Tag Archive for: divorce

Money is one of the most common causes of divorce. Some studies show it as the number one cause. When a couple has different values regarding money, or when one or both partners make poor choices with their money, serious marital stress results, and this stress can flow into the divorce process and continue to be a problem after divorce.

Before divorce

Not surprisingly, most couples who divorce over money issues do not keep a budget. When there is no clear understanding of how much money is coming in and where it is going, there will be more disagreements. Overspending and credit card debt are major issues in divorce, often because one spouse spends more than the other. This is because the partners have different views about money.

This often leads to “financial infidelity” – keeping secrets from the other partner about how money was spent or on what, which naturally causes arguments and resentment when the secrets are discovered.

Financial infidelity is much more common when couples keep separate finances. Couples who keep joint finances are less likely to divorce over money and are also less likely to experience financial cheating. Couples with separate finances often know little about each other’s financial choices, often not even knowing their partner’s salary.

Spouses might keep separate accounts so they can have control over their “own” money. If they have different views about the use of money, a spouse might keep a separate account just to keep the other partner from “wasting” his or her “own” money. The problem with this view is that in marriage and in divorce, money is communal. It affects the whole household and is meant to support the whole household. Thus, hiding financial information from a spouse can cause serious distrust and strain on the relationship.

During divorce

If you fought about money while you were married, this will certainly spill into the divorce. That is why it is so important to have a divorce lawyer act as an experienced third party who can help you navigate the difficult waters of divorce.

During a divorce, you will be dividing your property and assets as well as your debts. The first thing to do is to cancel all joint credit card accounts and open separate ones. The debt on those closed accounts will become part of the divorce process, but by canceling joint accounts you can avoid any future debt that your spouse incurs being applied to you.

If financial infidelity has happened during marriage, expect that it will continue. Sometimes a spouse tries to spend money in order to draw down the joint assets (this is called dissipation). An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to recognize this. You may also need to contract the services of a forensic accountant who is an expert in going through finances and finding fraud or hidden money. Your lawyer should be able to recommend someone.

Tax changes, pension and retirement plan issues, life insurance, and costs of ongoing child support will all be important issues to discuss with your lawyer.

After divorce

If you did not do it during the divorce, as soon as possible afterward change your beneficiary information. Also make sure you close other joint accounts, like iTunes, streaming services, frequent flyers, etc. This article lists some other common steps to take.

If your money habits and attitudes contributed to the divorce, you may need to examine them. Recognize any bad habits in the use of money that need to change, and create a budget. Refrain from major purchases for some time after divorce. This gives you time to judge the situation and make decisions that are not emotionally charged. This also includes avoiding spending sprees.

When money issues fuel a divorce, it is important to obtain expert guidance so you avoid making decisions that will negatively impact you and your children in the future. Talk to one of our experts to see what we can do to help you through your divorce.

Divorcing when you have children brings on many questions. Here in our Langhorne, PA office, we help couples determine many post-divorce logistics related to their children. This can include how much child support you are going to pay or receive, as well as where your children are going to spend their time. Determining your parenting time schedule can be a bit difficult for parents.

First and foremost, for most parents, the most difficult part of setting up a custody schedule is realizing they are not going to be spending every day with their child. Children have the right to spend time with both parents, during the week, on weekends, and then on special occasions.  

There are many factors that can complicate a parenting schedule including where parents live, their work schedules, where the child attends school, and his/her activities. If parents can sit down together, alone or with their attorneys, it is best to collaborate on a plan. If they can not do this, then the matter will go in front of a judge who will determine the parenting schedule.  Judges often hear cases in which one parent would like sole custody for the sake of moving far away, making it prohibitive for the other parent to enjoy a 50/50 custody arrangement.  

How does a judge determine a parenting time schedule in PA?

