Michael E. Eisenberg
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Montgomery County Family Law Blog

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:

Considerations that are made in child support cases

The rules that apply to child support in divorce cases are relatively fluid. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Parents in Pennsylvania who are going through a divorce and have children may want to learn about some of the considerations that are made in most child support cases.

Each family has different circumstances, which the courts look at when determining who the children will live with and if it will be necessary for one of the parents to pay child support. Child support is designed to spread the cost of taking care of the children between both parents.

Joint custody more common as attitudes toward parenting shift

Pennsylvania parents who are deciding on child custody could be faced with a difficult process although every individual case is different. That wasn't always true in the past when the vast majority of custody cases were decided entirely in favor of the mother. Now, courts tend to prefer shared parenting or joint custody arrangements. Experts say that this is due to many changing attitudes over the years.

Working women and a more casual attitude about divorce itself are some of the things that experts point to as reasons for the shift away from defaulting to the mother as the custodial parent. Today, the prevailing attitude is that children are best off being raised by two parents whether those parents live together or apart.

How is child custody determined in Pennsylvania?

For many years, it was almost automatic that fathers received custody of children in a divorce. In the middle of the 20th century, that flipped and child custody often went to mothers while fathers received custody on holidays and weekends.

In recent years, judges go into child custody hearings with the mindset not to favor one parent or the other but to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

Expert witnesses helpful in Pennsylvania divorces

Many Pennsylvania spouses who are going through a divorce are anxious about the process and have no idea what to expect. It's important to remember that each divorcing couple's circumstances are different. Small details can mean the difference between a smooth, amicable separation and a lengthy, contentious battle. Generally, the most complicated divorces involve couples who have a high-net worth, own a business or have fundamental disagreements regarding custody of the children.

Child custody disputes during divorce are quite common. In such cases, it is advantageous to retain the services of a child custody expert. As one might expect, custody experts testify on the ultimate issue -- the best interests of the child. In order to support an argument in favor of one parent obtaining custody, a child custody expert usually interviews family members, teachers and other people who may be close to the child. Child custody experts often have training in the mental health field.

Planning for taxes after divorce

Pennsylvania parents who decide to divorce may consider many factors relating to how the end of the marriage might affect the parent-child relationship. From child custody and visitation to negotiating an amicable co-parenting framework, divorcing parents do a great deal of work to prepare for their future. One issue that people may not consider immediately is how the divorce might change their tax filings.

Of course, people who divorce must now file their taxes as single rather than jointly as a married couple. In addition, only one parent can claim each child as a dependent per year. This can be important because it provides access to key tax credits like the Child Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. After the changes to tax law introduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, these credits are more important than ever to achieving important tax savings. In addition, a parent who can claim a child as a dependent can file using Head of Household status.

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Michael E. Eisenberg Attorney At Law

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