Tag Archive for: divorce

Congratulations! It took some work, but you got the house after your divorce. Hopefully, you’ll spend many happy, healthy years there. But you run the risk of nightmares all homeowners may have (raccoons in the attic?), plus some that divorcees in particular face.

Surprise! You Have an Open Home Equity Loan!

Marital homes and mortgages are usually in both spouses’ names. The house may be in your spouse’s name only, but you’re taking over ownership. As part of transferring the home to you, you would refinance the mortgage or get a new one, so you’re the only one responsible for paying for it.

As part of the approval process, you may discover an unpaid home equity loan (HELOC) on the property. Your spouse may have taken it without your knowledge or forged your signature on the application. They didn’t disclose it during the divorce process, and your attorney may have used a quitclaim deed to change ownership, so no title search was done.

Home equity funds may be accessed by your ex-spouse through checks or a credit card, which may only need one signature. Contact the lender and cancel all credit lines if this is the case. Put the creditor on written notice that you’re not responsible for further debts. If you’re the victim of identity theft, you could file a police report.

Ending the Nightmare and Preventing Future Ones

Your house is the collateral for a loan your ex took out. From the lender’s perspective, your divorce doesn’t change the fact someone needs to pay the debt. Ideally, when confronted with the truth, they’ll have the resources to pay it off and take care of it, but that’s probably unlikely.

Call our office as soon as possible. We can discuss how to make this right. Your ex-spouse may have failed to disclose the loan or lied about it. Unless we can work this out with your ex, we need to go back to court and change the divorce agreement or order to reflect this newly discovered liability.

The amended order should spell out how your ex will resolve the issue. If they don’t have the money on hand to pay the debt, they could be required to sell or liquidate assets or property to clear it up.

This HELOC can be a big problem, but also a sign your ex may have left other financial landmines behind. We may review both parties’ finances again to ensure that’s not the case. If your ex owns their own business, that may be worth looking into because it can be used to hide assets.

If you’ve gotten nasty surprises after you thought your divorce was final, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss your options and how we can help you.

Starting a new life during or after a divorce is difficult enough. If one of your beloved children is your spouse’s spy, it can make things that much tougher. You need privacy, though depending on your child’s maturity, you may have a hard time keeping it.

Like so many other issues, you need a frank, adult discussion with your spouse on what is shared by whom and when. This must be tempered by your child’s age, personality, and maturity. What you should expect from a seven-year-old is different from what you should expect from a 17-year-old.

Sharing Too Much is Bad

You should both agree that your kids shouldn’t be telling the two of you details about each other’s lives. You also shouldn’t use your child to collect intelligence on each other nor should you believe everything you hear.

Generally, we want our kids to share. We want them to talk about their day and share their feelings, toys, and time. But they must learn that sometimes sharing is not a good idea. They must understand that some things, like information, shouldn’t always be shared. It may be difficult for a child to draw lines between things they can talk about and what they can’t.

It may not be your spouse bribing your child for the latest dirt. Your child may see it as a game. They have something they think has value, so they may believe they’ll get a treat if they tell it to you. The more you tell them you don’t want to hear it, the more they may want to spill the beans.

The two of you should also agree to communicate things impacting your child openly. It’s one thing to date someone new and maintain your privacy, but if they come to your home and meet your kids, you should let your spouse know what’s happening.

Sometimes, Not Sharing Enough is Bad, and Lying is Never Good

You must clarify to your child that there are still important things to talk about, like if someone is abusing, bullying, or harming them. If you or your spouse is losing control and lashing out at your child or neglecting them, that’s not a secret they should hold. Your child needs to understand which secrets to keep and which ones to divulge.

Telling your child you want to keep your privacy so they shouldn’t disclose some things is one thing. Telling them they should lie to cover something up for you is another. You’re setting an awful example for your child that will come back to haunt you. If you teach your kid it’s okay to lie, that’s a lesson they’ll use for years.

In the future, when you catch your child in a lie and it angers you, who’s to blame? Don’t you think your child will throw back in your face the lessons in lying you taught them? Parents in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

If you are considering getting divorced or need legal representation in a divorce matter, it is critical to get help and guidance from a trusted expert in family law. Contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.

