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Cranberry Township Family Law Blog

Top challenges women face after a divorce

While divorce in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States is common, this does not mean it is an easy process. Women are particularly affected by it, especially when it comes to their finances. One study showed that women are likely to experience a 20% decline in income if they have ever worked outside of the home after a divorce in comparison to men who typically experience a 30% increase in their income after a divorce.

Women often say that money is their top concern after going through a divorce. There are a few steps women can take to prepare for the divorce, including gathering important documents and saving money in an account that can be used later. Closing joint credit cards and improving their own credit score can be helpful. During and after the divorce, a woman will have to adapt to life on just one income. This means creating a budget and an emergency fund.

Can you use child support money to buy your kids gifts?

When you decided to file a petition in a Pennsylvania court because you no longer wished to stay married to your spouse, you may have worried about how your decision would affect your children. Like many parents who divorce, you may also have been greatly concerned about finances. Perhaps, you plan to request child support but aren't really sure what the laws and regulations are that govern such matters.

All you need to do is scan news headlines to find a plethora of stories about celebrities fighting over money after divorce or police arresting people who have disregarded court orders to pay child support. To avoid such problems in your own life, it pays to do your research ahead of time, so that you are aware, for instance, of what types of expenses child support can cover and whether you can prove legitimate need in court.

Difficult ex-spouses and co-parenting challenges

Some parents in Pittsburgh may face a difficult challenge after divorce. They may be co-parenting with an ex-spouse who is manipulative and creates conflict. Parents may need to learn to step back and set healthy boundaries. It can help if they remember that their focus should be on the children.

Ex-spouses often argue as part of a familiar pattern, and a parent who can identify this pattern could disengage before the argument reaches this point. Parents should keep in mind that they are not obligated to respond quickly to or to answer every communication from the other parent. It can be difficult to stop reacting emotionally, but they can refuse to answer messages that do not deal directly with the children. Parents may want to document all communication, including dates, times and what was discussed. This can be useful if parents need to return to court.

Parenting at a distance

When parents in Pennsylvania divorce, a top priority for both individuals is maintaining a strong relationship with their children. Complicating matters is the necessity, in some situations, for one or both parents to relocate such that their homes are a significant distance from each other. The noncustodial parent may become particularly anxious about maintaining a parental presence in his or her children's lives.

Long-distance parenting comes with significant challenges, although the internet, cellphones and social media have made it easier for parents and kids to stay in touch. In many cases, parenting plans acknowledge the importance of both parents being involved in the lives of their children and will support regular visitation as well as communication. Still, there are things that parents can do to help ensure that these plans meet the needs of everyone involved.

Life insurance for estate planning and divorce

Going through a divorce in Pennsylvania can be stressful. It can put a strain on a person's mental, emotional and financial state. Some of the stress of divorce is unavoidable as it is a process that impacts nearly every area of a person's life. It is possible, though, to mitigate some of the stresses, especially those that are related to finances. People who are considering or going through a divorce might reduce the financial burden by using life insurance.

Life insurance can be an effective tool for estate planning regardless of the person's marital status, but it can be especially effective for people who are divorced or divorcing. People who have established insurance policies can use the funds to make withdrawals or loans to cover expenses related to the divorce, which might stretch on for months or years. A life insurance policy can also be used to protect the person's income once the divorce is finalized. A policy taken out on the ex-spouse who pays alimony can protect that income for the other spouse.

Making the right decisions about investments in a divorce

Financial problems can result in a divorce for some people in Pittsburgh, and those issues may be a part of the divorce process as well. One problem some people may encounter is they may not have been very involved in the family finances. Those individuals should make sure they know what assets each spouse has individually and what they own jointly as well as how to access them.

To protect their assets, people should understand that selling, dividing or exiting from certain investments early can incur penalties and taxes. For example, to divide a 401(k) or a 403(b), they will need to have a professional prepare a document called a qualified domestic relations order. For an IRA, it is usually necessary to have a divorce decree. The money will then need to be rolled into new IRAs to avoid taxes. When looking at the value of these assets, it is important to note whether there are penalties for early withdrawal and whether there will be a tax on distributions.