There are 16 factors that the court can use to determine the custody of a child. They include:

  • the likelihood of the parties to encourage the child to remain in close contact with the other parent
  • any past abuse
  • what each parent currently does for the child and could that be continued
  • how stable the child’s life is
  • the availability of extended family to help
  • the existence of siblings
  • the child’s preference
  • whether the parents put the child in the middle of their disagreements
  • whether one parent is more likely to take better care of the child than the other
  • the distance between the parents
  • who will care for the child if the custodial parent is at work
  • whether there is significant conflict between the parents
  • any drug use, mental or physical abuse, or other relevant personal characteristics that may be present in the home

Most parents realize that when a judge makes a decision it is legally binding and must be followed. This is why it is best to work it out between the parties before the matter winds up in court. If your spouse is unreasonable we can negotiate child custody and a parenting schedule for you. Sometimes it is just easier to have legal representation in the room with you or to review your plans to get both parties to be a bit agreeable.  

Though a court order ends your marriage and makes your divorce official, it won’t end your relationship with your ex-spouse if you have kids. As part of your Montgomery County divorce, we will negotiate a parenting plan for you and your spouse that will set the standards for communications and schedules. The parenting plan sets a schedule for when your kids will be with whom and who is responsible for doing what to make it happen. Problems are common, whether that’s because, as a practical matter, the plan doesn’t work or one parent is intentionally trying to sabotage it.

A parenting plan usually is negotiated between the parties as part of the divorce settlement. A judge could decide the plan and make it part of the divorce order if a case goes to trial. It spells out the schedule for when children will be with each parent, transportation issues, vacation and holiday schedules, and what to do if problems arise. If difficulties come up and parents can’t find a solution, the judge decides the resolution.

Happy Holidays or Holidays from Hell?

Holidays can be incredibly stressful when parenting plans go sideways for a divorced family. Holidays are times when not only does a parent spend time with their kids, but extended families often get together. If the other parent is not living up to their end of the bargain by not allowing the children to be there or being late when delivering them, feelings can get frayed.

The Only Constant is Change

Another ongoing problem can be constant or unexpected changes. Both sides should comply with the plan in good faith. It’s a problem if one parent isn’t organized enough to follow the plan or just doesn’t care if the other parent is inconvenienced. Emergencies and unexpected problems can happen, but disruptions should be the exception, not the rule.

Parenting Plan Issues are Just the Beginning

Problems following the parenting plan can be a symptom of a bigger issue – a lack of respect. Your ex-spouse may be consistently late in picking up your kids or bringing them back and couldn’t care less about the impact on you. Making issues out of a parenting plan, along with alienating your children from you and disputing child support, could all be part of an overall strategy to make you miserable.

We Need to Resolve the Issue or Take It to Court

If a solution isn’t negotiated, we may need to go to court. We’ll tell your side of the story with evidence. You must document everything as best you can. That means taking notes, keeping copies of emails or texts, taking photos, and making videos.

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust

Call Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, if you need help with your parenting plan, whether that’s questions that need answers or legal representation. Call our office at (215) 608-1867 to schedule an online consultation. We can speak via teleconference, over the phone, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.

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.

Whether or not your divorce will affect your immigration status depends on the stage of the process you’re in. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) vigilantly watches for possible fraudulent marriages, entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. There are ways to demonstrate your marriage was entered into in good faith, but their effectiveness depends on your stage in the process.

Application for a visa or green card

If your application for a green card has not yet been reviewed or approved and you are applying on the basis of your marriage to an american citizen or permanent resident, your divorce or annulment will end the immigration process. No evidence of marriage in good faith will help at this early stage.

Conditional resident with 2-year green card

If you’ve been approved for a green card but you had not already been married for at least two years, you will receive a 2-year conditional residence. In two years you will be expected to submit Form I-751, asking USCIS to approve your permanent residence. This form is intended to be signed jointly by both spouses, but if you’ve gotten divorced or annulled, you’ll need to file a waiver of the joint filing process.