A spouse may feel angry and betrayed when you want a divorce. If they can’t handle the situation, they may exact revenge, stalk you, and possibly become violent. Thanks to the internet and smartphones, it’s never been easier to stalk someone. 

What is Stalking? 

Stalking is using unwanted, harassing, or threatening tactics that cause fear or safety concerns in the victim, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These tactics may include: 

  • Following and watching you 
  • Approaching you or showing up where you are, whether that’s in a public place, your home, or workplace 
  • Using global positioning system (GPS) technology to track you 
  • Going into a private place while you’re elsewhere and leaving you items or objects to scare or threaten you 
  • Using technology to spy on you 
  • Making unwanted phone calls, text messages, emails, social media posts, or photo messages 
  • Sending you unwanted cards, gifts, letters, or flowers 

What your spouse might do to stalk you is only limited to their twisted imagination. 

What Can I Do to Prevent Being Stalked? 

Some steps can make stalking more difficult: 

  • Stay off of social media. The more information about your life you put on social media, the easier it is for your spouse to find you 
  • Change your phone number and email address to prevent unwanted phone calls, texts, and emails 
  • If your spouse had access to your smartphone, PC, or laptop, they might have uploaded spyware or stalkerware. It allows them to know everything you use it for and track you. You can try to find it on your device and remove it, but the most effective way to prevent this from affecting you is to get another one 
  • Your spouse may have put an Apple AirTag on your vehicle. This is an electronic device that can allow them to see where it is in real-time. This article explains more about what this is, how it works, and ways to try to prevent this from happening 
  • Lock your smartphone by using a code, a fingerprint, or face recognition technology
  • Turn off the location setting (until you need it to get somewhere), and don’t share your location 
  • Change your routine, so your movements are less predictable 
  • Tell your employer what’s going on in case your spouse shows up at your workplace or tries to call you there  
  • If you are threatened in any way or physically struck, call the police and press charges 
  • If you qualify, get a protection from abuse order. It shows your spouse you’re serious about ending the stalking. If it continues, call the police. If your spouse is arrested and convicted, they may face fines and jail time 

Sadly, you need to take these actions and change your life, but when dealing with a stalker, you need to protect yourself as best you can. Hopefully, your spouse will stop when they see the negative consequences of their actions. 

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Trust 

We’ve handled many divorces where the relationship totally broke down, and one spouse became hostile toward the other. This can be a difficult and stressful time, but we’re here to help you get through this and enable you to start a new life. Contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. for additional guidance on family law, divorce, protection from abuse orders, and all things divorce. 

There are many moving pieces to divorce in Bucks and Montgomery Counties here in PA, and if they’re not addressed correctly and coherently you can end up caught in a legal, financial, and emotional mess. The more complex your finances and wealth, and if you have children, the more you need a lawyer to represent your interests in a divorce. It’s a legal proceeding that will affect you and your children for the rest of your lives. 

Not every legal matter requires legal representation, but you should at least consult with an attorney before you move forward. If you and your spouse have low incomes and have little or no property, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania may help you through the process. Another option, if the two of you are on good terms, may be a collaborative divorce in which you work with (and need only pay) one attorney to finalize the divorce. 

You Don’t Want to Learn About Divorce While Working on Your Own Case 

If this doesn’t describe you and your family, an attorney should represent you in a divorce. We will protect your rights, ensure you take full advantage of them, and get the best outcome possible. Given your financial well-being, your relationship with your children, and your future are at stake, paying for an attorney is a worthwhile investment. 

Chances are excellent that unless you are a divorce attorney, you lack the knowledge, experience, and skills to make the best of your divorce and put yourself in a good position to start your new life.  

You hire specialists for other areas of your life without much thought. You probably don’t fix your car or make major repairs on your home. You may pay someone else to prepare your taxes. You’re smart enough to understand that there are complex things you don’t understand well enough to handle yourself, so it’s better to hire someone to tackle them for you. 

