When parents are going through a contentious divorce in Bucks or Montgomery counties here in Pennsylvania, great care must be taken to ensure the children are not “put in the middle.” One common issue is parental alienation. Children subjected to emotional blackmail by one or both parents may suffer from parental alienation syndrome. These supposedly loving parents try to turn their children into pawns in the divorce. Not only will a parent harm their own interests trying to do this, but they may also cause long-lasting emotional harm to their kids.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., represents families in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Parental alienation is an issue that, sadly, we see too often. We help our clients deal with manipulative spouses and make sure courts know the damage they’re inflicting on their children. Contact us today so we can discuss parental alienation and share how we can help.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental alienation syndrome happens when a parent tries to turn a child against the other parent, according to Psychology Today. This attempt at estrangement can be seen as seeking revenge and trying to settle scores, and can inflict pain on the other parent.

This can happen when the parent criticizes, blames, or lies about the other parent to the child. They may try to prevent the child from spending time with the other parent and tell the child they can either love them or the other parent, not both. The alienating parent may also seek the help of other family members to split the child from the other parent.

Who Might Be More Likely to Alienate Their Child From the Other Parent? 

A narcissistic parent would be more likely to play harmful games with their child to punish the other parent. They don’t have empathy for others and they focus on themselves, their feelings, and their beliefs. They build themselves up by tearing others down. While claiming to protect the child, they inflict harm.

What Are the Legal Implications? 

A parent alienating a child from the other shouldn’t have legal custody. Pennsylvania statute emphasizes having both parents in a child’s life within limits. There are 16 factors to be considered by a judge deciding who should have what kind of custody including:

  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent
  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party

What Can You Do?

Tell us what’s happening. Your spouse is harming your child and that must end. We can file motions with the court asking that time with the child be supervised or eliminated.

Talk to your child. Tell them if the other spouse says bad things about you, they should get your side of the story. Don’t start bashing the other parent in response, or you may be accused of doing the alienating.

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust

If you have any questions about or need representation in a child custody or divorce matter, call us at (215) 608-1867 or schedule a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in our Doylestown or Langhorne offices.

Congratulations! You’ve made a very wise choice by divorcing a spouse who’s a narcissist. Life is too short to spend your time with an abusive spouse. Expect that your spouse might try to make the divorce as painful as possible and expect us to strongly defend your rights and ensure you’re treated fairly by the court no matter what.

Here in Bucks and Montgomery counties, the attorneys at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., could take many approaches to your divorce. We will work with you to develop the right strategy, which is especially important when dealing with a spouse who will do all they can to make your life difficult. Contact us today so we can discuss your situation and share how we can help.

What is a Narcissist? 

Narcissistic personality disorder, reports the Mayo Clinic, is a condition where the person has an exaggerated sense of their importance, a need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. The person has fragile self-esteem and is very sensitive to the slightest criticism.

The person may:

  • Become angry and feel slighted if they don’t get special treatment
  • Have severe problems with relationships
  • Show rage or contempt and belittle another person to keep an appearance of superiority
  • Have difficulty with or be unable to regulate their emotions and behavior
  • Be unable to deal with stress and adapt to change
  • Feel depressed when they are imperfect
  • Feel insecure, ashamed, vulnerable, and humiliated

How Did I Stay Married to a Narcissist?

Every relationship is unique. Your spouse fulfilled whatever wants and needs you had until the point you had enough of their negative traits and behaviors. Narcissists can be charismatic, charming, and fascinating early in a relationship and whenever they want to turn on the charm. They can be popular for a time until friends and co-workers see their other side. Maintaining long-term relationships can be a challenge for them, reports an article in Psychology Today.

Narcissists tend to play mind games to exert power over their spouses and reinforce their independence. They can be very good at maintaining an emotional distance but engage more deeply when they feel they have something to gain. A narcissist may have many short-term relationships (in which they exploit the other person) but be incapable of what’s needed for a successful long-term relationship – intimacy and emotional connection.

How May Narcissism Impact a Divorce? 

Another Psychology Today article warns those divorcing a narcissist of what may lie ahead:

1. He or she must “win” and be proven “right”

They will see themselves as victims, no matter the facts to the contrary, and may have little or no interest in negotiating a settlement. If there are negotiations, expect “low ball” offers, stalling, and a lack of good faith. Your spouse may want a trial to use the courtroom as their stage where they can tell the story of how abused they are and how evil you are.

