Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Moving On

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. - Helen Keller.

Wise, sage and apropos advice in many divorce situations. While the ending of a marriage and dissolution of a family ranks as one of the most traumatic experience in one’s life, taking control of the situation, and viewing it as an opportunity for a fresh start, can be a significant part of the healing process. There will still be opportunities for happiness - but they do not just magically appear. Take a moment to take stock: what can I do better, where can I improve, how can I make the most of this. The divorce process can be lengthy. Do not let your life stall in the process. Go to a movie, have friends over for dinner, spend time with family . . . anything so that you are not thinking about your divorce 24/7. This will help make the process just a bit more bearable.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Recent Case Law - November 2007

Courts of the Commonwealth Have Been Presented with Some Interesting Issues in the Recent Months.

Grandparents petitioned for custody over a natural father in a case in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County. In Finamore v. Finamore, the court refused to turn custody over to the grandparents and noted that there was not sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of the strong rights of biological parents.

The Court of Common Pleas in Lehigh County was faced with a request from an incarcerated parent to have visitation. However, considering that the father had been incarcerated for 90% of the previous 10 years, had never paid child support for the 4 year old child and had a Protection from Abuse Order against him prohibiting contacting with the mother and the child, the court found that these visits were not in the child’s best interest and that the evidence presented did not overcome the presumption. However, father was permitted to make one phone call per week to the child. Of course, once he is released from prison he will be allowed to seek modification of the visitation schedule. In this case, Roderick v. Cohen, the court did allow the father’s mother (the paternal grandmother) to have some partial custody one afternoon per month, finding that this would be in the child’s best interest.

In the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, the court, in Anderson v. Anderson, ordered husband to pay alimony pendente lite, a portion of wife’s counsel fees and provide a partial advance against equitable distribution for wife where they found an income disparity. In this case, the husband earned approximately $66,000 per year and wife earned less than $25,000 per year. However, it is important to note that these types of awards vary from Master to Master, from Judge to Judge and from County to County. Accordingly, not all courts would provide such a significant award based on this disparity of income. These cases are decided on an individual basis.

The Court of Common Pleas of Berks County was faced with a petition for modification of custody from the father when mother’s remarriage necessitated the children’s relocation to another school district. Father believed that the children should go to school in their former school district so that they could maintain their relationships with their friends. He also felt that their living conditions with mother were too crowded. Father also believed that a shared custody arrangement would reduce the support obligation. The court ultimately denied father’s petition and specifically commented that father interwove his financial agenda with his pursuit of shared custody. These types of cases are generally very dependent on the facts so it is important to present the pros and cons as clearly to the court as possible. Here, the court was obviously not impressed that father included as one of his reasons the fact that he would be able to pay reduced child support due to a shared custody order.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What is a QDRO?


Simple definition:
A QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is a court order that divides a retirement plan.

How is it pronounced?

Why is it important?
Sometimes, retirement plans are the most significant assets of the parties. Having a properly drafted QDRO assures that you will maximize this significant asset.

Where can I learn more?
For an excellent question and answer list of QDRO basics, go to the information sheet at the US Department of Labor website here.

What should I discuss with my attorney?
Make sure your attorney knows of all retirement plans. This includes IRAs, 401ks, 403bs and Pension plans.

I think my spouse may have retirement plans but I am really not sure. What should I do?
Your attorney can learn more in the discovery process -- but it is best to have a clue so you know where to look. Paychecks, tax returns, Forms W2 and letters from employers can provide valuable clues on the existence of retirement plans.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Custody Fight over Circumcision

The Oregon Supreme Court must decide whether a 12 year old boy should be circumcised in accordance with his Father's wishes, over his Mother's objection. Read an article here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Five Year Itch?

Recently, an article in the Philadelphia Daily News (and later the Inquirer) noted that many marriages are experiencing problems before the five year mark.