This, of course, will raise flags, and USCIS will scrutinize your case for evidence of a fraudulent marriage. You will need to provide ample and convincing evidence that you entered into marriage in good faith. It is still possible to get approved for permanent status at this point, but you may want to hire a lawyer expert in immigration and marriage law to help you present the best case.

Permanent resident status applying for citizenship

The N-400 Form is the application for naturalization. Normally a permanent resident must wait five years before applying for citizenship. A person with a green card who has been married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years can apply in three years, as long as the person remains married up to the time of naturalization. If the marriage ends before naturalization, the process stops, but the permanent resident is still able to apply within the five-year period.

Keep in mind that whenever anyone submits the N-400 Form, USCIS will scrutinize the person’s file. If you’ve gotten divorced in that time, fresh evidence should be submitted demonstrating that you married in good faith.

Evidence for marriage in good faith

It’s important to know what USCIS flags as signs of a fraudulent marriage in order to know what kinds of evidence will show yours was a true marriage.

Warning signs to USCIS of a fraudulent marriage include: wide disparity of age; individuals not cohabitating; marriage upon warning of removal; friend of the family; american spouse previously helping people apply for residence; major differences in ethnic or cultural backgrounds; inconsistent answers in separate interviews.

Knowing what USCIS looks for, you can show that you and your spouse engaged in the kinds of behaviors that spouses normally engage in: documents with both names on them (mortgage or rent, joint bank accounts); pictures from your wedding, family get-togethers, parties, and vacations; cards or letters from friends or family addressed to both of you; documents or bills in your name showing your address matching your spouse’s address; birth certificates for your joint children; affidavits from reliable people in support of your marriage. In this case, a statement from a marriage counselor indicating you tried to work out your problems is particularly strong.

If you’ve been divorced and you’re still working toward american citizenship, contact an attorney knowledgeable in immigration and marriage law to help you present the best case to keep your process moving forward.

While it is common and even preferable for a divorcing couple to utilize the same attorney in mediation, there are clear guidelines that generally prevent one spouse from hiring the other spouse’s former attorney in a trial divorce case.

The american Bar Association (ABA) Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) rule 1.7 states: 

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer. (RPC rule 1.7: Conflict of Interest: Current Clients) 

Rule 1.9 of the same code states the following:

(a) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

(b) A lawyer shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which a firm with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client

(1) whose interests are materially adverse to that person; and

(2) about whom the lawyer had acquired information protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c) that is material to the matter; unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

(c) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:

(1) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or

(2) reveal information relating to the representation except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client. (RPC rule 1.9: Duties to Former Clients)

Therefore, the RPC code of the ABA clearly lays out that a lawyer cannot represent your spouse in your divorce case, not only if he or she has represented you, but also if the lawyer’s current or previous firm has represented you in this case.

Further, a lawyer who has represented you or whose firm has represented you in the past in any way cannot represent your spouse in other matters, without your written consent, and may not use any information collected during your representation to your detriment.

Changing divorce lawyers is not uncommon. Often, in a time of great stress, a person chooses a divorce lawyer hastily or at the recommendation of another person without doing thorough review. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personalities not clicking. Whatever your reason for changing your lawyer, be sure to retain a new lawyer first, so that you are not without representation for a moment. Once you’ve signed the agreement with your new lawyer, inform the other in writing and request your file be sent to the new attorney by a given date.

If you have any questions, contact us here at Ulmer Legal and Mediation Services to see how we can help you.

When couples begin the divorce process, all assets and liabilities need to be listed and valued in order to determine division between the spouses. Negotiation often involves one spouse being given certain assets in exchange for other assets of the same value – and greater need or emotional attachment are values along with cost that can be weighed in the negotiation process.

If a couple can settle out of court with the help of qualified divorce lawyers to ensure a fair and satisfying distribution between both parties, the couple maintains control over their own assets and their own preferences. However, if they cannot come to an agreement, the divorce must go to court and the division of assets is put into the hands of a judge.

