Life Insurance Policy Checkup After a Divorce

insurance divorce

Deciding what to do about a life insurance policy after a divorce can be a challenge. Try not to let emotions guide your actions and consider the overall impact of any moves you make.

Reassess your need for life insurance

insurance divorcelife insurance policy is to provide for those who are dependent on you in the event of your untimely death. Often, that means your life insurance policy will benefit a spouse and children, if you have any.

After a divorce, it is wise to reassess your life insurance needs. Take a close look at those around you and think about how they would be impacted financially in your absence. If you have children, do your best to estimate how much they would need for their well-being until they can care for themselves. Run the numbers on your own or use an online life insurance needs estimator.

Be sure to seek guidance from an attorney before buying or changing life insurance policy coverage, so that you can be sure to act within the guidelines of your divorce agreement. Be sure to seek guidance from an attorney before buying or changing life insurance coverage, so that you can be sure to act within the guidelines of your divorce agreement. For instance, you may be required to carry a specific level of coverage until your children reach a certain age.

Think twice before changing your beneficiary

Proceed with caution before removing your former spouse as beneficiary of your life life insurance policyinsurance policy if you have children together. Doing so may inadvertently result in your children not getting the financial assistance they deserve. Additionally, your divorce decree may require you to keep them as a beneficiary for a period of time.  Also, you may consider naming a trustee other than your ex-spouse to administer the money.  You may need to establish or revise your estate plan (your will) to fully accomplish your wishes.

Tips for naming a beneficiary if you have minor children:

  • In many states minor children cannot receive life insurance benefits
  • Consider a responsible adult who will care for your children
  • Seek legal guidance as to whether you should set up a trust as beneficiary

Divorce can be a very difficult transition in life. If you do a little research and take time to act in the interests of those you love, it does not have to get the best of you.
Source: TIAA-CREF – Insurance Checkup: After a Divorce

Do We Need a QDRO For IRA Funds?

qdro

Going through the process of a divorce presents a lot of questions about finances. While the divorce decree is an important document outlining the final determination about critical issues in the divorce, you might also need a qualified domestic relations order to officially explain the handling of retirement funds.

The Process of a QDROqdro

In order for the judge in a divorce case to sign off on a qualified domestic relations order, parties have to provide full disclosure of assets in order to determine what is part of the marital estate. After this has been determined, parties can use court-provided calculators or negotiate the split value of the IRA. Once this amount has been identified, the party receiving funds from the IRA would need to open a QDRO rollover IRA account.

When it comes to dividing the account, this can be represented by a percentage or a dollar amount. When the new account has been created, the QDRO needs to include the names of both parties, the amount being moved, to which account this amount is moving to, and the details of the old account as well. The signed order will need to be presented to both IRA custodians, so it is important that it is prepared properly.

Tips for Preparing a QDRO

It is strongly recommended that you use a professional to review your QDRO. If the document is not worded properly it could be rejected by the plan administrator or it could cause confusion down the line when a division date or amount is not clear. Having someone with experience reviewing your QDRO can make a big difference.

What is the Impact of a QDRO?

Once the court signs off on your QDRO, it becomes part of the total divorce order. The amount detailed in the QDRO for the IRA moves to the new IRA custodian once the QDRO is active. Parties then are responsible for the management of their own IRAs in terms of taking distributions, naming beneficiaries, or making contributions.

Avoid Common IRA Mistakes

Avoid the temptation to expedite the process by taking a liquidation in the same amount as the IRA. This means that a check would be handed over to the other party, but this can be a dangerous mistake because it makes the IRA owner liable for all taxes for distributed amounts. Even if the harm was not intentional, courts tend to look unfavorably on these kinds of rushed actions. Instead, hire someone to review your QDRO in full.

Source: Do We Need a QDRO For IRA Funds? | Robert Hetsler, J.D. CPA,CVA,CFF,FCPA,MAFF,CMAP | LinkedIn

Understanding the Type of Retirement Plan to Be Divided in a Divorce

retirement assets

Dividing Divorce Assets

Understanding the Type of Retirement Plan to Be Divided in a Divorce
retirement assets

Misunderstanding the type of retirement plan to be divided in a divorce is one of the most common mistakes in divorce settlement agreements and even final judgments, since often times attorneys prepare the final judgment which the judge simply signs. It often erroneously states “retirement plan” without ever defining the type of plan(s) to be divided.