Where Lack of Legal Representation Can Cause You Severe Problems 

Here are some of the issues that could cause serious harm if you represent yourself and make mistakes: 

  • Dividing assets and debts: A critical part of the divorce process is identifying which assets and debts are marital and subject to division, then dividing them equitably. You may have property you owned before your marriage or inherited during it that shouldn’t be shared with your spouse. Your spouse may also be responsible for debts you are not obligated to help repay. Going it alone could result in handing over your assets and putting yourself on the hook for debts that aren’t yours. 
  • Spousal support and alimony: You or your spouse may or may not be entitled to alimony or spousal support. If you are entitled to it but don’t assert your rights, you could miss a substantial amount of money. If your spouse wants support without a legal right to it or seeks more than they legally deserve, you may unnecessarily transfer a big chunk of your income to your ex in the future. 
  • Child custody and support: Your spouse may not be fit to make crucial decisions for your child, but without legal representation, they may be awarded custody. Your spouse may also demand more child support than what’s justified under the law. 

This situation worsens if your spouse has an attorney, but you don’t. This is not an even playing field because you are at a severe disadvantage. If you can’t agree to a settlement, will you represent yourself at a trial? 

Speak to a Divorce Attorney You Can Trust 

If you have any questions about divorce or think it may be in your future, don’t make any decisions until you talk to us. Contact Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., to schedule a consultation so we can discuss your situation, how the law may apply, and how we can help. 

If you suspect your husband is lying during your divorce settlement, it is critical to disprove his statements, since your husband’s lies could significantly decrease your settlement, affect child custody, or damage your reputation. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to advise you on all legal means available to prove his deception.

Lying under oath, whether in court or in signed affidavits, is a serious offense and can carry civil and criminal penalties. A judge has discretion regarding how to punish lying. For example, depending on the severity of the perjury, he or she could require your lying husband to pay your legal fees, increase your settlement, award you sole custody, or apply criminal charges.

It is critical that you yourself do not lie. You must maintain integrity so there is a clear choice for the judge when your husband’s credibility is damaged by the exposure of his lies. Remember to always take the high road. Remain calm during meetings and court proceedings as well as on social media or email. It is best not to comment at all about your spouse publicly, especially online. 

Lying about finances

Unfortunately, lying about one’s finances is fairly common in divorce proceedings, but it can also be somewhat easy to prove with the right documentation. The difficulty is recognizing the different ways money can be hidden. Review our blog post, What if Your Ex Hid Money During the Divorce, for the many subtle ways money can be hidden. You can provide evidence that your husband is hiding assets in many different ways:

  • Bank, investment, and retirement account statements
  • Income tax returns
  • Household bills
  • Credit card statements 

It is possible your husband has income streams of which you are unaware. Your attorney may recommend you enlist the service of a financial auditor to dig deeply into your husband’s financial matters. 

Lying about you or your relationship

Character assassination is taken seriously by the courts, and your lawyer will know what legal recourse can be taken to stop the intentional damage to your reputation. Although it is uncommon for a husband to accuse a wife of physical abuse, emotional abuse could be alleged. In addition, your husband could lie about having another relationship or might accuse you of infidelity. Whatever the lies, take these steps to disprove them: 

  • Keep copies of social media posts and emails that support your position.
  • Maintain a log of conversations, situations, or events, including dates and times, describing the events and keeping track of quotes to the best of your ability. Indicate if it is a direct quote or a paraphrase.
  • Collect witnesses to the events in question who will sign affidavits supporting your position.
  • Find character witnesses who can speak for your character as well as your husband’s. 

You may need to secure the help of a private investigator to follow your spouse and collect more information.                                                                                                                                                             

Lying about children

As with lies about you, lies about the children or the husband’s involvement in child-rearing are best proven with logs, pictures, social media posts, and witnesses who can give evidence to the level of involvement he had with the children, his behavior toward them, and yours. You may also be able to provide documentation from the schools regarding who attended parent-teacher meetings, who picked the children up or dropped them off, and whose signature was on checks. See our blog post, Obtaining Sole Custody in PA, for additional information. 