Disadvantages to a strategic divorce

Some couples in Pittsburgh may divorce for strategic reasons. For high-income spouses, splitting up can be a way to save on taxes. In low-income situations, divorce could help one partner qualify for Medicaid or allow a child to get more financial aid for college. However, there are also financial drawbacks to strategic divorces.

If one partner does not work outside the home, the working spouse can contribute to a retirement account for the nonworking spouse. This benefit is lost in a divorce. Also, if one person has a pension that is passed using a beneficiary designation, they no longer have to get permission from the ex-spouse to change the beneficiary. This could cause problems if the intention is for the former spouse to remain the beneficiary. Even if the divorce is amicable, the two might have a fight that could lead to the owner of the pension account removing the ex-spouse from the beneficiary designation.

Clear signs that a marriage may be headed toward divorce

Experts suggest that Pittsburgh residents who are worried that their marriage may be heading toward a divorce should examine whether their marriage is exhibiting some of the following signs. One sign is that marriage mates don't eat dinner together. This might seem like a minor thing, but when a couple stops eating dinner together, it could indicate that they are living separate lives and that they are disjointed. Sharing a meal with a spouse is a time-honored line of connection; when that is broken, it may indicate deeper issues.

Another sign that a couple may be headed for divorce is if one or both of the spouses are dealing with an addiction and not willing to get help for the addiction. Addiction not only affects the individual who is suffering from it, but it also affects their spouse. The same is true if one of the spouses is suffering from a severe mental health issue, but they are not getting the help they need. If they refuse to get help, they are endangering themselves and those around them. This creates a stressful environment that can damage a marriage.

Is shared custody only good for certain types of families?

Most judges in Pennsylvania recognize the benefits to children of shared custody. Therefore, during a divorce proceeding, most will award shared custody in one form or another. 

Nevertheless, there is a prevailing belief that shared custody is more beneficial to some families than others. For example, the perception is that parents who have less conflict and/or more income are more likely to seek shared custody, and the outcomes are likely to be better than in lower-income, high conflict situations. However, a review of 54 studies of shared custody versus sole custody by the Institute for Family Studies demonstrated that children generally tend to do better in the former situation than the latter regardless of the following factors. 

Know your valuation date

As you work your way through your divorce proceedings in Cranberry Township, there will be several benchmark dates that you will want to be aware of during the process. Like most of those that come to see us here at the Sweeney Law Offices, LLC, you might not consider your valuation date to be one of them. The process of dividing up your marital property between you and your ex-spouse can be complex, and you might think that all you need to know is that whatever either of you earned during the marriage is subject to property division. Yet the date on which your marital property is officially appraised and valued by the court is important for a number of different reasons. 

First and foremost among these is the potential for appreciation (or depreciation) in value from the date that you and your ex-spouse officially separated. Consider this: like most divorce cases, yours likely involvesa good deal of emotion surrounding the circumstances that contributed to the end of your marriage. Say that your ex-spouse remains in your marital home after the two of you separate. If they still harbor negative feelings towards you (and knowing that the value of your home will likely be split between you both), they could choose to allow the home to fall into disrepair in an effort to purposely lower its value (yes, their stake in the home would be devalued as well, yet their emotions could potentially prompt such action). 

Nebraska State bar association Allegheny County Bar Association - RAising the bar on legal and community service Superlawyers 2012,2013,2014,2015 Avvo Rated by Super Lawyers - Mildred B. Sweeney Selected in 2012 Thomson reuters Rated by Super Lawyers - Rising Stars Flora Sweeney Hunzeker Superlawyers.com Rated by Super Lawyers - Rising Stars Heather M. Papp - Sicignano Superlawyers.com Pennsylvania bar association lawyer distinction 2019 lawyer distinction 2020

Sweeney Law Offices, LLC
20581 Route 19, Suite 1
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Phone: 724-742-2590
Fax: 724-742-4409
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