Retirement plans can be defined contribution plans, defined benefit plans or some type of hybrid. These plans are vastly different and have different implications when trying to divide them. In defined contribution plans, an employee and/or employer make contributions into an account maintained in the employee’s name. These plans have a known account balance at any given time, since the underlying account is nearly always invested in publicly traded securities. In a defined benefit plan, the employee accumulates credits towards their retirement based upon years  of service to an employer, and often based on compensation earned.

Typically, when a settlement agreement says the parties will “divide a retirement plan” it can be interpreted that the non-employee (spouse) is going to receive a lump sum amount. However, if the plan is a defined benefit plan (ie. traditional pension plan), they may not be receiving any money until the working party retires. Further, they may never receive a lump sum – but rather a monthly benefit payment.

Knowing the plan type and the benefit that can be divided (a lump sum now, a lump sum later or a stream of income) can substantially affect how you may choose to negotiate a resolution.

Tips:

* Include the plan type in your agreement if it is not part of the name of the plan.

* Describe in the agreement if the receiving party will get a lump sum now, a lump sum at a future date or payments over time and when those payments will begin and end.

EXAMPLE: The husband participates in the “ABC Company Pension Plan” which has a cash balance plan with a defined benefit component. If the parties desire to divide the cash balance equally and the defined benefit component based on the marital coverture, the language must be specific. In this case “divide the retirement plan equally” would not be an acceptable reference for the plan administrator to implement a QDRO.

5 surprising statistics on divorce in the U.S.

divorce stats

5 Suprising Divorce Statistics

divorce stats

Although the “half of all marriages end in divorce” claim has been debunked, it’s still a commonly cited statistic. But what are the real divorce stats? Check them out below. (Note that most of the data below come from government sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of the Census and may be a few years old and incomplete. Click on each study to read more.)

  1. Yes, we’re seeing fewer divorces overall—but fewer marriages, too

In the 10 years since 2002, the divorce rate per 1,000 people dropped from 3.9 to 3.4. Good news, right? Maybe, but at the same time, the marriage rate per 1,000 people dropped from 8 to 6.8. So it’s a bit hard to say. (CDC)

  1. The Northeast has some of the lowest divorce rates in the nation

As a region, the Midwest sees the fewest divorces; this is, perhaps, not too surprising considering the region’s reputation for traditional family values. Several Midwestern states have the lowest divorce rate per 1,000 people, including Illinois (2.6), Iowa (2.4), North Dakota (2.7), and Wisconsin (2.9). States in the Northeast, however, like New Jersey (2.9) and New York (2.9), receive honorable mentions for low regional divorce rates. (CDC/NCHS)

  1. Nevada is closing the gap on divorce rates

Due to its relaxed divorce laws, Nevada was known throughout much of the 20th century as the place to get a divorce done quickly and discreetly. It’s a community property state, meaning that bickering over who gets what is curtailed, offers no-fault divorce, and has a lax residency requirement that stipulates that one spouse reside in the state for just six weeks before filing. It’s unsurprising, then, that Nevada has had the highest divorce rate for a long time. However, although Nevada still takes the lead, its divorce rate is becoming more in line with that of other states. In 1990, Nevada’s divorce rate was 11.4 per 1,000, and the state with the next-highest rate was Oklahoma, with 7.7. In 2012, Nevada’s divorce rate had dropped to 5.5 per 1,000, and the state with the next-highest rate was Arkansas at 5.3. (All states for which there are data available in this time frame saw a drop in divorce rates.) (CDC/NCHS)

  1. A contested divorce can cost as much as a new Toyota Corolla, and that’s if you’re lucky

The government doesn’t keep tabs on this statistic, but Forbes claims a contested divorce will cost about $20,000 on average, and costs can range from $3,500 to beyond $100,000. These numbers include filing fees and lawyers’ fees, real estate costs, therapy, and more. They do not, however, include assets lost in a settlement, which can also be substantial. For a simple, uncontested divorce, some couples spend less than $500 in legal fees.