You may face a “scorched earth” strategy to satisfy your spouse’s need for revenge. While most parties will avoid outrageous claims and stunts because it may harm the couple’s children or others might react negatively, that’s not true of narcissists because they don’t care how others feel. They just want to win, no matter the cost.

2. Your spouse wants you to give up

Narcissists love games and winning because it’s one of the few things that make them feel good. A symbolic trophy may be your giving in to their demands. Many of them will be petty, so it may be worth small sacrifices to move the process forward.

3. As many games as possible will be played

Studies show narcissists maintain power in relationships by keeping others off balance. If they have the resources and a cooperative attorney, there could be many court filings, and your spouse could be a charmer in the courtroom. Expect obstruction, chaos, and a desire to drive up your costs as much as possible, including disputes and litigation after your divorce is final.

4. A trial will make your spouse feel powerful

As bad as they are at maintaining them, narcissists need relationships to feed their needs. Your relationship will continue as the divorce drags on. Expect lies and negative information to hurt you and to make themselves look superior. Your spouse may rather be hated than have you feel indifferent.

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

Over the years we’ve dealt with many narcissist spouses. We know how they treat our clients and the divorce process. Part of our strategy to protect your rights and interests is to be proactive and strongly discourage the game-playing and abuse that can make a bad divorce situation worse. We will deal with your spouse as much as possible, so you won’t have to.

If you have any questions about divorce or need legal representation, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

A child’s education has lifelong effects. If you’re divorced or separated from the other parent, you may not agree on how to handle your child’s education. You must resolve this issue between yourselves with the help of an attorney, or a judge in Bucks or Montgomery County may need to make the decision.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., is a team of lawyers and staff in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have significant family law experience and have worked hard to build a law firm that can address your child custody needs, including disputes over your child’s education. If you have any questions or need help, call us at (215) 608-1867, book a free consultation online now, or contact us by email.

Parents usually make educational decisions about their kids. If parents are divorced or never married and had their parental rights formalized in court, a judge decided who has legal custody. This includes the ability to make important decisions for the child regarding such issues as education. In most cases, legal custody is shared by both parents. In relatively rare cases, a parent may give up their parental rights, or a judge decides it is not in the child’s best interests for a parent to have any legal custody.

Educational Issues That Can Split the Two Parents

If the two of you agree on issues, it’s not a problem. But if your child’s life is complicated and as more issues come up, there are more opportunities for disagreement:

  • Your child may have learning disabilities or other special needs. Your child will need more help from his or her school, but the school may not want to provide it. Parents may disagree on whether the child should attend another school or get private tutoring.
  • Your child may be gifted and have their own needs to be successful. Your child’s learning opportunities and how hard they should be pushed to excel can lead to disputes.
  • There can be public, private, and religious schools in the area. One parent may prefer one, the other parent may want the child to go to another.
  • Education can be part of a dispute when one parent wants the child to move with them away from the area. The child would attend a new school and the other parent may believe that is not in the child’s best interests because their education and friendships would be disrupted.
  • An athletically gifted child can present challenges. A parent may want the child to stay back a grade to perform better in sports at school. A private school may have a better athletic program, so one parent wants the child to transfer, while the other disagrees and doesn’t want to pay half the tuition.

If you can’t agree on important educational issues, Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can represent you to help negotiate a decision both parties can accept. If not, these issues can be litigated and eventually decided at a trial. But that’s an expensive, time-consuming option that should only be used for very serious issues critical to your child’s success in school.

Your Attitude Toward Your Child’s Education Can Impact Your Child Custody Order

If you’re thinking about divorce or considering getting a child custody order, or one is already in place, you must think about your child’s education and your role in it. One way to show you should keep or be given shared or sole legal custody is to be actively engaged in your child’s education. Communicate with the teacher, attend meetings, and actively address problems as they come up. If you’re not interested in your child’s schooling and are indifferent to their success, it can be used against you by the other parent. They might argue that you having legal custody of your child is not in the child’s best interest so it shouldn’t be granted or it should be taken away.

