If you and your spouse are on the “same page” (or close to it) on getting a divorce and the major issues it involves, you may be able to move the process into the fast lane (though there is a waiting period here in Bucks County). If you are seeking a no-fault (or mutual consent or uncontested) divorce, after the complaint is filed, you have a 90-day waiting period before it is finalized.  

Pennsylvania has this “cooling off period” after the complaint and notice of process are filed and served on the other party. After the time expires, each party files an Affidavit of Consent stating the marriage is irretrievably broken and that each wants a divorce and asks the court to grant it without a hearing. Also included is a legally binding divorce agreement stating how your issues are resolved. 

If You and Your Spouse Work Together, Your Marriage Could End Quickly 

You and your spouse must agree on all critical issues for a no-fault divorce, including spousal support, child support, child custody, division of property, and debts. These divorces are easier to achieve when the couple: 

  • No longer wants to be married, and they want to end the marriage amicably or at least without extended conflict 
  • Has a valid, enforceable prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that spells out how financial issues will be resolved 
  • Do not have children, so custody and support aren’t issues 
  • Have few assets and or low incomes, which minimize spousal support and asset division disputes 

The spouses must communicate openly before the complaint is filed and agree they want a no-fault divorce. Ideally, disagreements about significant issues should be close to being resolved if not brought to an end.  

You and your spouse need not be on good terms or feel good about each other. But your desire to wrap up your marriage in a short period of time must be greater than a need for conflict or to drag out the inevitable end of your relationship. 

Three months should be enough time to work out your disagreements. It is also long enough to allow the parties to think about what they want and be comfortable with their decisions without feeling rushed. A 90-day deadline can also instill some urgency in parties who may let these issues fester for much more time. 

Plan B If One Spouse Will Not Consent 

If you want to move forward with a no-fault divorce, but your spouse will not consent, you can obtain a divorce decree after you provide evidence that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that the two of you have lived separately and apart for one year.  

Under Pennsylvania law, you can live separately and apart even though you live in the same house. If you establish this separation lasted at least a year, your spouse could dispute that the marriage is irretrievably broken, but the one-year separation is usually enough proof that’s the case. 

If There Is No Need to Delay a Divorce, Why Do So? 

Our attorneys can get to work negotiating your settlement agreement and are ready to advocate for your interests, regardless of what kind of divorce is right for you. We know how difficult this time can be for you, and we will work to create the best possible outcome with the least wasted time. 

Learn more by contacting our office. Call (215) 752-6200, book a consultation, or send us an email. We can meet you in our office or speak with you by phone. 

If you have a newborn and are divorcing the child’s father here in Bucks County, PA, chances are good that a court will not allow breastfeeding to prevent a father from spending time with his child. It is just one factor of many that a judge may consider when deciding what is in the best interests of the child and the father’s right to be involved in their child’s life. There must be an extenuating case for the court to rule otherwise.  

The issue has been litigated with mixed results, which makes sense because each case should be decided on its own facts. There are also several factors a court must consider in making a decision. Too much emphasis on a mother’s breastfeeding could be grounds for an appeal.  

Breastfeeding Was Not Enough to Decide A Case 

In a 2013 case, the appeals court overturned the lower court’s ruling in favor of the mother, which largely decided a visitation case on the fact that the child was breastfeeding. The trial court limited the father’s visitation during the child’s first eight months or until the child stopped breastfeeding. 

The appellate court pointed out that before an order is decided, neither parent is presumed to be the primary caregiver, and both have the same burden of showing what they seek is in the child’s best interests. The court stated that the trial court based the decision “almost exclusively on the fact that Child is breastfeeding and the parties’ difficulty communicating with each other.” There was no discussion of the statutory factors. 

A Child’s Medical Need to Breastfeed as a Reason to Rule for the Mother 

In a case where a father appealed the denial of obtaining primary physical custody of his 19-month-old son, breastfeeding was an issue in the mother’s favor because of the child’s health issues. The appeals court stated

“…the Child in this case had relatively unique needs. Child was still breastfeeding and had not taken to the bottle, despite Mother’s efforts to wean Child, and despite her efforts to introduce solid food. It appears the difficulty was due to Child’s digestive issues, including Celiac disease (i.e., the inability to consume gluten), for which Child sees a gastroenterologist.” 