  1. Second marriages that end in divorce are likely to last just as long as first marriages that end in divorce

Both last, on average, around 8 years. (Census)

 

Source:  Avvo

Don’t Forget These Marital Assets in Your Divorce Settlement

marital property

marital propertyDivorce marks the end of one chapter of your life and the beginning of another, and odds are, you’ll look back at this time and see it as a positive turning point in your life. However, before you achieve that perspective, there’s plenty to go through – and much of that comes down to finances.

Financially speaking, divorce is mostly about the division of marital property (and debts). Most couples today have complex financial portfolios that include many kinds of assets, and at first, figuring out how to divide everything fairly can seem overwhelmingly complicated.

For example, valuations of even the most common assets, such as real estate and bank accounts, cars, boats, and the like, can be points of contention in a divorce. Then, there are investments and employee compensation plans–including life insurance policies, retirement plans, pensions, stock options, restricted stock, deferred compensation, brokerage accounts, etc. –which must also be inventoried and evaluated for the purpose of division in a settlement agreement. Complicating matters further, the current dollar value of assets such as these isn’t necessarily the best basis for determining their worth.
Plus, there are many more types of assets to consider: valuable home furnishings, art, antiques, horses, wine collections, rare coins, classic cars. . . . and if you or your husband have been given significant gifts, or have interests, passions or other ventures that you’ve invested in during the marriage, it’s likely these have resulted in marital assets that are now subject to division, as well. (Interestingly, these types of assets often prove the most difficult to Think Financially, Not Emotionally® about. Even if your husband has never shown any interest in your beloved collection of rare first editions, don’t be surprised to hear him express a sudden attachment to it once he learns the collection is subject to division.)
Many women find there are marital assets that didn’t come immediately to mind, yet would have significant value or consequences should they fall to one or the other spouse. Please don’t forget that you may be entitled to:

Benefits from previous employers

Your check list should include stock options, restricted stock, retirement accounts (401Ks and pension plans) and deferred compensations plans from previous employers.

Capital loss carryover

Check tax returns for this one. If capital losses exceed capital gains, and also exceed the tax deduction allowable for a single year, the loss can be carried over to future years. If the loss occurred during the marriage, it is a mechanism for reducing tax liability and should be addressed in your divorce settlement.

Cemetery plots, or equivalent

Given that you’re divorcing, it’s a fair bet you’ve changed your mind about wanting to be buried by his side. A cemetery plot can have significant value and should be negotiated.

Collections and memorabilia

Think about what you have in storage, as well as on display in your home. Comic books, gold and silver coins, stamps, books, art and antiques are all potentially valuable items, as are some sports and election memorabilia. If an item or collection is specifically noted in your homeowner’s insurance policy, it’s probably important to your divorce settlement, as well. But, even if you forgot about it when buying insurance, be sure to remember it now.

Country club, golf course and other memberships
It could be that your husband is the only golfer in the family, and that the club membership is not something you particularly valued during the marriage. However, many clubs require substantial initiation fees to join, as well as annual dues, presenting an asset to divide.

Gifts you gave each other during the marriage

Gifts received from each other while married are marital property, subject to division in divorce. Gifts given before you were wed, such as your engagement ring, are separate property. (Read about the difference between separate and marital property here, and remember: Separate property can lose its separate property status if you commingle it with marital property or vice versa. For example, if you re-title your separately owned condo by adding your husband as a co-owner or if you deposit the inheritance from your parents into a joint bank account with him, then that property will most likely now be considered marital property.)

Intellectual property

This includes trademarks, patents, copyrights and royalty rights. While these may not have generated much income during your marriage, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Intellectual property rights should be specifically addressed in a divorce settlement agreement.

Lottery tickets

If a winning lottery ticket was bought during the marriage, the winnings are marital property.
Money loaned to others, payable to either spouse

For example, if your husband loaned his sister $10,000 during your marriage, the money she’ll pay back to him is subject to division in divorce.

Pets

Divorce laws of most states treat pets as property, not family members. Pets may be more commonly assigned to the spouse with a more flexible schedule, and/or who has historically taken care of the animal. If custody of a pet is important to you, make sure your attorney knows to make it a priority.

