorced, Life Insurance Makes Sense 

Whether your ex is a responsible parent or not, whether life insurance is part of the divorce decree or not, if you have young children, you should consider purchasing life insurance as part of estate planning. You may have created an estate plan with your spouse. If so, it needs to change. If not, you should make one for yourself. 

If your ex will be the single parent to your kids with your unexpected passing, fund a trust for them through insurance proceeds with your ex as the trustee. If the other parent is out of the picture or otherwise incapable, through your will you can nominate someone as your kids’ guardian (although a judge has the final say). That person could also be the trustee, and insurance proceeds would help fund your children’s expenses as they grow up. 

If you are thinking about getting divorced and all the financial issues (like life insurance) that come with it, contact us at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., so we can answer your questions and discuss how we can help you.