One final note, if you want to try to “catch” your spouse lying it is critical to talk with our office immediately, especially if you believe you can record them (over the phone or in person) in the lie. Pennsylvania law has serious wiretapping laws that require consent if either the recorder or any other parties are in the state when the recording is occurring. If you record your ex, for any reason, you could face very steep penalties without that consent.  

Whatever the type of lie, your experienced divorce attorney can subpoena records, request gag orders, and schedule depositions for your husband or his witnesses under oath, in order to uncover any inconsistencies or deceptions in your husband’s statements. At Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., we know how to protect our clients and hold lying spouses accountable. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

When couples with children divorce, many child custody issues need to be addressed, including who will pay for the children’s health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs. If parents cannot come to an agreement out of court, the judge will decide for them. In Pennsylvania, certain general standards are followed, which may be adjusted to the family’s particular circumstances.

Who provides health insurance coverage?

The judge will look at factors such as whether one or both parents have access to employer-sponsored health insurance, the relative benefits, costs of each, and which parent is currently providing insurance. Generally, but not always, the parent paying child support and/or having the higher income will be responsible for providing health insurance coverage. In some circumstances, the cost of providing health insurance will be split between the parents, in the amount proportionate to their incomes.

According to PA law, if neither parent is able to provide medical insurance, either because there is no employer-sponsored plan or because the plan exceeds “reasonable cost,” defined as 5% of net monthly income, the court may order that the child be covered under a PA government-sponsored plan.

Within 30 days of the court order, the parent providing coverage must submit written proof to the other parent that insurance has been obtained, including insurance cards and other necessary materials.

Who pays for copays and other out-of-pocket expenses?

Copays and other medical expenses in excess of $250.00 are allocated proportionately to the parents’ income. Medical expenses include surgical, dental, optical, and orthodontics, but not cosmetic, chiropractic, or psychiatric care unless so ordered by the court.

Since doctors and hospitals do not automatically allocate their bills to each parent, contact their billing offices and establish a contract defining what percentage of each bill should be charged to each parent. Both parents should sign the contract. This will avoid having the custodial parent receive the bill and be held responsible for paying it in full, leading to either a struggle to get reimbursement from the other parent or being hounded by bill collectors.

When does the obligation to provide healthcare insurance end?

Unless otherwise stipulated in an agreement or court order, a parent’s responsibility to provide health insurance ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later.

Whenever possible, divorcing couples should work to develop an out-of-court agreement, with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer, so that no stone is left unturned and no loophole is missed. By doing so, both parents maintain control over the situation and avoid turning over to a judge the final decisions that will so closely affect their own futures and the futures of their children. Contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.

In Pennsylvania, a divorced custodial parent cannot move out of state without informing the other parent, who has the legal right to object and attempt to block the move. 

We know you may want to move out of state for many reasons including a job opportunity, to be closer to family, or even just a fresh start. However, the other parent, even if they do not have custody, still has a right to be involved in the decision and possibly even block it. The courts are going to want to ensure that the move is not going to interfere with the non-custodial parent’s ability to be involved in the lives of their children.

Custodial parent’s legal duty in order to move out of state in PA

The custodial parent must serve the non-custodial parent and anyone else who has partial custody or visitation rights with official notice by sending a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, 60 days before the move. If the custodial parent does not know 60 days before the move, the non-custodial parent must be informed within 10 days of the custodial parent finding out about the need to move. The letter must include:

  • Expected relocation date
  • Purpose of relocation
  • New street address, mailing address, and home phone number
  • Names and ages of everyone who will be living at the home with the children
  • Names of the new school and school district
  • Proposed adjusted visitation plans for the non-custodial parent
  • Any other relevant information

The non-custodial parent (or other person with court-assigned custody or visitation rights) has 30 days to file an objection to block the move, after which he or she loses the right to block relocation.

Factors the court considers

The burden of proof is on the relocating parent to demonstrate that the move would be beneficial to the children, improving their quality of life or standard of living without significantly affecting their relationship with the non-custodial parent in a negative way. The non-custodial parent must present arguments demonstrating valid reasons why the custodial parent should not be permitted to take the children away.