Photographs and keepsakes

These are literally invaluable assets. With the prevalence of digital photography, it should be no problem for each of you to keep the entire library of recent family photos, but many of us still also have collections of older photographs and negatives. If necessary, make an agreement to share the cost of having them copied. You’ll also need to make arrangements about keepsakes that can’t be duplicated.

Retained earnings

This refers to the portion of corporate income that is retained by the corporation rather than paid out as dividends to shareholders. If your husband owns a business, this is one of many things to watch out for.

Tax refunds

Depending what time of the year finds you in the thick of divorce settlement negotiations – or if the process spans more than one year – it could be surprisingly easy to overlook a pending or past tax refund.

Term life insurance

Whole life insurance policies with cash value are obviously subject to division, but term policies can also be important to negotiate, especially if yours is a “grey divorce” or if one of you is ill and/or uninsurable.

Travel reward program points

These can make for some nice luxury travel for the spouse that keeps them. Check out my article about who gets the air miles.

There is, to put it mildly, lots to consider, and state laws vary greatly, especially between Community Property and Equitable Distribution States. Fortunately, there is also excellent professional expertise available to work through various financial strategies for dividing each of these types of assets, and to help you be sure that nothing falls through the cracks. Knowing that your divorce settlement leaves no stone unturned, you can turn with confidence to that next chapter you’ve been looking forward to.

Source: Divorcing Women: Don’t Forget These Marital Assets

 

 

How to divorce a missing spouse

missing spouse divorce

Missing Spouse Divorce

missing spouse divorce

A divorce usually starts with the filing of a divorce complaint or petition for divorce. Once the complaint is filed by one spouse, the other spouse must be notified of the action. That notification is called “service of process,” or simply “service.”

Each state has its own rules regarding service, and most offer a number of options for serving the complaint. For example, service may be done in person by having a process server hand the other spouse a copy of the divorce complaint. You can also serve a complaint by certified mail or regular mail. Problems arise when one spouse cannot be located, which usually only happens when the parties have been separated for a long time and don’t have financial ties to each other or children together that require them to stay in touch.

In situations where a spouse is missing, state court rules usually provide an alternative service method after the spouse petitioning for divorce has exhausted all reasonable attempts to find the other spouse.

Step #1: Try to find the missing spouse

Before a judge will allow you to use alternative methods of notification, you must exhaust your options for finding the missing spouse — a process known legally as “due diligence” or “diligent effort.” Reasonable steps include:

  • Contacting the spouse’s relatives, friends, former employers and former landlords
  • Searching on Internet social networks
  • Checking with government organizations like the post office, voter registration and department of motor vehicles
  • Trying to contact them via last known email addresses and phone numbers

You can hire a lawyer or private investigator to complete the due diligence process for you, you don’t have to do it personally.

Step #2: Ask the court to allow service by publication

After you’ve completed step #1, present your findings to the court and ask for permission to serve your spouse by publication. You may be required to present a sworn statement, called an affidavit, showing the steps you’ve taken to locate your missing spouse. A divorce cannot move forward unless there is a satisfactory showing that all possible steps have been taken to find the spouse. If the judge approves your due diligence, he will issue an order for publication.

Step #3: Publish a service notice in local publications

Each state has slightly different rules for service by publication, and newspaper staff will usually help you write the notice based on the information in your divorce documents and judge’s order.

Some states require you to publish a notice once a week for a certain amount of time in the county where you’ve filed for divorce. Other states require you to choose a newspaper that covers the area where your spouse last lived. There may also be a set time — 30 days, for example — in which you must publish the notice after you receive your order for publication from the court.

You may be required to post an additional notice at the courthouse.


Divorce notice via Facebook?

There was a recent case in New York where a judge allowed a woman to serve her elusive husband on Facebook. The woman had tried other means to notify him of service, to no avail. She did not know her husband’s address but she was aware that he used Facebook to communicate. So, in an unprecedented move, the judge allowed the woman to use Facebook to serve him the notice and move the case forward.


Step #4: Wait, then move forward with divorce by default

Let the judge know as soon as you’ve published the notice by filing an affidavit with the court. Publications will usually give you an affidavit confirming that your notice was published the required number of times.

