The attorney-client privilege allows a client to prevent the disclosure of some communication between the client and their attorney, their agents, and employees. It is a way to encourage clients and their attorneys to be open and honest with each other because these communications should be confidential. 

But this privilege will not block every kind of communication. Under some circumstances, a client can waive this protection, and disclosure by an attorney could also result in others learning of what was said or written. 

How Does This Privilege Work? 

Pennsylvania law generally protects the confidentiality of certain communications between an attorney and their client. These protections are granted so clients can safely and fully disclose sensitive and possibly damaging information to receive proper legal advice. 

A client can refuse to disclose these communications and prevent others from disclosing confidential communications or information that would reveal a confidential communication. The parties to that communication are not just the client and attorney. They could be: 

  • The client or their representative and the client’s attorney or their representative 
  • The attorney and the attorney’s representative 
  • The client’s representatives or between the client and their representative 

The privilege can be claimed by: 

  • The client 
  • The attorney or their representative at the time of the communication, but only for their client 

The privilege does not cover others who may be harmed by the release. 

What are the Privilege’s Limits? 

The exceptions to allowing some communications to be kept secret include:  

  • If the attorney’s services or advice were sought or obtained to enable or help anyone commit or plan to commit what the client knows, or reasonably should know, was a crime or fraud 
  • Communications relevant to a possible breach of duty by the lawyer to the client or by the client to the attorney 

This confidentiality can be lost if you do certain things or fail to do other things: 

  • You intentionally disclose or agree to disclose the confidential communication’s subject matter 
  • You or your attorney fail to object to the communication’s disclosure during a legal proceeding 

The privilege is not waived if the disclosure is accidental and you and your attorney take reasonable steps to prevent further exposure and to correct the mistaken release. 

How Does This Affect Me? 

If you have retained our services, do not disclose to others any discussions we, our employees, or others we have retained have had. If the opposing party can show you are spilling the beans to others, we will have a hard time arguing to a judge that those are our secret beans and no one else’s. Some things are not anyone else’s business, including conversations with and information provided to or by your attorney. 

This includes not just verbal discussions but anything in writing, whether that is letters, forms, or emails we send you or that you send to us. The possible damage to your case far outweighs whatever benefit you think you may gain. 

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., if you have questions about this important topic. Call us at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today. 

A crucial benefit of retaining us for your divorce is that we will deal with your difficult spouse (or their attorney) so you will not have to. You will make important decisions on your goals and objectives and what you are willing to sacrifice to reach them. But we will work to get you the best resolution possible, given your situation. 

Your spouse may have been difficult during your marriage or become an irritation machine as the relationship ends. You may be used to negotiating during your relationship, but this can turn far uglier during a divorce. 

Stay Above the Fray 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. attorneys are used to tough negotiations. We have seen all the head games, power plays, distractions, and problems created to invent obstacles. Divorces can be highly emotional, and your spouse may be furious at you and the situation.  

That can play out during negotiations. Some spouses use settlement talks to try to settle scores and cause as much grief as possible. Our attorneys will deal with this and reduce its impact on you as much as we can. 

Negotiations Should Not Be a Battle of Wills 

It is normal for a party in any negotiation to use leverage to get a favorable agreement. What sets destructive negotiations apart is when one party goes to extremes to create or use that leverage to get what they want.  

Keep calm and think straight while your spouse tries to stockpile issues to hold over you. Settling a divorce should be considered a business transaction. The two of you are trading things, so you are both in a good position after the marriage ends.  

Facts and the legal issues that arise from them fuel the divorce process. We need to document your family’s debts and assets thoroughly. If your spouse owns a business, it may be used to hide assets to prevent some of them from going to you or your children. 

We may discover evidence that your spouse can not try to spin to their advantage. Facts may create a basis for legal claims that could give you leverage. As a result, your obstinate spouse may realize the cards they are holding are not nearly as good as they think. 

Pick Your Battles and Be Smart About Negotiations  

We will discuss with you what you will need after your divorce. You may achieve these non-negotiable issues because you are willing to sacrifice (or at least be flexible about) other matters. For example, you may be willing to give up claims on some assets or spousal support because you want the family house.  

Ultimately you will need to decide the outcome of complex negotiations. If your spouse makes a stink about inconsequential things, it may be best to give in. But you will also have lines that you are unwilling to cross.  

That is entirely reasonable, as long as what you are willing to go to battle for is critical to starting your life over. Do not become like your spouse – drawing uncrossable lines to create conflict and chaos to weaken and frustrate the other spouse in a battle of attrition. 

If Spouses Can Not End Their Marriage, a Judge Can Do It for Them 

Very few divorce cases go to trial. They are expensive, time-consuming, and emotional, and may force you to spend energy you would rather use on other parts of your life. But they are often the result of one or both spouses being unwilling to reasonably and sensibly negotiate a resolution to their differences.  

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., if you have questions about divorce or believe you will need legal assistance with one. Call us at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.  

Child support payments do not just consider what the paying parent earns but what they should earn to a certain degree. If there is evidence that a parent lowered or ended their income to avoid child support payments, a judge can decide their financial obligations based on what they could reasonably be expected to earn. 

