Michael E. Eisenberg
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Montgomery County Family Law Blog

Helping kids deal with their parents' divorce

Pennsylvania parents deciding to divorce may be concerned about how they can best protect the parent-child relationship despite the end of a marriage. Divorce can be a difficult time for children. They may feel like they are supposed to be on one parent's side, or they may worry that their parents will leave them as well. Some kids, especially younger children, may feel that they are at fault for the divorce. Even the practical changes that accompany the end of a marriage can have a particular impact on children who move back and forth between their parents' homes on a regular basis.

However, parents can take action to help protect their children from emotional trauma during divorce and let them emerge from the situation with a healthy, positive outlook. One of the most important things that parents can do is avoid putting their children in the middle of the divorce. Kids may often have divided loyalties, and it is important for them to understand that they do not need to choose one parent over the other. When kids feel like they cannot say anything positive about one parent to the other, they may lose a close connection as a result. Therefore, parents have a responsibility not only to avoid putting their former partners down but also to encourage a positive relationship.

How supervised visitation works for families

Supervised visitation can be an essential tool to protect a child's well-being in Pennsylvania even while preserving the relationship with a troubled or complicated parent. Most family courts prefer joint custody, which is when both parents share roughly equal time with the children. If this is not possible, regular and extensive visitation can also foster the relationship with the noncustodial parent. In some cases, however, a parent's issues are more serious. There may be allegations of child abuse or domestic violence. Some parents may also be struggling with an addiction or have an untreated mental illness that leaves them unable to care for the child properly.

Supervised visitation can take place in the presence of a professional, like a counselor or social worker, or a designated family member. In the court order for this type of visitation, the family court judge will designate who is responsible for supervising the visits. Depending on the circumstances, visitation may take place in the parent's home or in a neutral location such as a child care center.

Thinking about divorce from a financial viewpoint

On Jan. 1, 2019, alimony payments began to receive the same tax treatment as child support payments. This means that the person making the payments doesn't get a tax break and the recipient doesn't have to count payments as income. The rule applied to any divorce settlements finalized in Pennsylvania on or after that date. For those who weren't able to take advantage of the old alimony rules, there are still ways to structure a favorable divorce settlement.

For instance, it may be possible to receive a portion of an IRA or 401(k) account balance from a former spouse. To split a 401(k) or other qualified account balances without an early withdrawal penalty, it will be necessary to obtain a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). To avoid paying income taxes on retirement funds received in a divorce, the recipient should roll the balance directly into an IRA.

Entrepreneurs may be concerned about divorce

When business owners in Pennsylvania consider divorce, they may be particularly concerned about how the end of their marriage will affect the future of their business. After all, the economic effects of a divorce can last long after the emotional and practical concerns are resolved. This can be particularly true for entrepreneurs in smaller family businesses when the company itself is part of shared marital property and produces a significant amount of the couple's joint income. However, there are some things that business owners can keep in mind to help them emerge from the divorce process.

The future of the business can be a major part of the discussion and negotiations over property division. Because Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, even a business that is marital property will not necessarily be divided equally in half. At the same time, business owners should plan for how they can retain their business in challenging circumstances. There are several ways that people can handle this issue, including the other spouse taking a larger share of other marital property like retirement funds or real estate. This type of division essentially serves to buy out the other spouse.

Debt can put pressure on a marriage

Married couples in Pennsylvania who have student loan debt may at a higher risk of getting divorced. The average student loan balance has increased 62% over the past decade to $34,000. Furthermore, the number of people who owe more than $50,000 in student loan debts has also increased significantly.

Those who took out loans to go to school will ideally disclose how much they owe prior to getting married. This can make it possible to create a plan for paying the debt as well as a plan for what happens if the marriage were to end. For instance, if one spouse pays a balance owed by the other spouse, that person could be entitled to reimbursement in the event of a divorce. However, this would only be true if a prenuptial or other type of agreement was reached prior to the wedding or prior to the divorce itself.

How to get the most out of parent time

It's not uncommon for parents to feel like they're not getting as much out of their parent time as they'd like to. Whether you're freshly divorced and transitioning into a custody routine or simply trying to pull your teen away from a video game, it can be challenging to make use of these short intermittent periods.

Here are a few tips every parent can use to try to maintain a close bond with their child while spending time together.

Alimony disputes can be contentious

Alimony is typically the last issue decided in a Pennsylvania divorce case. For the most part, child custody and support as well as property division are considered greater priorities. Nevertheless, alimony can prove to be a major source of disagreement between former partners. If the parties cannot agree, a judge could step in and make a final order on alimony.

Despite common use of the words interchangeably, alimony and spousal support under Pennsylvania law are different. Legal professionals report that there are actually three distinct awards provided from one party to the other in a divorce -- the period after separation but before the divorce is filed, while the divorce is pending but not finalized and after the divorce is final. The later is properly called alimony. There are a number of factors that are considered in the determination of whether alimony will be awarded, in what amount and for what duration.

Can I get an annulment in Pennsylvania?

It's understandable to think of divorce and annulment as the same thing. After all, they both lead to the conclusion of a marriage. While this is technically true, an annulment is the voiding of a marriage whereas divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.

While Pennsylvania recognizes many grounds for divorce, a court may grant an annulment if one of the following is true:

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Michael E. Eisenberg Attorney At Law

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