The court will weigh the factors:

  • The advantages of the move for the custodial parent and the children
  • The seriousness and validity of the moving parent’s reasons for the move. For instance, not simply because the parent wants a change of scenery or a new start
  • The seriousness and validity of the non-custodial parent’s objections
  • The level of involvement of the non-custodial parent in the children’s lives – for instance, attending sporting events and school events regularly outside of visitation time vs. only seeing or talking to the children every other weekend
  • The reasonableness of the new visitation arrangements, demonstrating no adverse effect on the relationship of the children with the non-custodial parent

Ultimately, while the court cannot stop a custodial parent from moving out of state, it can prevent him or her from taking the children. If the custodial parent still chooses to move, the custody of the children will be transferred to the other parent (or another responsible party, such as a grandparent).

If you are divorced and you or your ex is planning to move, it is critical to get help and guidance from a trusted expert in custody law. Contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.

As long as there has been litigation, there have been parties willing and able to use fraudulent evidence. It’s used to sway a judge or jury or pressure the other party into an unfavorable settlement. The only thing that’s changed is that the technology used to create these fakes has improved, but they can still be exposed as fraud.  

Why This is a Really Bad Idea 

Using fabricated evidence is an all-or-nothing strategy. Depending on the situation and the materials used, a spouse could get away with this and reach their goals. But if it’s exposed, no judge will tolerate a party trying to engage in fraud against the court. If this happens and your case goes to a trial, the judge may not permit your spouse to present any evidence, so the case will be decided based on your side of the story. 

No competent attorney will be involved in knowingly presenting falsified evidence in any legal matter. If they do, they risk being professionally sanctioned and their reputation tainted. No client is worth it. If your spouse falsifies a government document or forges your signature, they may be criminally charged. 

That Doesn’t Mean Your Spouse Won’t Try It 

The fake evidence someone may use is only limited by their imagination and ability to produce it. It can be as simple as falsely describing a conversation the two of you had. If there are no witnesses or recordings, it’s your word against your spouse’s. Other kinds of fake evidence are more complicated: 

  • Text messages or emails can be altered or fabricated, but you should have copies of the messages you send. You should keep copies of any messages sent by your spouse in case they later change something sent to you.
  • Faked phone messages would require changes by audio editing software. This software is free, openly available, and with a little practice, your spouse may be able to create a new message that sounds natural. If this happens, its authenticity can be challenged. If they claim you left it on a specific date and time, through your phone records you should be able to show you didn’t call your spouse then. A judge should only accept a voicemail recording from your husband’s service provider, not one downloaded from your spouse’s laptop. 
  • Your spouse may alter or create pictures and videos using Photoshop, Filmora, or similar software. You and others present when the event took place may testify what’s presented didn’t happen. An expert can also analyze the images and testify that the photos or videos have been altered and how it was done. 
  • The next frontier of fakery is using artificial intelligence to create audio or video recordings. Software and apps are available to do this, but the result would need to be convincing if someone wants to use it as evidence. There can be testimony asserting that what’s in the video never happened, and expert testimony could show it’s the result of video and audio manipulation 

If your spouse presents you with faked material they threaten to use, don’t panic. It may be good for your case. After it’s shown to be fake, your spouse will have no credibility, which is critical in divorce and child custody cases, and it may substantially hamper their ability to tell their side of the story to a judge. It also shows how desperate your spouse is and how fearful they are of your evidence. 

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust 

If you need help with a divorce or child custody dispute, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

Smart devices and social media are integral parts of our lives. But they can cause problems if you’re getting a divorce or preparing for one. The biggest issues are making damaging statements on social media and losing your privacy on your smartphone, laptop, or computer. It may be best to put your hands up and step away from your smartphone.  

Your Spouse the Casual Snooper 

Your smartphone may be how you make phone calls and view and send emails and texts related to your divorce. If you’re still living together, your spouse may look through your smartphone to see who you’re calling and who’s calling you. Your spouse may also read your texts and emails.  

You should make your devices as secure as possible. Change the password on your phone, shut off notifications, and delete unnecessary apps. Cancel accounts you own jointly, like Netflix or Apple. 

All remaining accounts and apps should have two-step authentication. If someone tries to access the account or change a password, you should get an email or text confirming that you’re the one taking the action. If you weren’t, don’t permit the change to happen. 