There is usually a minimum number of days you’re required to wait after publishing the notice before you can move forward with a divorce. The waiting period, 30 days in some states, is intended to allow the missing spouse time to see the notice and respond or contact the court.

After the necessary waiting period, you can ask the court for a divorce by default. Note that courts usually cannot decide on financial issues such as property division, alimony or child support without the cooperation of both spouses.

Takeaways

For the party who wants to move forward with a divorce in the face of a missing spouse, it is well advised to understand your specific state’s rules governing service of process and discuss your options with an experienced divorce lawyer.

It’s also in your best interest to work hard to locate the missing spouse by checking with friends and relatives, contacting former landlords, places of employment and any mutual friends or acquaintances who may be aware of where the party is living. With the Internet and social media, it’s a lot easier than it once was to locate someone even if they have moved out of the state or even out of the country. And, as was demonstrated in the recent New York case, judges might be starting to recognize the benefits of using technology in tracking down a missing party.  Missing spouse divorce

Cited from: How to divorce a missing spouse http://nakedlaw.avvo.com/divorce/how-to-divorce-a-missing-spouse.html#ixzz3cUwFQLp3

American Divorce Trends and Divorce Statistics

divorce statistics

AMERICAN DIVORCE TRENDS AND STATISTICSdivorce statistics

There is one divorce every 36 seconds in America, and some surprising trends around those numbers. According to the family law attorneys at McKinley Irvin, you’re more likely to get divorced if:

  • You commute more than 45 minutes to work
  • You live in a red state
  • You lived together before getting married
  • You check social media a lot
  • You didn’t graduate from college
  • Your wedding cost more than $20,000
  • The family law firm McKinley Irvin compiled these and other interesting divorce statistics in their infographic, Anatomy of a Divorce.

DIVORCE STATISTICS  

Source: Anatomy of a divorce 

How is a 401(k) Divided in A Divorce – QDRO

order

Dividing a 401(k) in a Divorce – QDRO

qdroThere are three primary steps to dividing a 401(k) in divorce: the divorce decree actually orders the division, those details are outline in a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), and finally the plan must be approved by the judge and the plan administrator.

Preparing a QDRO is a complicated and technical task.  In addition to domestic relations law, you must be familiar with the many federal laws that relate to these documents.

For more information see:  How is a 401(k) Divided in A Divorce? | Robert Hetsler, J.D. CPA,CVA,CFF,FCPA,MAFF,CMAP,Realtor | LinkedIn.

Life Insurance and Divorce in Pennsylvania

insurance divorce

Life Insurance, Divorce And Support

 

Obtaining life insurance can become a very important part
life insuranceof your divorce settlement.  Life insurance for intact family situations generally involves the husband and wife obtaining life insurance coverage listing their spouse and their children as beneficiaries on the policy. The surviving spouse receives the death benefit when the other spouse passes away and the insured party will receive peace of mind in knowing their family is taken care of when they are gone.

The need for life insurance changes when you are getting divorced. In many cases part of the divorce is granting alimony and child support to the spouse who is financially dependent. Alimony payments are designed to help the dependent spouse maintain the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.  Child support is designed to help cover child care costs and all other expenses that are associated with being a full-time parent. What happens if the spouse who is paying alimony or child support dies.  Support payments end at the death of the paying parent and you cannot sue his/her estate for child support. You will end up with a financial hardship if your ex did not carry life insurance.

When representing our clients, we often request that the other party be ordered to carry life insurance for some period of time. There’s no hard and fast rule on when a court will grant that request. There is no law that specifically covers this question. However, factors the court will consider in making its decision include the support recipient’s age, education, work experience, and employment prospects. The court will also consider the duration of your marriage—i.e., a life insurance requirement is less likely after a five-year marriage than after a thirty-year one.

Usually, when maintaining a life insurance policy is agreed upon or ordered by the court, it is for a term life insurance policy. Term life insurance is a product that has level premiums and death benefit for a specified period of time. For example the term of the policy may be until the children turn 18 or graduate college or until a spouse is eligible for social security benefits.