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

If you have questions about child custody or need help enforcing or changing a custody order, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

America’s population is getting older, and older couples with longer marriages getting divorced are more common. If you no longer feel marriage is right for you, you should consider a divorce no matter your age or the length of your marriage.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., represents clients over 50 years of age in divorce and related family law issues. We know these divorces involve unique problems, and we are sensitive to our clients’ wants and needs. We will protect your rights and negotiate a fair settlement that allows you to move on with the rest of your life in the best position possible.

There are No Age Limits on Divorce

Some older married couples grow apart as time goes on. Their emotions towards each other may weaken or turn negative. Spouses may have more health issues and a limited income, increasing the stress on their relationship.

A spouse may look to the past and feel disappointed. Their life, including their marriage, hasn’t turned out as they planned. They understand better than most of us that time is limited, and changes must be made if they want to live the life they seek. One of these changes may be ending their marriage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken many of us, giving us a greater appreciation for the fragility of life and our health. Increasingly, people unhappy with their jobs aren’t returning. The experience may also leave some older, dissatisfied Americans to decide they no longer want to put up with a relationship that no longer works for them. Many marriages limp along “for the sake of the children” but after the children grow up and spouses are older, they may want a divorce for their own sake. 

Is it the Right Time to Divorce?

In some ways, it’s a great time to divorce. If the marital home must be sold, real estate prices are at historic highs while interest rates are at historic lows. If you’ll return to the workforce, employers are raising wages and improving working conditions to attract job applicants.

Many more women own businesses and earn higher incomes than in the past, but a divorce can be a financial blow to both spouses. The greater your wealth, the better off you’ll weather this storm, no matter your age. Whatever your losses, younger people generally have more time to earn and save money to make up for the money spent and assets transferred during a divorce. If you’re at or near retirement age, that can be a lot harder to do.

Divorce and Social Security

Generally, men earn more than women, but given the division of marital assets and the possibility of spousal support, the post-divorce picture should be more even. If you haven’t worked much or earned less income than your spouse, another way to cushion the blow might be Social Security payments based on your spouse’s work history.

If you are 62 and divorced from someone who’s entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you might be eligible for benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record, according to the Social Security Administration:

  • You’ll be eligible if your marriage lasted for 10 or more years
  • If you remarried, you can’t go this route unless your subsequent marriage ended by annulment, divorce, or death
  • If you’re entitled to benefits based on your own record, you’ll get whichever is higher, benefits from your own history or from that of your ex-spouse
  • You may apply for benefits based on your former spouse’s record even though he or she still works, if you’ve been divorced at least two years before applying
  • If you wait until full retirement age to apply for Social Security benefits as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be half of your ex-spouse’s full benefits

How an Older American Without Health Insurance May Find Coverage

Healthcare coverage is a major concern for those getting divorced. That’s especially true for older couples who may currently, or in the future, suffer a chronic medical condition. If both spouses are covered because one works and qualifies for a healthcare benefit, the other spouse will lose that coverage when the divorce is final (unless you qualify for COBRA benefits, extending your coverage for up to three years, if you can afford the payments).

Another way to get coverage can be an Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) plan. There’s mixed news if you seek coverage this way. Premiums are partially based on your age, so the premium for someone older may be much higher than one for a young American. But premiums are also partially based on your income (which won’t include alimony if you haven’t divorced yet), so it makes health coverage more affordable if you’re not making much money.

Get the Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust

If you are considering divorce or have decided it’s the right choice for you, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. It’s never too late to start a new chapter in your life. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

If you own a business, or your spouse does, and you plan on divorcing, it is potentially a big issue that must be addressed.

Marital property is usually divided during a divorce. That can be done through an agreement by the spouses or a judge’s order if no agreement is reached. That marital property can include ownership in a business. 

Every divorce and business is unique and how it’s handled in your case can vary depending on your circumstances.   

Karen Ann Ulmer represents clients who are ending their marriages. Her divorce practice can help you whether you, your spouse, or the two of you own a business. Dealing with this issue can be very stressful and emotional, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have any questions, call us at (215)608-1867.