The court also cited other reasons justifying the lower court’s decision, including the child’s other medical needs and the fact that the father appeared to have difficulty caring for a toddler. 

Breastfeeding Must Be Brought Up in Good Faith as a Reason the Court Should Rule in Your Favor 

Whatever your situation, if a mother believes breastfeeding is a valid reason to limit a father’s custody or visitation, there must be strong evidence in her favor. The issues are highlighted in a recent Washington Post article about a Virginia couple. A judge ordered that the father visit the baby four days per week ahead of overnight visits, and the mother was to “make every effort to place the child on a feeding schedule and use a bottle.” She felt this was endangering her child’s health. The father’s attorney, Tara Steinnerd, told the Post she was using breastfeeding as a weapon to try to defeat the father’s visitation claims. 

“Steinnerd said she represents men and women in custody cases but has only represented men when breastfeeding time is litigated. Some mothers may have legitimate claims about breastfeeding that courts can weigh when making decisions about visitation, according to Steinnerd — but, in the cases she has worked on, mothers have been unreasonable, refusing to recognize a father’s need for visitation or refusing to pump.” 

No matter which side of the issue you are on, you will have greater success if you have a solution you can both agree on. Exposure to both parents is usually the best situation for the child.  

If the other parent is being difficult and unreasonable, we will come up with arguments based on the facts and applicable law that we can present to a judge. Breastfeeding may be one of many issues which, on the whole, will shift the decision to you. 

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust 

Child custody and visitation are best kept out of the courtroom and left to those who know the child best, usually the parents. The attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., will negotiate practical custody and visitation solutions with the other parent or their lawyer. If the court is convinced that the arrangement is in “the child’s best interest,” it will generally approve the agreement. 

If negotiations are not successful, what you understand deep in your heart needs to be said simply and concretely to a judge because we have a short period to acquaint a judge with you and your family. Our attorneys are skilled in developing the evidence that judges need to make decisions. We will work to build a solid and persuasive case designed to achieve your goals and protect your rights.

Some people are honestly surprised when they receive a divorce complaint. Ideally, this is not you because everyone should be prepared for a significant change in their life, no matter what it might be. This is an important step, but far from the final one, in your divorce journey. 

After you have gathered yourself, call us at (215) 752-6200. We have helped thousands of people just like you get through this process as quickly and as painlessly as possible, given their situations. Our Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., attorneys know the law, court procedures, and what you are going through.  

Take Precautions If You Fear for Your Safety 

Pre-divorce relationships run the spectrum. A couple could still deeply, genuinely care about each other but understand their marriage is no longer right for them. A couple might also be unable to stand the sight of each other, and one person, if not both, may engage in physical and emotional abuse. Your marriage may be somewhere in between. 

If you are the victim of domestic violence, you need to protect yourself and your children (if you have them). You should plan on contingencies if this turning point becomes an excuse for violence by your spouse.  

It may be a good sign if your abusive spouse starts the divorce process. Some do not want their marriage ever to end because they want someone to control and torment the rest of their lives. If they want a divorce, this dire situation will end. 

Protect Your Financial Resources 

Part of divorce is the equitable division of marital property. Your debts and assets will be split as a result of an agreement or a trial. The outcome should be fair to you. But that might not be the case if a trial does not go your way, which is one reason most divorce cases resolve through a negotiated settlement. 

You are financially vulnerable if you have bank or investment accounts in both names because your spouse may empty them. Depending on the account, you should withdraw half of the money and set up new ones for yourself.  

Non-marital or personal assets are not subject to division. If you have financial resources that your spouse had nothing to do with (you had them before your marriage or inherited them) but you are both listed as the account holders, withdraw the money and put them in new accounts. If the same is true for your spouse (there are joint accounts with assets that belong to them), you should take the high road and leave them alone. 

