Saturday, August 30, 2008

Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend

If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.

--Doug Larson

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abuse versus Permissible Corporal Punishment: When Is the Line Crossed?

Courts in family law matters often must address personal issues, that, but for custody litigation, may have never left the four walls of a home. In a recent case, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania detailed the difference between child abuse (obviously not legal in Pennsylvania - or any other state) and permissible corporal punishment (legal in Pennsylvania).

To read the court's opinion, click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

But In Egypt I Only Make $86 A Month!

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently issued an Opinion wherein a father who had been living in the United States returned to his native Egypt and earned a salary equivalent to $86 American dollars per month. The trial court had directed he pay child support based on imputed income of $680 per week which was the salary that the court (and presumably the mother) believed he could earn if he lived in New Jersey. The Appellate Court, however, disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning and directed that the child support be recalculated based on his realistic ability to earn income in Egypt. Notably, both the mother and father in this case had come to America on visitor visas. While in America, their marriage deteriorated and only the father returned to Egypt. According to the record, he had then tried to return to the United States but was unable to obtain another visa.

The Opinion outlines the factors a court in New Jersey must consider when deciding whether or not to impute income. These factors include:

(1) "The employment status and earning capacity of the parent . . . if the family had remained intact;"

(2) "The reason . . . for the voluntary underemployment or unemployment;"

(3) "The availability of other assets that may be used to pay support;" and

(4) "The ages of any children in the parent’s household and child care alternatives."

As evidenced by the court’s Opinion, imputing income requires a detailed analysis and, often, comprehensive evidence. By way of example, proving "earning capacity" can sometimes require an expert to testify to an individual’s capabilities. Additionally, each parties’ position may be different on the issue of whether or not someone is "voluntarily" underemployed or unemployed. As with most support issues, detailed, clear and complete facts are the best way to convince a court of your position. In this case, the court noted that the father’s visa status prevented him from returning to America and therefore made it impractical to assume he could earn the wages potentially available to him in New Jersey. If earning capacity is an issue, a party must weigh the costs of litigation against potential outcomes as the court process can be costly and time consuming.

The cite for this case is Ibrahim v. Aziz, 402 NJ Super, 205, 953 A2d 508 (2008). You may be able to retrieve a copy at www.westlaw.com for a fee.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday Afternoon is the New Saturday Night

If you are looking for a fun activity for your kids on a Sunday afternoon, check out babylovesdisco.

Philadelphia nightclub Shampoo morphs into a child-proof disco on September 7, October 5, November 2 and December 7 from 2-5 pm. They will feature an afternoon dance party with a DJ, bubble machines, healthy snacks and cocktails for the over-21, non-driving crowd.

Purchase tickets at babylovesdisco.

Shampoo Night Club
417 North 8th Street
215-922-7500

Special thanks to my long-time and loyal client, "S," for suggesting this post.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Confidence

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.

— Anna Freud

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Emancipation

Pennsylvania law dictates that, generally, children become emancipated once they reach majority. Absent extenuating circumstances, the law defines as the age of 18 or the completion of high school, whichever is later. However, in an instance when a child is physically and/or mentally unable to engage in profitable employment at a supporting wage, a parent may have a continuing obligation to support an adult child. Of course, a short trip over the bridge in New Jersey, there is no automatic emancipation and parents must often pay child support through the college years, and sometimes beyond.

This week, the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed a situation wherein a mother filed a new Complaint for Child Support for a 19 year old child, alleging that he could not maintain gainful employment. Significantly, when this child had turned 18, the previous child support order had terminated, without objection from mother. The trial court dismissed the new petition for child support and the Superior Court affirmed.

Notably, the Superior Court opined that the burden was on the child and the mother to prove that he could not obtain appropriate and self-sustaining employment. In cases like this, the court will expect the party asking for support for an adult child to prove what jobs are possible, how much compensation the adult child could reasonably expect to receive, whether or not appropriate jobs were available in the geographic region and whether the wage obtained could sustain the adult child. In order to fully present the case, it would appear that expert testimony would be helpful to the trier of fact. Accordingly, anyone wishing to make this argument may need to perform a cost/benefit analysis as to the potential amount and term of child support versus the costs of litigation. If you would like to read the full Opinion, please click here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How Not to Conduct Yourself in a Divorce and Custody Proceeding

Otherwise known as
McGreevey v. McGreevey . . .

Read the Dual Judgment of Divorce here.

Read the court's opinion here.

Note the enormous amount of divorce fees incurred by both parties. Significantly, even in the unlikely event that either side had prevailed on their most outlandish claims, it still would not have made these exhorbitant fees worthwhile. Divorce, like many things in life, often comes down to a business decision: how much will I get and how much will it cost me to get it.

Of course, if the goal is to display personal details, finances and grievances against the other party in public, all while playing the victim, then I suppose both McGreevey's got their money's worth.

Four Tips on Negotiation

In a divorce, child custody or child support matter, you may need to negotiate with the other party. Of course, resolving something directly, without the need for lawyers or courts, often saves time as well as finances. However, negotiating can be an art form especially with a former spouse or partner! Remember these four simple tips:

1. Be prepared. You will feel much more confident if you are ready with all of the facts to back up your position. If you are negotiating support, make sure you have information on income and expenses. If you are negotiating custody, have your schedule and calendars available. Consult with an attorney first so you know your bottom line and the effect of your agreement.

2. Start with the basics. You may not be able to negotiate an entire divorce settlement with your spouse, but you might be able to resolve some of the simpler issues, such as personal property or smaller bank accounts. If you are successful, this practice will give you more confidence when the stakes become higher.

3. Try to be objective. If your haggling becomes too personal, you will often be on the losing end of a negotiation. When emotions run high, you can lose your focus and the talks can evolve into attacks.

4. Stay calm. Take deep breaths, keep your voice level and do whatever it takes to stay on an even keel. If the other party begins to get excited, you should stay calm and not rise to that level. Even if you do not successfully negotiate a resolution, simply staying calm, sitting still and listening to the other party’s gripes will give you some insight into their position.

If you are able to negotiate a resolution, congratulations. If not, take notes so that you remember what was said and think about your approach so you can improve upon it for the next time.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Budgeting Tips

If you are separating or divorcing, understanding your financial picture can be a challenge, especially if you were not necessarily part of the financial decisions when you were part of a couple. Setting up a budget assists you in understanding your needs and helps you make decisions with regard to employment, dividing assets and negotiating support numbers. Speaking with a financial planner or accountant can help you get on the right track. For some self-help from the web, try these websites:

www.wesabe.com

www.mint.com

Friday, August 01, 2008

Quote of the Day

When we are no longer able to change a situation — we are challenged to change ourselves.

— Victor E. Frankl

Marriage Certificates

In Philadelphia County, you must attach a copy of your marriage certificate to the Complaint in Divorce. If you were married in Philadelphia and need to order one, you can visit this website.