Thursday, May 28, 2009

What not to do

The Squid and the Whale is a 2005 movie dealing with divorce, and its devastating effects on both children and parents. The characters actions present a case study in how not to behave.

In this scene, the father shares inappropriate details regarding the breakdown of the marriage with his teenage son. Whether or not his allegations are true, he is not so subtly influencing his son and attempting to alienate him from his mother, by trying to get his support.

Watch the clip and put yourself in the head of the teenage son. Clearly, he is grappling with his own issues and being drawn into the very adult world of his parents' divorce will bring him more confusion and hurt. I recommend watching the movie in its entirety to anyone who has chidlren and is divorcing. For the most part, in your own life, you should behave the exact opposite of the characters in the movie.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Custody battles as a plot for television dramas

Child custody battles sometimes result in bitter, adverserial litigation marathons, costing enormous amounts of time and money. People's maternal and paternal instincts give them the strength and determination to fight to the bitter end. Resentments between couples can be magnified to the point of harsh accusations against the other party regarding their fitness. Since financial issues are often intertwined with child custody matters, the disputes branch out and the stakes continue to rise.

A recent television show used a plot of kidnapped child to demonstrate the complex and sometimes disastrous actions people may take to protect the things they hold most dear: their children and their money.

Caveat: the plot is a bit contrived, the legal analysis inaccurate and the acting at times mediocre. However, the feelings and thoughts conveyed by the parents are at times compelling. And the consequences of misguided strategies are overwhelming and life altering.

Watch the show here.

If the link expires, it was this season's ninth episode of the ABC show: Castle.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Simple questions with simple answers regarding divorce.

I remember when I was very young -- maybe 7 or 8 years old -- I played Little League Baseball and I was the only girl on the team. The coach (my dad), started the very first practice by telling us he was going to teach us the basics. He held up the white ball with the red stitching and said, "This is a baseball."

Sometimes, in order to understand something, we need to get back to the beginning and make sure we understand even the most simplest of concepts. As a divorce attorney, sometimes I assume that everyone knows the basics of how we obtain a divorce here in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. However, I sometimes hear misconceptions, either in conversations, consultations with clients or even in movies and on television. Accordingly, to start with the basics, and dispel any myths, here are some very basics about divorce:

1. If my spouse wants a divorce, and I do not, can I prevent it?

Answer: No. If you do not want to cooperate with the divorce, it may take longer for your spouse to get a divorce, and it may be more complicated and expensive, but you cannot prevent your spouse from ultimately obtaining a divorce.

2. Do I need my spouse’s signature in order to obtain a divorce?

Answer: No. Again, having your spouse’s cooperation could make things easier, and possibly more economical, but it is not necessary for your spouse to sign anything in order for you to get a divorce.

3. Will I get half of everything?

Answer: Maybe yes, maybe no. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are equitable distribution states. What that means is, in dividing marital assets, we first determine whether an asset is considered marital. Generally speaking, if an asset was acquired during the marriage, it may be considered marital. Once we determine the marital assets, we then look to how they will be divided. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a list of equitable factors to consider when deciding on a division. Sometimes that results in a 50/50 division, and sometimes it does not.

4. My house is titled in my name. Does that means that my husband/wife cannot get it?

Answer: No. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not "title" states. What this means is that we look at when the property was acquired, and how the property was acquired to determine whether or not it is marital, rather than how it is titled.

5. I was married in New York and I now live in Philadelphia. Do I need to go to New York to get my divorce?

Answer: No. Jurisdiction of a divorce is determined by where the parties are currently living. In some cases, if the parties each live in a separate state, it is possible that there could be a choice to file the divorce in either state. However, where you were married is generally not a determining factor.

6. I am the mother of the children. Does that mean that I automatically get custody?

Answer: Absolute not. There is no preference for either gender in deciding custody. The question is always what is in the child’s or children’s best interest. There are many cases wherein a father obtains primary custody of the children. Nowadays, however, courts are moving more and more towards more shared arrangements, attempting to split the children’s time as equally as possible between both parents.

7. Do I need an attorney to file for divorce?

Answer: Not necessarily. However, divorce, and the issues surrounding it (division of assets, support, alimony, division of debt, child custody and child support) can be complex and the resolution can affect you for many years. You should always consult with an attorney, familiar both with the law in this area, as well as the procedures in your locality, to ascertain your rights.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

"My mother is a poem I'll never be able to write, though everything I write is a poem to my mother."

—Sharon Doubiago

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.

~Tenneva Jordan

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.

~Mildred B. Vermont

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.

~Jewish Proverb

Friday, May 08, 2009

How are our Child Support Guidelines developed?

In Pennsylvania, our Child Support Guidelines are reviewed approximately every three years by the Rules Committee. In our Commonwealth, we use an income shares formula. Put in simplest terms, we determine the income or earning capacity of each parent, and their respective percentage of the combined income. The incomes are then inserted into the grid to determine the basic amount of child support.

In some cases, the determination of income can be a long and arduous task. Is the parent working to their full capacity? Is all income being reported? Are bonuses, perquisites of employment, benefits and other extras properly calculated?

Once we have the basic number, we look to all of the deviation factors, including: unusual circumstances, needs of children of other relationships, other household income, unreimbursed medical expenses, tuition, daycare, health insurance, house expenses, and on and on and on.It is impossible, and irresponsible, to attempt to calculate child support without having a complete picture of the income and financial situation of both parents and determining the effect of any and all deviation factors.As noted earlier, our child support guidelines are subject to review. Currently, amendments to the guidelines are being considered. You can review the proposal here but understand that these are not current law and are subject to change.

If you are wondering what you may be required to pay in child support, or what you may receive, consult with an attorney, familiar with this area of the law as well as familiar with the local procedure in the county where you reside.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver."

- Ayn Rand