You do not know what the final division of the marital property will be. At least some money you are moving around may end up with your spouse, so now is not the time for a spending spree. Just the opposite – you should save up for expenses that come with divorce (some you can plan for, others may be unexpected). 

The Beginning of the End and a Start of Something New 

The divorce filing will not surprise most couples because their relationship has broken down, and they can discuss their marriage’s end. If you are surprised, communications with your spouse have probably gone off the rails. You should try to reach out to them and calmly talk about what they want. 

A divorce will end your marriage, but it will start a new and probably better part of your life. Divorce can be a problem when stressful and challenging, but it will not be if the spouses act and make decisions like mature adults. A divorce is also an opportunity to do something new and better with your life. 

Experienced Divorce Attorneys Who Want to Help 

Work with an experienced Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., family law attorney. Our attorneys have an in-depth understanding of New Jersey and Pennsylvania law and how the courts work. We can help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Call us at (215) 752-6200 or book a consultation online now

How can you still spend time with your child even if you can not physically be with him or her? Virtual visitation may be your solution. These visits with your child can include reading books, playing games, listening to your child practice an instrument and many other activities.  

For many of us, work has become virtual. We work at home thanks to computers and keep in touch with co-workers and customers thanks to smartphones and video services like Zoom or Skype. Would the same thing work for child visitation? 

Some of us are more productive employees when we are not commuting to a workplace and avoid the distractions of working in an office. But performing work in one location instead of another is not the same as relating to your child while physically being with them versus seeing them on a computer or smartphone screen. 

What is Virtual Visitation? 

It is contact between a parent and their child by electronic means. Some of the technology that may be used includes: 

  • Email and texts 
  • Video streaming such as FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom 
  • Phone calls 
  • Document and photo sharing  

Virtual visitation should not replace actual visitation. It is an additional way for parents and kids to stay connected when physically getting together is impossible or impractical. 

When is Virtual Visitation Brought Up? 

Virtual visitation proposals may come about in a couple of circumstances. It may be a temporary approach when a parent with visitation rights is dealing with a health or family crisis and cannot physically be with the child. It is a permanent issue when the custodial parent wants to move out of the area and offers this option to keep the other parent in touch with the child. 

When there is court-ordered visitation, and the parent with custody wants to move from the area, the parent with visitation rights could challenge that parent’s ability to live elsewhere or seek custody of the child.  

If the parents cannot come to an acceptable compromise, the issue will be decided in court. The moving parent may propose an altered schedule where the child physically visits for extended periods (instead of a day or two a week) with virtual access for the rest of the year. A judge would decide the issue based on the child’s best interests.  

Is Virtual Visitation Good or Bad? 

Depending on which side you are on, virtual visitation is: 

  • An added extra to “sweeten the deal” that provides the other parent with greater access than what might otherwise be legally mandated. Moves received judicial approval long before the internet and Zoom were developed, and virtual visitations are not explicitly required by statute 
  • A poor substitute for what the parent is entitled to have, which denies the parent and child what they both benefit from the most – a genuine, personal relationship 

As technology improves and people are more willing to move, virtual visitations will become a more common part of the mix when visitations are scheduled. 

How Should Virtual Visitations Be Handled? 

Like all visitations, both parents should live up to scheduled sessions. Virtual visits are far easier than physical ones, so a child may want to interact with the non-custodial parent more often than the schedule dictates. The child may want to chat or share something especially stressful or positive. 

The custodial parent should be flexible and act in good faith. They probably should not limit these unscheduled interactions unless they become a problem (it becomes the child’s excuse not to do chores or homework). If this happens, a frank conversation with the other parent requesting they limit their time online would be a good idea. 

If the virtual visitations become a pipeline the visiting parent uses to alienate your child from you, you should try to stop it. If it continues, taking the issue back to court may be needed to prevent this emotional manipulation from harming your relationship with your child. 

