Saturday, November 29, 2008

And You Thought Your Divorce Took a Long Time!

The Sunday Real Estate Section of any newspaper provides fascinating reading and a fertile ground for wondering. Who is selling? Why are they selling? Who needs to buy - and why?

The stories behind the sales run the gamut of virtually every facet of human life: moving for a job, upgrading due to accumulation of wealth, finding a larger home for a growing family, buying the first starter home, downsizing after the children move out . . . . Some of the stories, though, include sadder times in the lives of the buyers or the sellers: divorce, death, foreclosure, illness, etc.

Read a story here in the New York Times about a couple who separated in 1990 -- and the wife is just able to put her home on the market now! Turns out the former husband had another family -- and the jig was up when he sent his children from each family to the same private school (Come on, pal, did you really think you would get away with that?)

The case wound its way through the courts, both state and federal, and circled around a complex legal web. The Manhattan apartment is now valued at $15 million.

It is so easy to say "I do." However, when it comes to to say "I no longer do . . . . " the wheels of justice can work at a snail's pace.

(Please note links expire approximately seven days from date of posting. To find the story, go to the New York Times website and search for "A River House Listing, 18 Years Later" by Josh Barbanel).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Taxes & Divorce . . . Choices & Decisions

The Internal Revenue Service, and for that matter, most state laws, generally treat married couples as one economic unit. So what happens to your tax status when you are in the middle of a divorce? Who claims the children as dependents? Who claims the mortgage interest? What is you never married but share a child -- who claims that child as a dependent?

These questions should be answered by your attorney in conjunction with your accountant. Some answers are simple, bright line rules. Others are fact specific to each situation. And many tax situations can be bargained.

A great place for background reading is the IRS website. Click here for a great booklet: Publication 504: Divorced and Separated Individuals (2007). And keep checking back to the IRS website for the 2008 version of this booklet.

(Please note, links generally expire in seven days. For more information, go directly to and consult with your attorney and accountant.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

Have a wonderful and peaceful holiday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Economy and Divorce

Click here for a recent article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding how the current economy affects divorce.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving & Divorce - The Lighter Side

Thanksgiving Divorce

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced,"she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Child Support Terms

Occasionally, in the world of child support, judges, litigants and lawyers use acronyms and phrases that may appear foreign to the uninitiated. Here is a brief, non-comprehensive list of some of those terms:

Arrears - past due, unpaid child support or other support owed by the payor.

Bench warrant - an Order issued by a court or a judge that directs law enforcement to apprehend an offender.

Emancipation - when a child no longer is a dependent, which is determined by state law. For purposes of child support, generally speaking, in Pennsylvania, a child is emancipated once they graduate from high school or reach the age of 18. In New Jersey, there is generally no automatic emancipation. As with most rules, there are exceptions.

EPPI Card - this is a form of electronic disbursement wherein child support is deposited on a custodial parent’s debit card. Many people prefer to have the child support directly deposited into their bank account.

Garnishment - a legal proceeding wherein an employer can withhold a person’s wages and turn it over for payment of a debt, such as child support.

Obligee - the person who receives child support.

Obligor - the person who pays child support.

PACSES - this is the abbreviation for the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System.

SCDU - This is the abbreviation for the State Collection and Disbursement Unit (pronounced "scadoo").

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sure Fire Ways to Lose Your Custody Case

One of my brothers is an entrepreneur - a businessman - who measures his successes in profits and percentages, wheeling and dealing from one positive achievement to the next. Occasionally, he will ask me about my percentages: how many cases do I win?

As any lawyer who practices in the field of domestic relations law knows, often times there are no clear-cut winners or losers. After all, domestic relations law generally deals with the breakdown of the family and while some families are better off apart, it is often a heart wrenching experience.

Custody of children, especially, is an area where it is difficult to put something in the W or L column because the result technically should be what is in the child’s best interest, so it really should not be relevant as to what is in mother or father’s best interest, and therefore whether mother or father felt they won or lost a case.

Often, the best custody solution is some type of a sharing arrangement, not necessarily 50/50, but an arrangement wherein the child maximizes each parent’s available time. The work schedules of the parents, geographical limitations, and children’s schedules, all play into the decision as to the best arrangement. Although we cannot always measure wins and losses, there are definitely sure-fire ways to minimize your chances of a good result. Why am I emphasizing bad behavior? Perhaps if you recognize yourself in these examples, you can change before it is too late. So, in no particular order, here are some suggestions on how to doom your own custody case:

1. Spread personal details of yourself on internet networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook, Youtube or A photograph or video of you appearing to act reckless, acting immature or otherwise proving that you are not as you attempt to portray yourself in court will surely not impress a custody evaluator or a judge.

2. Lose your temper in front of the other parent, or your children. Screaming, shouting, and any type of physical violence has no place in a family setting and will appear 10 times worse when the story is retold to a custody evaluator or a judge.

3. Use email or voicemail to provoke, antagonize or otherwise berate the other spouse. Remember that email and voicemail leave a record that can be later used against you. In a case familiar to most people, Alec Baldwin left a nasty message on his daughter’s voicemail, only to have it leaked to entertainment shows and throughout the internet.

4. Fail to live up to parenting basics. Allowing your child to be late or absent to school, missing homework, upsetting a routine or being late for pick up and drop offs will not gain you favor with either the other parent or the court.

5. Involve your children in the litigation. Custody trials, visits to court, meetings with co-parenting counselors, evaluations by psychologist and all of the rough and tumble elements of custody litigation are best left to the adults. Let your children be children.

I imagine most parents would read this and say "that would never be me" or "I know better." However, any lawyer who practices in the area of domestic relations law will tell you that in custody litigation, unfortunately, we often see the worst side of people, rather than the best. Be the exception to that rule. If you see yourself in any of the above examples, it is never too late to change.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

— Joseph Campbell

Friday, November 07, 2008

Prior Abuse When Assessing A Protection from Abuse Matter

The Protection from Abuse Act in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania includes specific instances of what rises to the level of abuse. Generally, the alleged victim testifies about recent abuse, as well as prior instances of abuse, which may contribute to the alleged victim’s reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania vacated and remanded a case where the wife had filed a Protection from Abuse action against her ex-husband. The trial court did not allow the wife to testify as to prior abusive acts. The appellate court found that this was reversible error.

You can read the full Opinion here. The Opinion includes a comprehensive recitation of the allegations of both the victim and the defendant. The striking differences between the two stories are notable, a classic he said/she said. This Opinion also reminds us of the importance of preserving the record for purposes of appeal.

(Please note that links generally expire after 7 days. If you would like to look for this case, the cite is Buchhalter v. Buchhalter, 2008 Pa.Super. 255, October 27, 2008).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yet Another Paternity Case

The Superior Court recently addressed yet another paternity case wherein a man named Robert acknowledged paternity of a child. However, later, when Mother and Robert broke up, and a custody battle over the child began, Mother challenged Robert’s paternity. After genetic testing, it was found that Robert was not the biological father.

The case is instructive as it reviews the case law and statutes as to paternity, challenges to paternity, and acknowledging paternity. You can read the full case here.

(Please note that links expire after approximately 7 days. If you would like to find this full case, the cite is R.W.E. v. A.B.K. and M.K., 2008 Pa.Super. 253, October 24, 2008).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008