You should also go “old school” to protect your privacy by getting a post office box. If someone mails something divorce-related to you, your spouse won’t have access to it. 

Spyware and What You Can Do About It 

Changing passwords will make devices hard to use if your spouse is physically looking at your device when the opportunity arises. But if your spouse is knowledgeable and under-handed enough, your spouse may install illegal spyware, which may render your security efforts useless. 

Spyware is hidden software that secretly records information and tracks your activities. It may monitor and copy everything you enter, store, upload, and download. It also may be sophisticated enough to track your location and, without you being aware, turn on a device’s camera and microphone so your spouse can spy on you in real-time. 

Instead of trying to find and delete spyware, you could use your devices for everything other than divorce-related matters but buy a “burner” phone or laptop. You pre-pay for time using a “burner” phone, then dispose of it when you’re done. If possible, keep it secret, locked away when you’re not using it, and password protected. You could do the same with an inexpensive Chromebook which you can use for emails and internet research. 

Social Media is Not Your Friend 

You need support from friends and family to get through a divorce. Just don’t use social media to discuss it with them. Talk on the phone or in person. Anything you post on social media could be evidence that may be used against you. Complain about your spouse and the divorce process all you want, but not in a way that could damage your case.  

If you’re disciplined enough, maintain your accounts and post about things unrelated to your spouse and divorce. If you’re someone who blows off steam online, stop using social media to avoid the temptation. 

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust 

If you want help with preparing for a divorce, have questions about the process, or need legal representation, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200. 

A prenuptial agreement, if properly executed, can make a divorce much simpler, so the process consumes less time, energy, and money. If you plan on getting married, it’s something worth considering. Here in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, we make sure that you have an airtight prenup when you get married and also skillfully use your prenuptial agreement should you get divorced.  

What is a Prenuptial Agreement? 

A prenuptial agreement, or a premarital contract or “prenup,” is a contract between two people planning to marry. It’s a written, signed document containing mutual promises. It goes into effect when the two marry. The parties release their rights when they divorce, or one dies.  

It can cover who pays what expenses during the marriage and what will happen if there’s a divorce: 

  • Who will receive how much alimony 
  • How property will be divided 
  • How assets and debts will be divided 

Who will get what kind of child custody and who will pay how much child support are not topics in a prenup. Those agreements will be part of your divorce agreement.   

What Makes a Prenup Valid? 

To be enforceable, the agreement must be: 

  • Written 
  • Voluntarily signed by the parties 
  • Not severely unfair and one-sided (one party will not be left destitute)  
  • A result of both parties fully disclosing their financial information 
  • Free of fraud or duress 

Both parties need to have attorneys help them put the agreement together and review it. This is a significant component in ensuring that the prenup is enforceable.   

Can a Prenup Be Disputed? 

A prenup can be challenged if a party can make a good faith argument that it isn’t enforceable. A court should uphold the prenup unless there’s clear and convincing evidence showing legal requirements weren’t met. A prenup may have been very fair when it was written but due to a change of circumstances, one party is going to now be left destitute.  That will not be allowed.  

What are Potential Complications? 

When a marriage starts, both parties make assumptions based on what they want to do or what they think will happen. But life is complicated: 

  • Both parties may be employed, so the agreement may be made based on that continuing. One or both may be temporarily unemployed at some point. One may suffer a disability, so that person has a lower or no income.  
  • A party may own a business before the marriage or start one after the wedding. The business may do very well, so there’s more income and assets than expected, or very poorly, so the income is much lower than what they planned for, or a spouse (or both spouses) may be deep in debt.
  • The two may have a child and one spouse may become a stay-at-home parent. If they weren’t planning for a child, expenses might be much higher than expected and income much lower 

Prenups should account for many possibilities, not just what the couple plans to do. If they encounter financial challenges that aren’t covered, it can cause conflicts during the divorce. 

Get Help With a Prenup From an Attorney You Can Trust 

If you have questions about prenups, want help creating one, or feel the one you signed shouldn’t be enforced, use our online calendar to schedule a free consultation or call us at (215) 752-6200.