You must make sure that your spouse is actually making the premium payments. You either need to check with the insurance company or have your spouse make the payments to you and you can make sure the premium is paid.

You may already have life insurance policies in place and these can simply be maintained. In other cases new policies must be put in place.

In many cases a spouse doesn’t want a lump sum of money going directly to their ex should they die. In these cases you may want a policy that will simply make monthly payments to the surviving spouse in exactly the same manner as he made those monthly payments during his lifetime. Of course, they would be guaranteed by a life insurance company so they would come on time every month. There would be no concern on the part of the husband of an unintended windfall, nor would there be any concern of a shortfall on the part of the wife.

In situations where the insurance is for the benefit of the children, a third-party can be named a trustee, thereby making sure that the money is spent only for the benefit of the children.

If you are facing issues regarding life insurance and divorce and require a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania area divorce lawyer please contact our firm.

Social Security Benefits After A Divorce

social security divorce

SOCIAL SECURITY AND DIVORCE


social securityMarriage is a legal institution with a big impact on your finances, your retirement, and particularly your Social Security. How are your Social Security benefits determined after divorce? Here are some “must-knows” as you consider marriage or divorce.

Marriage: The good news

On the plus side, anyone who’s married has access to Social Security spousal payments . The payment amount is up to 50% of your spouse’s full Social Security payment (his or her payment at Full Retirement Age, or FRA, currently 66).

Spousal payments provide a “floor level” of payments — if your own Social Security is small, you can get the larger spousal payments. There’s no marriage penalty, just an opportunity to get at least the spousal payment level.

Most retirees are uninformed about how Social Security benefits are calculated, and often overlook how their change in marital status affects this critical retirement asset.

1. If your marriage lasted 10 years or longer and you have been divorced for at least two years, you are eligible for a divorced spousal benefit.  You can claim either your own benefit or your ex-spouse’s benefit, whichever is higher.

2. You can also claim both benefits. Many divorced spouses optimize their Social Security by beginning their divorced spousal benefit at age 66, which is currently the full retirement age (FRA), and then switching to their own benefit at age 70.

For example, assume that Jane is eligible for a personal benefit of $1,500 per month at age 66 or a divorced spousal benefit of $1,000. If she files as a spouse first, she can claim $1,000 per month now and let her personal benefit grow to $1,980 by age 70, which is 32% higher than her age 66 benefit. This method is called a restricted filing application because Social Security assumes you are filing for the higher of the two benefits unless you specify that you are restricting your larger personal benefit.

When compared to simply starting with the larger benefit, filing as a spouse first will break even in 8½ years after age 66 (or by age 73½) and will provide Jane with an extra $68,160 in total benefits at her life expectancy. We’re not talking chump change.

3. If you begin claiming divorced spousal benefits between age 62 and FRA, you don’t get the opportunity to restrict your filing. Those who file for early benefits are required to take the higher of personal or spousal benefits. In fact, if you work during this time, your benefit could be adjusted downward due to the so-called earnings limit.

4. Getting remarried after a divorce generally means that you lose whatever benefit you may have been eligible for from your former spouse. For most people, this might not be a big deal because it only takes a year of remarriage to become eligible based on your new spouse’s record. The only exception to this loss of benefits occurs if your second spouse dies.

If you have been married for 10 years more than once, you could be eligible for both benefits, but you’ll only receive the higher of the two. However, if neither ex has remarried, they are both eligible to claim spousal benefits on your record.

5. You don’t need to wait for your divorced spouse to file for benefits to become eligible for spousal benefits. If you are both at least age 62, which is the earliest you are eligible for personal or spousal benefits, and you have been divorced for at least two years, Social Security allows you to make an independent filing decision.

Social Security Eligibility When Your Ex-Spouse is Deceased

If your ex-husband dies, you may receive benefits on his record, as long as your marriage lasted for at least 10 years. If you don’t meet the 10-year marriage rule, you can still qualify for benefits if all of the following are true:
– you’re caring for your ex-husband’s natural or legally adopted child
– the child is under age 16, or disabled, and
– the child is getting benefits on your ex-husband’s work record.
Your benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or the child’s disability ceases.
The amount of benefits you receive as a divorced spouse will not affect the amount of benefits other survivors (such as another ex-spouse) receive on your ex’s record.

