Michael E. Eisenberg
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Montgomery County Family Law Blog

How to avoid financial regrets after divorce

Going through a divorce can be an expensive process. A report from Fidelity Investments shows that it usually takes about five years for a person to recover from this financial blow. Pennsylvania residents may be interested in some preventative measures they can take to protect their finances in case of divorce.

The same report from Fidelity Investments showed that 80% of respondents regretted the fact that they were not more involved in their family's finances. A good way to avoid that regret is by paying attention to the household finances and getting involved. Knowledge is power, so each partner should have knowledge of the family's financial situation from the beginning. No matter who does the investments or pays the bills, each partner should have access to tax returns, bank accounts and retirement balances.

What should your Pennsylvania parenting plan include?

Unless there's a dangerous situation in your family, such as neglect, addiction or abuse, it is highly unlikely that the Pennsylvania courts will choose to award sole custody to one parent over the other in a divorce. Instead, as the courts want to focus on the best interest of the children, shared custody is usually the preferred outcome.

In order to make parenting as straightforward as possible, many divorcing couples will create a thorough parenting plan. You can submit a parenting plan to the courts as part of an uncontested divorce filing or create one after the courts outline their division of custody in the case. Knowing what you need to include in your parenting plan will make the process of creating one that works for your entire family easier.

New year, new relationship status

For some Pennsylvania residents, the new year might mean a new relationship status from married to divorced as divorce filings increase at the beginning of the new year. While the overall divorce rate dropped by 8% from 2007 to 2017, the trend of increased divorce filings in January has continued. The increase is marked enough that January is unofficially known as "divorce month."

The decision to seek a divorce after the holidays might come from having lived through stressful experiences including traveling and additional family time. For a marriage that was already struggling, this might be the breaking point, driving people to seek a divorce to prevent having to go through this the next year.

What are the different kinds of child custody in Pennsylvania?

Family law in Pennsylvania is more complex than many people realize. For example, quite a few people, even those who have actually been through a divorce or who witnessed the divorce of their parents, may not really understand the different kinds of child custody.

The kinds of child custody in Pennsylvania include legal custody and physical custody, which have nothing to do with how the state divides those forms of custody, commonly in a parenting plan. Sole or shared custody rights reflect which parent has physical and legal custody rights.

Planning for the financial aspects of divorce

When people in Pennsylvania decide to divorce, they may struggle with the complicated emotional, legal and financial aspects of the end of a marriage. While divorce rates have declined from around half of all marriages to around 39%, separating can be financially devastating, especially for couples who have amassed significant assets. It is important for both parties to understand the family finances comprehensively in order to make sure that they are receiving a fair settlement in the property division process. There are specialized financial advisers who can work along with a divorce attorney to examine financial records and make recommendations.

Each person should compile a complete list of family assets and the sums involved, including retirement funds, investment accounts and regular savings and checking accounts. Even pensions from each partner's job should be included in this process. It is also important to understand both parties' income, and pay stubs, tax returns and other items can help to get the information needed. During property division, debt is divided as well as assets, so spouses should make sure to get copies of their credit reports, credit card bills, mortgage documents and other information.

Child visitation cannot be denied for these reasons

It can be tempting for a parent to use their child as leverage after a divorce. Bitterness, hostility and anger can make a person feel like the only way they can get back at the ex is to refuse visitation. If a court has granted a non-custodial parent visitation rights, interfering with these can lead to jail time, fines and even loss of custody. Here are some other illegitimate reasons Pennsylvania parents should avoid using to deny visitation.

A custodial parent may say that the non-custodial parent should not have the children spend the night at their home because they do not have a bedroom for the child. If they lack a separate bedroom for the child or children, this is not an appropriate reason to refuse visitation. The same thing goes for a parent being behind on child support payments. They still have the right to see the children if they are behind.

Under what circumstances are prenupial agreements useful?

Getting married is a huge commitment, and it is understandable if you have concerns before going through with the ceremony. No matter how content and secure you currently feel in your relationship, it's always good to have a contingency plan. You should understand state laws and think about what would likely happen if you were to go through a divorce in the next few years.

In Pennsylvania, community property is not recognized at divorce. This means that assets will be subject to equitable distribution. During the equitable distribution process, courts take many different factors into account to establish how assets should be distributed to achieve a fair outcome for all. If you are the primary wage earner, it may mean that you lose a large proportion of the assets you have worked to accumulate over the years.

How to parent successfully with a narcissist ex-spouse

Marital discord can lead to some Pennsylvania couples deciding that divorce is the only option and that co-parenting the children from different households is best for everyone involved. Some individuals are dealing with an ex-spouse who is a narcissist. They may find it difficult to maintain their sanity and put their children's best interests first.

There are several steps that individuals can take in order to improve their communication with a toxic ex-spouse. Unfortunately, name-calling, manipulation, sarcasm and drama often surround communication with a narcissist. It is empowering to remember that a person does not have to respond to everything that the narcissist says or does. They have control over when and how they will engage with the person.

Financial considerations in divorce

Divorce is one of the most stressful events that a person can go through in life, and it is becoming more common for people over the age of 50. When people in Pennsylvania get divorced later in life, they are more likely to have financial investments that need to be divided and accounted for before, during and after the process is complete. Among the tasks that should be accomplished are updating beneficiaries, gaining access to accounts, dividing investments and splitting retirement accounts.

Beneficiaries must be designated on a number of different types of assets. On some of them, a person's spouse is automatically designated unless a change is requested. For that reason, it is important to make sure the beneficiary designations on any accounts are updated following a divorce, or the assets might automatically transfer to the person's ex-spouse on death.

Does your ex have a claim to your inheritance in a divorce?

When you know that divorce is in your immediate future, you will likely start worrying about the financial implications of the end of your marriage. From consulting with an attorney to trying to build up a savings account, there are many ways people attempt to offset the financial consequences of an impending divorce.

Trying to protect the assets that you perceive as yours or highly valuable is a common strategy, but it is often fraught with difficulty. Some people want to lay claim to assets that they rightfully need to share with their spouses. Other people make minor mistakes during their marriage that could have financial implications in the divorce.

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Michael E. Eisenberg Attorney At Law

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