Get the Help You Need From Attorneys You Can Trust 

Visitation is best kept out of the courtroom and left in the hands of those who know the children best, the parents. Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., lawyers often negotiate practical visitation solutions with attorneys representing the other parent. In more contentious cases, we make the case our client’s approach is in the child’s best interests. 

Work with an experienced family law lawyer from Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., with an in-depth understanding of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey statutes and court procedures. Call us at (866) 349-4721 or book a consultation online now

You may have difficulty with your feelings during your divorce, but your kids may have a more challenging time. Your family is or will be experiencing significant changes. Everyone benefits when kids are prepared for your divorce. 

What Do Your Kids Want You to Know?  

The University of Missouri has some ideas: 

  • You both should stay involved in their lives. If one or both of you move away, they want letters, phone calls, texts, and questions about who they spend time with and what they like and do not like to do. If you fail to do so, they’ll feel unimportant and unloved. 
  • If you and your spouse argue, you should stop and work hard to get along. Try to agree on issues concerning your kids and their needs. If you fight about your kids, they will think they did something wrong and feel guilty. 
  • They want to love the two of you and enjoy the time they spend with each of you. Support them and the time they spend with each of you. If you act upset or jealous, they may feel the need to take sides and love one of you more than the other. 
  • Communicate directly with each other, so your kids will not be messengers. If you do not want to talk to your spouse in person or on the phone, use text messages and emails. 
  • Saying mean, unkind things to each other in these communications can cause your child to feel like you are putting your spouse down and that you expect your child to take your side. When it comes to communication with your spouse, stick to the point and keep it simple. 
  • Your children want both of you in their lives. They rely on the two of you to raise them, teach them what is important, and help them with their problems. 

Both parents should be empathetic with their kids and look at the situation from their perspective. If you were them, what would you want your parents to do? 

What Do Your Kids Want You to Say? 

Address the most important issues upfront with honest and kid-friendly explanations: 

  • Tell the truth: Explain why you are getting divorced but keep it short so they do not get confused. The fact you and your spouse do not love each other does not mean you do not love your kids. Since your kids may ask both parents the same questions, you should try to agree on consistent responses. 
  • Tell them you love them: With all that is going on, the fact your love has not changed is a powerful message.  
  • Discuss changes: Acknowledge that some things will change, but others will not. Together you will cope with each detail as you go. If the relationship with your spouse has completely broken down and is harming your children, you could honestly tell them some changes will be for the better 
  • Do not blame: Be honest without criticizing your spouse. This can be difficult if your spouse has caused you a lot of pain, but finger-pointing will not help your kids  

How much information is too much? Use your best judgment considering how far your relationship with your spouse has failed, the age and maturity of your kids, and how sensitive they are. 

Get the Help You and Your Kids Need  

Get counseling if you or your kids need it to get through your divorce. Many of our clients benefit from counseling, and getting psychological and emotional support may ease your burdens. We can refer you to excellent counselors if you need help finding one. 

We empathize and care about our clients. We do our part by getting the best possible legal outcomes as quickly as possible. If you have any questions or want legal representation, please contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.

There is no law against getting divorced while you are pregnant. If you are in an abusive relationship and fear your child will be a victim of violence, it may be a reason you want a divorce. If your husband is not the father, it may be why he wants to end the marriage. Additionally, if you are in a relationship that isn’t working and become pregnant, it might be in the best interest of the child to divorce.  

Do Not Put the Cart Before the Horse 

Child custody and support are divorce issues when couples divorce, but only after a child is born. Your marriage could end before giving birth, depending on how quickly you want to divorce and how long you have been pregnant. If that is the case, child support and custody would be formalized after the birth. 

You are free to discuss these issues during the pregnancy and come to an informal agreement. If you miscarry, child support and custody become non-issues. You may or may not know your child will be born with severe medical difficulties or disabilities. If so, you can plan ahead. If not, it can upset planned arrangements. 

Instead of the child going to daycare after a period of time, the child may need full-time attention, and a parent providing that care may be unable to work (or only be able to work part-time). That may result in different child custody and support than what you expected. 