Because divorce and remarriage add complexity to your Social Security decisions, seek professional financial advice before making such an important decision.

Don’t Forget:
You must apply for Social Security benefits. You can do so by going on-line to SSA.gov, calling 800-772-1213, or making an appointment with your local office.

Social Media and Divorce

social media

Social Media and Divorce

social mediaAs a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney I constantly come across the issue of social media and how it can and does play a part in divorces.  I advise all of my clients to be aware of what they put out there on the internet for everyone to see. This is because all to often pictures, status updates and videos are used against clients in trials. In our family law practice, divorce evidence derived from social media is becoming commonplace. What people don’t realize is that seemingly harmless party photos and location-based status updates can jeopardize a person’s divorce settlement, resulting in the loss of child custody, parenting time or even alimony.  The following advice applies to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin and even dating websites. Not surprisingly there have been numerous articles published on this topic. One of which can be found on The Huffington Post and is titled, “Don’t Let Social Media Sabotage Your Divorce.” The author of this article, Attorney Bari Zell Weinberger, Esq., lists three important steps that a divorcing party should take in order to avoid self sabotage.

1. “Think before you post.” Don’t post any pictures or comments that you know could come back to haunt you as evidence at a trial. Even if your posts are not used as evidence at trial, comments you make can often be used to anticipate your next move in court.

2. “Keep your social networking circles separate from your ex’s.” Keep your ex and his/her friends off of your personal site. You don’t want your ex or his/her friends to have the ability to gather any evidence that can be used against you.  This includes mutual friends who often just can’t keep their mouth shut!  Also, don’t “friend” anyone you don’t know.  We once had an ex make a phony Facebook profile and our careless client accepted the friend request not knowing who it was.

3. “Don’t reveal your location.” If you’re not where you are supposed to be do not announce to the internet world where you actually are at all times.

social media divorceEven if you follow all of the above precautions, remember, a judge could order you to provide all the information on your site to your ex.  That’s right, parties in a divorce get to exchange information, even private information, if it is relevant to the case.  Some judges are ordering that information and post on social media sites be provided to the other side. On the other hand, we tell our clients to check often the sites of their ex’s and friends.  Very often this leads to useful information which can dramatically change outcome of the case. Should you live in the Pittsburgh area and are contemplating divorce contact us today.  A Pittsburgh Divorce Attorney can assist you with tailoring your personal social media sites to ensure they cannot potentially harm your case.

5 Tips for Keeping the Peace When Sharing Custody of the Kids. After a Divorce

Custody

 

CustodyDivorce is tough on everyone, but children often pay the highest price when the fighting and anger continue even after the adults have gone their separate ways.Here are five tips for keeping the peace with your ex when sharing custody, for the children’s sake:

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff:

“If both parents can develop a level of trust in each other (admittedly a very difficult thing to do in the face of a divorce or the end of a relationship), then they can reduce resentments by having less inclination to micromanage what takes place in each other’s home. There is a difference between bad parenting and just different parenting styles. Differing parenting styles are not necessarily bad, but the more that parents can collaborate to create consistency between the parenting styles in their separate homes without imposing rigid requirements on each other, the less likely the children will view one home as ‘better’ or ‘more fun’ than the other.”

2. Remember the basics:

“The most important factor to consider in your custody schedule is your child’s best interests. The court is primarily concerned that your schedule provides the stability and security your child needs. Although we often think of parental visitation in terms of rights, visitation is also a parental obligation. As such, parental availability must be maximized when establishing your custody schedule.”

3. Let technology be your friend:

“Precedents are growing throughout the country for the inclusion or allowance of virtual visitation in a parenting plan… Technology is a boon to families who are not nearby and a skilled divorce lawyer can help you to arrange for virtual visitation. Email, texting, instant messaging and web cameras on phones or computers can strengthen the bond between parents and children.”

4. Don’t leave anyone out:

“Be sure that both of you have contacted the schools, coaches, doctors and anyone else who has contact with the kids on a regular basis, so that all of those folks have both parents’ contact information and know to call or email both of you. This saves one parent from feeling left out and one parent being put unfairly in an ‘assistant’ position. The information about activities, doctor’s appointments, etc. can all go into that mutual Internet calendar so all can see.”