Pennsylvania is an Equitable Distribution state, which means the judge does not necessarily divide property 50/50 but rather in a manner that seems fair. Therefore, when determining who gets what, including the vehicles, the judge will consider many factors.

Was the car owned and paid for completely before marriage by one spouse? It is almost assured that the owner will be awarded the car. Was the car purchased after marriage, but it’s in one spouse’s name and that spouse’s money was used to pay for the car or the loans? Chances are very likely that this spouse will receive the car, although other factors could come into play.

Who has greater need for the car? If there is only one car, who needs it to commute to work because there are no public transportation options available? If there are multiple cars, who needs the van to take the kids to school, or who needs the newer car for a long and difficult commute? All these individual factors weigh into the judge’s decision.

The car’s value is also taken into consideration. If the family has two vehicles and one is worth significantly more than the other, the judge will likely award the cars based on need, circumstances, and payment history, but may also award additional compensation to the spouse receiving the car with less value in order to balance the asset division.

If a car is awarded to you in a divorce settlement, be sure to change the title and owner immediately to yourself. If a balance is owed on a loan, the loan should be restructured or refinanced to have only your name on it.

Your divorce attorney will walk you through the many intricacies and details involved in the divorce process and starting over. Reach out to us here at Ulmer Law to see how we can help you.

Improvements in the housing market mean that more couples again have equity in their homes. Division of marital property is one of the challenges in any divorce. When a marital home will be too expensive or more than one spouse can maintain, selling the home is again becoming an option. The sale of a home can result in a sizable profit, but consider the tax consequences and timing of the sale.

In Pennsylvania, the court equitably divides property in a divorce action by reviewing certain factors including some of the following:

The duration of the marriage;
Age, health and sources of income available to each of the spouses;
Contributions or dissipation of assets made by each party; and
Whether there are any minor children.
Equitable division does not always mean an equal award of the equity in the home. If one of the spouses owned the home prior to the marriage or sold a previous home prior to the marriage to secure a down payment, part of the equity may be considered non marital. This means it would belong to the spouse that brought the asset to the marriage and would not be divided.

While a divorce is pending, the court can award one or both of the spouses the right to continue to live in the martial home. When it is not practical for either spouse to stay in the home, the spouse who lives in the home may need to list the home for sale.

When certain rules are met, the seller of a principal home can avoid paying federal income tax on up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married joint-filing couple) of the gain in value. When a couple has owned a home for many years in an area that has appreciated this becomes very important.

The Internal Revenue Service test requires that the seller owned and used the property as a principal residence for two years during the five-year period preceding the sale. To pass the joint-filer test, both spouses must pass the use test and one must pass the ownership test.

This is very straightforward when the sale occurs before a finalized divorce decree or within the same year. The couple could file jointly for one more year and claim the $500,000 exclusion.

When a sale of the principal residence happens after the divorce and the court awards the home to one of the spouses, then that spouse may only be able to claim the $250,000 and will owe taxes on any additional gain from the sale.

When considering divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney. Advice at an early stage in the process often means avoiding costly mistakes down the road.

When you meet with your lawyer or mediator to begin the divorce proceedings, you need to have many documents with you, both personal and financial. Not having access to these documents could delay proceedings or damage your case and limit your settlement options. A partial list of documentation includes:

  • Personal data: birth certificate; marriage license; life insurance and healthcare insurance; employment information and income; will and living will or advanced directive; power of attorney
  • Financial data: complete list of assets (bank accounts, investments, pensions, and value of homes, cars, and personal property like jewelry, furniture, etc); expenses (all bills, loans, mortgage, etc.); income tax returns for the past several years; list of assets or expenses obtained or incurred singly before marriage or given to individual as a gift after marriage (both spouses)
  • Childcare data: costs of childcare, evidence of each parent’s involvement in the child’s upbringing (involvement in school, sports, etc.) for custody settlement

This is a lot of information, and you may not have access to the records for a variety of reasons. But there are ways of getting what you need, although in some cases you may need help from your lawyer.

