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Pennsylvania Family Law Blog

Why last year's calendar is important in child custody cases

The first thing Pennsylvania residents may want to do when the first of the year rolls around is toss out their old calendar and put up a new one. However, that old calendar could prove useful in both child custody and divorce cases. It can be an important piece of evidence to help an individual prove their case.

When it comes to child custody, a parent seeking custody will be asked to lay out their child's schedule, important events and health history. Going through a divorce and litigation can cause a person to experience brain fog. It can be difficult to remember the details. However, it is the details that are are a huge factor when it comes to winning a child custody case.

Postnuptial agreements can help a couple organize their finances

Couples in Pennsylvania who are in need of a financial reset may consider signing a postnuptial agreement. This is a legal contract between marriage partners. It serves to protect assets that are acquired throughout the time that a couple is married. It is kind of like a prenuptial agreement, but it is signed during the marriage.

A postnuptial agreement may be beneficial when helping a couple to look at their finances and add some clarity. It can help the couple establish new money routines, especially if one or both partners is not the best at handling money. It can also help to correct past financial actions that were wrong.

Let us guide you through the family law issues in a divorce

When Pennsylvania couples decide to end their marriage, a lot of questions crop up as to how to achieve that end. A divorce, while promising a new beginning at the end of the process, also raises a lot of uncertainties and issues that need to be addressed keeping in mind both the short and long term.

While every divorce differs, depending on the individual circumstances, there are a few issues that must be addressed in every situation. How property and assets going to be divided, ranging from major decisions like who keeps the house to who keeps the dining sets, is an important consideration, as is who is going to be paying alimony and for how long. If children are involved, emotional questions revolving around their custody and support payments are also likely to rise. Keeping a level head during these discussions is essential.

How is property division decided in a divorce?

It is an unfortunate statistic that a first marriage lasts 12 years on average, and 50% of those end up in divorce. This means while couples are planning on how to spend the rest of their lives together, they should also have a plan in place for how to spend the rest of their lives separately.

During a marriage, a couple accumulates a lot of assets and liabilities together. A house, bank accounts, property, investment accounts, college accounts and vehicles are just some of the assets people end up collecting together. And when it comes to property division at the end of the marriage, all these assets are divided between couples equitably. It is important to keep in mind this is not the same as equally. Assets will not necessarily be divided in half.

Does your child support agreement include unforeseen expenses?

A lot of things change when a Pennsylvania family goes from living together as a single unit to deciding to live in separate households with custody, alimony and child support arrangements. This decision brings with it a lot of uncertainty and confusion, as individuals begin their journey into the unknown, often alone. Where couples previously may have been able to calmly discuss matters, child custody and support decisions can make them turn acrimonious towards one another.

Many people do not realize the full amount of thought and preparation that child support decisions require. Simply calculating the average monthly expenses of a child is not enough, as number of future decisions must be kept in mind. For example, summer camps, birthday parties, music lessons and soccer practice are just some of the expenses that should be included in child support calculations, but many people neglect to do so. In addition to this, college funds can also be negotiated within the divorce arrangement.

Modifying a child support order

Like virtually all parents, you want to provide the best possible life for your kids. While there is no substitute for quality parenting time, money is important. As such, you may have a legal obligation to pay child support. Alternatively, you may receive monthly payments from your children’s co-parent. 

In Pennsylvania, the consequences of not paying court-ordered child support are severe. If you fail to pay, you may face jail time. You may also lose your driver’s license or your professional license. As such, it is vital to keep up with your support payments. If you simply cannot, asking a judge to modify the obligation may be the right approach. 

When does child support end?

As discussed previously on this blog, the Pennsylvania resident with primary custody of their children will most likely receive child support from the other parent. One of the reasons regular child support payments are so important is because it allows the custodial parent to create a schedule and routine around it. For example, extracurricular activities or childcare services can be scheduled based on knowing how much one is going to receive and when. Therefore, not knowing when such important payments are going to be terminated can cause instability in one's life.

In most states, child support ends when the child turns 18 or goes to college. However, this is not always the case. It is important to know when child support is legally supposed to end, because not only do steps have to be taken to terminate it but ending it before required or continuing to pay after it could have ended can cause financial hardships for one parent or the other.

Factors to consider in child support calculations

Raising a child in today's tough economic times can be financially stressful for many parents. Daily expenses add up, not including the costs of extracurricular activities, doctor's visits and school events. Where a couple living together as a unit can manage their time and budget so that either both are working or one individual's salary can cover all the expenses, this changes after the couple separates. One parent, often the custodial parent, is left trying to cover most of the child's expenses.

Parents can approach the court in Pennsylvania to get the other parent to pitch in with the costs of raising the child until he or she is 18. The case begins when an application for child support is submitted with a local Domestic Relations Office, who can help with establishing paternity, locating the other parent, collection and distribution of child support and enforcement of those obligations.

How can parents ease the back to school transition post divorce?

Going back to school is difficult enough for Pennsylvania children, add to it the uncertainty that comes with divorce and it should come as no surprise that this can be an overwhelming time. Already children are struggling with new classes, teachers, schedules, friends, activities and routines and, if parents are not getting along, this can be more upsetting for children. Divorced parents should use the beginning of the school year to review their parenting plans and communication strategies to ensure that going back to school is as smooth as possible for children.

Schools send out a calendar with important dates and holidays at the beginning of the school year. Similarly, after school programs such as sports and musical concerts also send out their schedules soon after school begins. Parents should go through these papers and add these to a shared calendar while also accommodating them in their parenting plan. This way, parents can figure out transportation, costs and locations for each major event for the whole year early on.

Don't go through the motions: know your rights in a divorce

Going through a divorce, Pennsylvania residents may just want to survive the process and get through it to the other side. The paperwork, evaluations, documentations, discussions and disputes can seem never-ending, and when one is not going through an amicable one, it can be emotionally taxing as well. As a result, people may end up agreeing to terms that are not in their best interest in the long run, just to speed up the process.

However, getting through a divorce is not just about going through the motions. It is important to understand how almost every decision made can have a long-term effect on one's life. For example, neglecting to talk about who will pay for the children's college or who is going to pay back the credit card bill, can have serious financial repercussions that may prevent someone from achieving financial independence.

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