What is Child Support? 

In Pennsylvania, parents must financially support their children until they turn 18 or become self-supporting. The parent with more custodial time is generally entitled to receive child support payments from the noncustodial parent. 

If parents can not agree on a support amount, a judge will do it for them. It will depend on the parents’ incomes and the number of children involved. Income can include: 

  • Social Security payments 
  • Commissions 
  • Bonuses 
  • Pension payments 
  • Retirement savings income 
  • Unemployment compensation 
  • Veteran’s benefits 
  • Rent from properties 

Determining child support obligations can be complicated. Incomes can fluctuate when someone is self-employed, owns a business, or when their earnings are impacted by bonuses or commissions (or lack of them).  

When Does Imputing Income Become Necessary? 

Not all of these paying parents want to pay support or pay as much as they are ordered to pay. They may illegally reduce their income and claim they can not afford to make payments. They may: 

  • Work “under the table” for cash and not declare this income 
  • Quit their job 
  • Take a demotion 
  • Work fewer hours 

When there is credible evidence the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed to reduce their support responsibilities, not because of a legitimate issue (disability, layoff, economic downturn), a judge may impute (or attribute) income to them so the child gets adequate support. 

How Does a Judge Decide What a Parent Should Earn? 

Under Pennsylvania law, the judge may impute what their full-time income should be within limits. It can not be more than what would be earned in one full-time job. It also must be based on the parent’s circumstances, including whether they have used substantial good faith efforts to find employment and: 

  • Childcare responsibilities and expenses 
  • Assets 
  • Past employment and earnings 
  • Job skills 
  • Educational level 
  • Literacy 
  • Age 
  • Health (physical and psychological) 
  • Criminal record and other employment barriers 
  • Past efforts seeking work 
  • Local job market 
  • Local prevailing wages 
  • Other relevant factors 

Given all the variables involved, each case is unique. Remember, if you hear of an outcome in another case, it may have no relevance to your situation. 

If you have questions about child support or whether a parent should pay more or less, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (215) 752-6200. We represent parties on both sides of this issue and can provide critical legal representation to help you meet your goals. 

A parent would need to have severe problems for a judge in Pennsylvania to order they should have no contact with their child. A more common situation for parents with a criminal record or severe emotional, psychological, or substance abuse challenges is having supervised visitation (or supervised physical custody) during which the parent and child are never alone. 

What is Supervised Visitation or Custody? 

There are many types of custody in Pennsylvania

  • Legal custody: The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including medical, religious, and educational issues. The parents can share it, or one will have legal custody.
  • Physical custody: The physical possession and control of a child. This could be by one parent (sole physical custody), or it can be shared between the parents. A parent with primary physical custody will have the child with them most of the time, while the other parent will have partial physical custody. 

Supervised physical custody means that either through a court order or an agreement reached by the parents, an agency or an adult monitors the interaction between the parent and child during visits. If a judge believes the child will not be safe when alone with the parent, they may order supervised physical custody.  

Why Would This Be Ordered? 

Custody decisions should be based on the child’s best interests, not what one or both parents want. In these cases, the court balances the importance of the parent having time with the child with the child’s well-being and best interests. 

Pennsylvania law presumes it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents. But that has its limits. If the parent’s problems are such that they would harm the child or the parent is indifferent to them, a judge could order that the parent have no custodial rights. Common reasons include: 

  • Domestic violence  
  • Child neglect  
  • Substance abuse  
  • Unmanaged or poorly managed mental illness 
  • Criminal acts  

If the parent’s situation is not as severe and he or she wants to be part of the child’s life, a judge may order supervised parenting time rather than revoking a parent’s custody rights.  

How Would Supervised Physical Custody Work?  

A court order may specify that a particular person be present during this supervised time, such as an extended family member or friend trusted by both parents. If there is no such person, or a judge is uncomfortable with that arrangement, they may decide that a qualified professional supervisor must be present. The setting will be safe for the child, whether at the parent’s home or at a location where there is room for these types of visits. 

If you are the parent wanting to limit your child’s time with the other parent, ending custody rights is a drastic step few judges want to take. Unless the other parent is legitimately a danger to your child, you should be open to supervised physical custody. 

If you are a parent facing challenges in your life, you can still seek custody. If you struggle with being with your child alone, accepting supervised visits may be a good choice. In the meantime, you should actively address your problems and take steps to show you will be a responsible parent. 

A custody order can be amended if one parent shows that circumstances have changed. If the supervised parent: 

  • Does not show up, is intoxicated, is still struggling with psychological problems, or says or does inappropriate things during visits, a judge may end their custody rights. 
  • Is under control, appropriately dressed, actively engaged with the child, and appears to be heading in the right direction, a judge may allow future unsupervised visits. 

Supervised physical custody can be a turning point in the child’s relationship with the parent. Which direction it goes depends on how the supervised parent responds. 

Child Custody Lawyers You Can Trust  

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. lawyers are skilled in developing compelling legal arguments and evidence that judges need to make wise child custody decisions. If you have questions about supervised visitation or need legal representation, call us at (215) 752-6200 today.