If vital personal records were lost or destroyed: For items such as birth certificates, green cards, income tax statements, and more, you can contact the federal government for duplicates. You will need to supply your social security number and you may need to show some other identification. In some cases, you may need to apply in person, while in others, like tax statements, you can make your request online.

If your spouse has the records of bills or assets and refuses to share: You may need to have your lawyer request a subpoena be issued to give you access to all the critical financial data you need. And as soon as possible upon deciding to divorce, sever all joint accounts, whether bank accounts, credit cards, or other things like family email, iTunes, social media, and others. See Shared Accounts and Your Divorce for more details.

If your credit card is in your spouse’s name but you are a secondary name, you can just call and have your name removed. If it’s a joint account, however, it may not be that simple. If both names are on any account, the company will hold you jointly responsible for the balance, and both of your credit scores will be affected by unpaid balances.

To prevent further use of joint credit cards or the withdrawal of money from joint bank accounts, your lawyer may have to request a temporary restraining order to freeze these accounts. Please discuss this with your attorney as soon as possible.

If you need evidence of child support and involvement: Contact your child’s school or daycare for copies of payments sent or parent-teacher conferences where the teacher would have recorded which parents attended. Photos and social media posts may also demonstrate the level of involvement in a child’s life by either parent.

Remember, it’s critical to have your documents as complete as possible in order to put you in a position of strength for your settlement or court appearance. You want to get the best financial and child custody arrangements to help you and your children be as comfortable as possible and be able to move on in a new life. Contact us here at Ulmer Law in Doylestown for our legal and mediation services. Let us help you.

In Pennsylvania, if a divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement outside of court, all marital assets will be divided according to equitable distribution, which means, effectively, whatever the court thinks is appropriate after considering a number of factors. As long as both parties are reasonable, we encourage divorcing couples to avoid court so they can retain control of the division of their marital assets.

This is true for all assets, including vacation property. Even if the property was given to one spouse exclusively or purchased exclusively with one spouse’s income, and no family money was ever used to pay for its mortgage or upkeep, such property may be considered marital and will factor into the division of assets. Whether your divorce goes to court or not, you will probably have to decide what is to become of your vacation property.

Appraise the asset

Before you decide what to do with the property, you need to get an accurate appraisal of its market value. Also important is a complete listing of all costs associated with owning and maintaining the property: mortgage, interest, taxes, utilities, repairs, landscaping, and more.

With this clear, factual foundation, you can begin to evaluate the course of action that will best benefit the two of you and any children you have.

Decide your best option

Selling the property might be the easiest choice, allowing you to divide the funds received between you. It can be emotionally difficult to let go of a place where you may have created fond memories, but consider your need for liquid assets and the simplification of the process, which are important advantages to this option.

If you and your spouse are on reasonably good terms, you could choose to keep the property and divide its use. This is advantageous if children are involved, since they would still have the familiar vacation home to go to, providing them with much-needed security and continuity. But be sure to create a written document, signed by both of you, that will clearly delineate the times and seasons each will be using the home, the expenses each of you will be responsible for paying, and the dates those payments must be made. Your lawyer will be able to create a comprehensive document that will ensure that you both get good use out of the house without increasing tension.

You may also decide that one partner gets the family home and the other gets the vacation home. The complication here is in the valuation of each residence. If one house is worth significantly less, the spouse with the less expensive house can negotiate additional assets or benefits in order to balance the value of the two properties. However, if that house also has much lower expenses, the spouse with the more expensive home should insist that this benefit be factored into the negotiations.

 What about timeshares?

Treat a timeshare in the same manner you would treat a vacation home or vacation yacht or any other additional asset. First, get it appraised so you know what it is worth. Then, negotiate.

Get help

A seasoned divorce attorney can help you through all the nuanced legal and financial issues involved in divorce because we have helped many people through the process. Contact us here at Ulmer Law to see how we can help you, too.