5. Talk to your kids about what’s going on:

“Be prepared to have many conversations with your children about the divorce – they should be given many opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings, none of which should be dismissed. Read books about divorce to young children and encourage young children and teenagers to express themselves through art and music.”

Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

military deployment


servicemember's civil relief actThe Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) expanded and improved the former Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The SCRA provides a wide range of protections for individuals entering, called to active duty in the military, or deployed servicemembers. It is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to enable service members to devote full attention to duty and relieve stress on the family members of those deployed servicemembers. A few examples of such obligations you may be protected against are:

  • Outstanding credit card debt
  • Mortgage payments
  • Pending trials
  • Taxes
  • Terminations of lease.

In addition the law:

  • Expands current law that protects servicemembers and their families from eviction from housing while on active duty due to nonpayment of rents that are $3,451.20 per month or less for 2016, this amount changes every year. 
  • Provides a servicemember who receives permanent change of station orders or who is deployed to a new location for 90 days or more the right to terminate a housing lease.
  • Clarifies and restates existing law that limits to 6 percent interest on credit obligations incurred prior to military service or activation, including credit card debt, for active duty servicemembers. The SCRA unambiguously states that no interest above 6 percent can accrue for credit obligations (that were established prior to active duty or activation) while on active duty, nor can that excess interest become due once the servicemember leaves active duty – instead that portion above 6 percent is permanently forgiven.  Furthermore, the monthly payment must be reduced by the amount of interest saved during the covered period.Note: This law only covers debt incurred prior to military service.
  • Allows you to terminate a cell phone contract if you relocate for at least 90 days to a location that does not support your cell phone service.
  • Allows you to terminate a vehicle lease you signed prior to joining the armed forces if you enter military service under a call to duty on orders of 180 days or more. You may also terminate a vehicle lease if you receive PCS orders to an OCONUS location or deploy OCONUS for at least 180 days.

SCRA Eligibility

The SCRA covers all Active Duty servicemembers, Reservists and the members of the National Guard while on active duty. The protection begins on the date of entering active duty and generally terminates within 30 to 90 days after the date of discharge from active duty.

 

Real Estate Questions for Divorcing Couples

pittsburgh

The depressed real estate housing market is magnifying that tension. “In an average divorce, the biggest asset is the home,” says Evan Sussman, a divorce attorney in Beverly Hills, Calif. “People have lost value on their homes, and they are unable to sell. The equity they had in the home is down.”

In fact, nearly 40% of couples considering a divorce have postponed plans to split because of the economy, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 couples by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. The study also found that 12% of couples have had trouble paying a mortgage or experienced foreclosure.

Couples who are moving forward with a divorce this year in spite of market obstacles face tough choices: Keep the house and wait to sell until the market is better? Live together in the meantime? Sell now no matter what? When it comes to the house, arriving at a fair solution requires balancing financial decisions and weighing emotional pros and cons.

to continue reading: click here


Second And Third Marriages Are Failing at an Alarming Rate

divorce

divorce rates

Divorce Rates

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana

Santayana’s warning could apply equally to personal history, like a divorce. Yet despite this, past statistics have shown that in the U.S., 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second, and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. What are the reasons for this progressive increase in divorce rates?

Second And Third Marriages Are Failing At An Alarming Rate http://t.co/arxmNB0S via @HuffingtonPost

Move-in before marriage

legal separation

Nearly half of first marriages break up within 20 years, a new government study finds. With those odds, you might wonder: Would we be better off living together first?

The new research, part of a marriage survey of 22,000 men and women, suggests times have changed from the days when living together signaled poor chances for a successful marriage later.

“It’s not playing as big a role in predicting divorce as it used to,” said Casey Copen, lead author of the study.

Living together before marriage has been a long-growing trend. In the late 1960s, only about 10 percent of U.S. couples moved in together first, and they ended up with higher divorce rates.

Today, about 60 percent of couples live together before they first marry.

Move-in before marriage no longer predicts divorce http://t.co/3WpQL3xI