Alimony or spousal support becomes an issue if the full-time caregiver plans to work but cannot. It may result in a spousal support claim, or the amount of support should increase if it is already an issue. 

How is Paternity Established? 

Under the law, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father. If the child’s father’s identity is in doubt, it would be wise for the husband not to acknowledge paternity and ask the court for a paternity test before agreeing to pay child support.  

If the mother is not honest, the husband may spend a substantial part of his income on a child that is not his. There can also be a steep emotional cost for an ex-husband to care for a child he is told is his but later learns that is not true.  

Over time, if the ex-husband continues to behave like a father to a child not his own, and learns he may not be the father, a court may not allow him to challenge paternity and force him to continue support payments. Though this would be unfair to the ex-husband, courts have made this ruling because they see it as in the child’s best interests. 

Experienced Divorce Lawyers 

Your divorce may be more complex than you think. Negotiations resolve nearly all divorce cases. You cannot effectively do this without knowing all the legal and factual issues. There is also an excellent chance you have little or no negotiating experience. Retaining legal counsel could prevent life-altering problems after your divorce. 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.’s experienced family law lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey statutes and court procedures. We can help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Call us at (866) 349-4461 or book a consultation online now

Divorce papers should not be a surprise, though, for some, the fact they have divorce papers in their hands comes as a shock. Whether you expected them or not, there is no need to panic. Collect yourself and call our office so we can talk about your situation. 

If you are in Pennsylvania, you should have the: 

  1. Cover sheet: This tells you what the paperwork concerns, who filed it, and the name and contact information of your spouse’s attorney if they have one.
  2. Notice to defend: It provides information on how to defend yourself and retain the services of an attorney. 
  3. Complaint: This has multiple pages and requests a divorce. It should cover factual details of your marriage, you, your spouse, and your children. It should also have requests covering child custody and support, property division, and alimony. 
  4. Verification page: Your spouse signs this document to state that what is in the complaint is true. 

You may have received the divorce papers in the mail or been given them by a sheriff. 

What Should I Do? 

You can be angry or emotional but do not rip these papers up or throw them away. Do not get angry with the sheriff. They know nothing about you or your spouse, and they are just doing their job. You also should not panic because there is no need for an immediate response, though you should not ignore what is happening either.  

  1. Get information and advice 

Though you have your spouse’s lawyer’s name and phone number, it is not a good idea to call them. Their job is to help their client, not you. Call our office. We will answer your questions about the process, describe your obligations, and tell you about mistakes you should avoid. We can schedule a free consultation if you want to discuss retaining our services. 

We should review the papers to see if you need to respond and, if so, how and when. You should do so if you want to raise new claims (equitable distribution, spousal support, or alimony), which are a part of most divorce cases

  1. Take action and get organized 

After talking to us, you may freeze joint bank accounts and secure joint assets. If your spouse kept their desire to divorce a secret, they might have withdrawn money and assets from joint accounts just before you were served. If they cannot be convinced to return your fair share, a judge may order them to return the money or provide spousal support while the divorce proceeds (alimony pendente lite). 

If you are both parents of children 18 or younger (or older under some circumstances), the children must be supported. If the other spouse has financially cut off you and your kids, we should discuss seeking child support

If your spouse can access your current email account, you should get a new email address with a new user ID and password to ensure your communications are kept private. You should also get a post office box or a private mailbox at a local provider because you may receive paper documents during your divorce, not just emails. 

If you have not done so already, it is time to collect and organize documents covering your financial situation. Part of the divorce will be equitably dividing marital assets and debts. This includes documents covering taxes, income, accounts (bank, investment, and retirement), insurance, property (real and personal such as vehicles and artwork), information on a business you and or your spouse own, credit cards, debts, and mortgages. 

If you have a child with special needs, organize documents covering their diagnosis, medical bills, and educational needs. Tuition bills are also crucial if your children attend private schools or college. 

3. Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust 

If you are served divorce papers, call our office at (215) 608-1867, so we can schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help. We can speak over the phone, hold a teleconference, or meet in our Doylestown or Langhorne offices.