Issues Outside Divorce Law May Determine What Happens to the Business Ownership

Different agreements can impact the division of business ownership in a divorce:

  • Ownership: If it’s a small business with more than one owner, there should be an agreement between them. It should clearly spell out what happens to the divorcing partner’s share. It could state that their share needs to be sold to the other partner(s) at a given price or the price may be calculated based on the company’s value or some other calculation.
  • Partnership agreements: If there was a partnership agreement in place before the marriage, it may have required that a prenuptial agreement be signed specifically stating how the non-ownership spouse will be compensated (or not) should the marriage end in divorce.  
  • Pre or post-nuptial agreements: Before or during the marriage, a couple may have agreed on financial matters if they get divorced. How business ownership would be handled may be part of that agreement.  

If you and your spouse both own a business, you need to decide if you want one or both of you to sell your interests. If the divorce is amicable and you both feel you can work together, you can both keep your interests and see if you can work it out. However, the details of this arrangement, including what happens should a spouse want to cash out, should be clearly spelled out. It is important to remember that you are divorcing for specific reasons and working together may be very difficult. We recommend giving this a trial run with very detailed scenarios detailed in agreements to protect the business and both spouses in the future.  

How Should the Business Ownership Be Divided?

Marital assets (generally what the couple obtained during their marriage) are supposed to be split equitably or fairly under state statute 23 Pa.C.S. § 3502(a). If one spouse has an ownership interest in a business, it could be split with the other based on the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, health, income, vocational skills, employability, estates, liabilities, and needs of each party
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other
  • The opportunity for each party to acquire capital assets and income in the future
  • The income sources of both parties, including insurance or other benefits
  • The contribution or lessening by each party of the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as a homemaker
  • The value of property set apart to each party
  • The parties’ standard of living established during the marriage
  • Each party’s economic circumstances when the property will be divided
  • How taxes and costs impact the property division
  • Whether the party will be the custodian of any dependent minor children

Either through an agreement or court order, it would be decided if the business ownership is marital property to be divided, and if so, by how much and how that would be accomplished.

How Might This Play Out?

A common outcome is the value of the ownership would be determined and the party owning it would pay the other spouse for their share. That payment could be in cash or as part of a larger asset agreement. If the husband owns the business and must pay his wife $100,000 for her share of ownership, he could give up claims to $100,000 worth of other assets (cash, investments, share of the house, vehicles) which would go to the wife to satisfy what’s owed.  

It is also common for this amount to be paid out over time so the business can remain solvent. However, we recommend putting safeguards in place in case the business is sold or starts to encounter financial trouble. Both the paying and receiving spouse need to be protected.  

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

Whether you, your spouse, or the two of you together own a business and want to learn more about how a divorce may impact you, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

If you are currently married and in a physically or mentally abusive relationship, it can be a very tarrying situation that you might be desperate to get out of. You might be thinking of leaving or filing for divorce but have that voice in your head telling you it is not a good idea because of the potential reaction from your spouse. What if filing for the divorce causes the abuse to escalate when they find out? If your spouse already has a history of abuse towards you, the fear you have might take over and prevent you from following through with the decision to follow through with filing for divorce, and separating from them finally.

If there is a history of abuse you can file a petition for a Protection from Abuse Order while you prepare to file for divorce. To get a protection from abuse order you would first want to file with the court. Then likely, a Judge would issue a temporary order without the abuser being present while a future hearing date is scheduled. Both you and the abuser would then have to appear before a Judge at the later date. At this hearing either the abuser can consent to the Protection Order, or request to have a hearing where the Judge would hear testimony and make an order. These types of orders can last for any duration of time up to 36 months. If the abuser were to violate any such order they would be held in contemp. Consequences of a contempt violation can range from fines to jail time. When you are in an abusive marriage and desperate to get out but just fearful of what will happen if you try, a Protection from Abuse order can grant you that peace of mind to be able to file and get divorced with added protection from your abuser’s potential reaction.

There are a number of forms required to be submitted to the court in the course of a divorce where a claim for equitable distribution of marital assets has been raised. An Inventory and Appraisement form has each party identify all the assets and debts at issue in the case. Values or balances at the date of separation should also be disclosed. The form distinguishes between marital assets and assets an individual may be claiming as non-marital. Any assets identified as non-marital should include an explanation as to why they should be categorized as non-marital. For debts, the creditors should be named along with the nature of the debt. Finally, the Inventory asks parties to identify any assets that have been sold or otherwise transferred.

An Income and Expense statement has each party provide detailed information on their present income and ongoing expenses. With respect to income, frequency of payment and taxes or other deductions from gross income should be disclosed. There is a separate form for self-employed individuals whose calculation of income can be less straight-forward. With respect to expenses, parties should identify if it is a monthly, quarterly, or annual expense. Additionally, parties can mark whether the expense is an individual one versus an expense incurred for their children and/or spouse. Both of these forms help in demonstrating standard of living established during the marriage and financial circumstances of the parties as they separate to assist the court in making support and/or equitable distribution awards.

Married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support as provided by law. Similar to child support, spousal support will be calculated based on a statewide guideline. Without children, spousal support is calculated by multiplying the paying party’s income by 33% and the receiving party’s income by 40%. The difference of these figures would be the support award. If there is also a child support order, spousal support should be calculated first. Multiply the paying party’s income by 25% and the receiving party’s income by 30% and then calculate the difference. Child support is then calculated with the spousal support award being deducted from the party paying spousal support and added to the party receiving spousal support.

There are some defenses to paying support to your spouse. One exception to the duty to pay spousal support is where the spouse seeking support has engaged in conduct that would constitute grounds for a fault-based divorce such as adultery. It is up to the spouse who is objecting to a spousal support award to prove a fault ground for divorce by clear and convincing evidence. Alimony pendente lite (APL), a form of spousal support payable while a divorce is pending, does not allow the same defenses. The purpose of APL is to allow the income dependent spouse to participate in the divorce action and fault is not a factor. Alimony, spousal support paid after entry of the divorce decree, can be terminated by proving the spouse receiving alimony is living with a new lover or is remarried. Consult with one of our experienced attorneys to understand the different types of support that may be awarded between spouses.

A PFA Order is a civil remedy to end abusive relationships. Remedies for a successful PFA petition can include having the Defendant removed from a residence that was previously shared, restrictions on contact for up to three (3) years, relinquishment of firearms or other weapons, reimbursement for related expenses or out of pocket costs suffered, temporary support, and in some cases, a custody schedule. It is possible to list multiple persons in need of protection under the PFA in one petition including children. A Protection from Abuse (PFA) petition requires the petitioner to identify the defendant, state the incidents constituting the “abuse” as well as any prior history of similar incidents, provide notice of any weapons involved, and set out the relief requested.

A PFA can only be filed if there is a relationship between the Petitioner and Defendant. Recognized relationships include spouse or former spouse, parent of child with Defendant, current or former sexual/intimate partner, child of Plaintiff or Defendant, family member related by blood or marriage, and sibling. Abuse, for purposes of obtaining a PFA, is defined as

physical violence or imminent threat thereof, stalking or any other course of conduct which would place a person in fear of bodily injury. The party pursuing a PFA order must establish by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, that some abuse occurred. Violations of a PFA may be criminal in nature depending on the nature of the violation. Criminal charges may also be pending simultaneously with a PFA petition.

To effectuate a legal name change, you will need to file a petition with your local civil court.

A filing fee is due to the county at the time of filing as well as copies of your fingerprints which can be obtained at your local police department. A hearing on your request for name change will be scheduled for a few months later. If you are filing a petition on behalf of a minor, you will need to effectuate service of the petition and hearing date on the other parent. If you are filing as an adult, prior to the hearing date notice of the petition must be published in the county law reporter as well as a newspaper of general circulation. Additionally, adults must have checks through the Prothonotary’s office for civil matters, the Clerk of Courts for criminal matters, and the Recorder of Deeds for any property issues. If you have resided outside of your current county within the prior five (5) years, these checks should also be performed in the county where you used to reside.

At your scheduled hearing, you should appear with proof that all prerequisites have been met in terms of publication, background checks, and service, if applicable. Name changes are permissible so long as it is not sought for illegitimate purposes and the person seeking a name change does not have certain criminal convictions. Criminal convictions that will bar a request for a name change include murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and robbery.

If requesting a name change of a minor and the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court will decide after hearing from the parties based on whether the request for name change is in the child’s best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child’s best interests.  By April M. Townsend