10 Ways to Prepare Yourself If You Are Contemplating Divorce
By: John A. Zurzola, Family Law Attorney at Weber Gallagher
Before filing for a divorce, here are my top 10 tips in order to prepare yourself now for the next steps.
1. Open a separate bank account and keep any documentation in a separate location or on a secure phone;
2. Open a credit card in your name and keep it handy;
3. Be familiar with any bills or accounts in your sole name, ex. car payments, credit accounts, utilities, etc.;
4. Be familiar with any bills or joint accounts and be prepared to obtain your own or remove your name from joint accounts if need be, ex. cell phone, utilities, car insurance, credit cards, etc.;
5. Locate all official documentation and be able to safeguard it if need be, ex. birth certificates, passports, marriage license, etc.;
6. Compile and safeguard all passwords for any online and bill payer accounts and change them if need be;
7. Have a place to go if you anticipate or your situation has become abusive in any manner;
8. If you have consulted with an attorney, have the attorney office contact information readily available to you;
9. Plan a basic budget in the event that you may need to move from your present location; or, if another wage earner in your house moves out and no longer contributes to your expenses; and
10. If you have children, plan on how you will explain the need for separation or divorce to them and be prepared for any reaction, depending on their age.
The foregoing list is only a general guide as to what steps most people contemplating divorce might do and is not specific legal advice. This checklist does not substitute a consultation with an attorney who specializes in Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody and Support, Alimony and/or Domestic Violence. For more on this topic as well as additionally important Family Law information, visit our website at: https://www.wglaw.com/Practices/Family-Law/Family-Law
The Legacy of Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin and her Impact at Weber Gallagher
By: John A. Zurzola, Family Law Attorney at Weber Gallagher
For those of you who do not know me or much about Lynne’s legacy, I am a Family Law Attorney at Weber Gallagher and I am Lynne’s partner, even though she is no longer with us. I will always consider that I am her partner because the lessons and practical skills that she taught me as an attorney will be with me for my entire career. You see, before Lynne asked me to be her law partner at Weber Gallagher, she and I had battled it out in court on multiple occasions. It was after one particular complex and contentious hearing involving millions of dollars, when she said to me “Why don’t you come work for me?” For whatever reason, still unknown to me, I said “No.”
She then had her Associate contact me, with whom I remain personal friends. She suggested that I should come and work with Lynne because, “She wants you here with us.” For the second time, I declined her invitation.
When the time was right and circumstances dictated it, I jumped at the chance to work with Lynne. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I prevented myself from having 10 extra years of her counsel and guidance. In the end I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with Lynne and I made the most of it.
We have all heard the expression about one who “Has forgotten more than you’ll ever know.” While that’s an understatement for Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin, I intend to carry on her legacy with all of the knowledge and experience she taught me.
Lynne didn’t teach – she “showed.” She showed us how to be tough for our clients. She showed us how to achieve desired results and how to apply these lessons to your future cases. She showed us the benefit of attention to detail and being better prepared than any other attorney. She showed us how to develop relationships with our clients, with the court and with other attorneys. She showed us when you are active in your community, that you grow professionally and personally. She showed us that when you work with someone who is going through divorce, child custody or domestic violence, you need to be their champion, friend, and a shoulder for them to cry on.
Lynne was constantly teaching us her ways to better our professional and personal lives. Lynne remains my partner and she will forever be remembered by her family at Weber Gallagher.
Legendary Family Law Attorney Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin, 80.
Chair of the Weber Gallagher Family Law Group
“It is with great sadness and sorrow that I announce the passing of Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin. Lynne was a shining example to every attorney in our firm about what it means to have a true passion for the law and to put your clients first every time. Lynne was an internationally known family law attorney who specialized in every aspect of family law, but particularly excelled in custody and divorce matters. In more than 40 years of practice, Lynne gave her all serving both high profile clients and families throughout the State. Lynne was a force of energy throughout the entirety of her practice, as she was also a true mentor and active teacher. She was a pioneer who always lifted up other female attorneys along the way,” according to Andrew L. Indeck, Chairman of Weber Gallagher.
Lynne was Chair of the Family Law Group for Weber Gallagher and was located in the firm’s Norristown (PA) office. During her extensive career in Family Law, Lynne published The Divorce Practice Handbook on Divorce Law in 1994 and won numerous awards, such as The 50 Best Business Women in Pennsylvania, The KYW Women of Achievement Award and the Pennsylvania Honor Roll of Women Award. Lynne received the Eric Turner Memorial Award from the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in honor of her exceptional work and teaching others in the field.
“It was an honor to call Lynne one of my partners, and a privilege to have recruited her to join our practice, nearly 10 years ago. At that time, it took just a few moments with her to ascertain her quality as a lawyer, her appetite for courtroom combat, and her ferocious dedication to both clients and craft. Even with a rigorous work schedule, Lynne was devoted to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Lynne was also a committed teacher, she was a loyal supporter to legions of friends and she was a loving wife to Bruce Martin. And no one told a better – or more frank – war story than Lynne,” according to Paul M. Fires, Chairman Emeritus of Weber Gallagher.
“Lynne’s passion was teaching others. In 1989 she began teaching at the The National Family Law Trial Institute in Houston and has taught every year since. She worked with young attorneys to develop and improve their trial skills. All of us who have worked with Lynne have learned how to be a better attorney and to be a zealous advocate for our clients,” according to Carolyn R. Mirabile, Managing Partner, Weber Gallagher, Norristown office.
Lynne was ranked as a preeminent attorney by Martindale-Hubbell and was recognized by the publisher of the Pennsylvania edition of Super Lawyers magazine for Family Law. She was highly involved in the International and American Academies of Matrimonial Lawyers, The National Association of Woman Lawyers, was on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation and the Philadelphia Education Fund.
Lynne frequently appeared on national and local news networks and in top publications discussing family law and domestic issues.
Lynne received her law degree from Villanova University in 1976, as well as an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Albright College where she received her Bachelors of Art in 1973.
Lynne’s service will be held at Rodeph Shalom, 615 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19123 on Thursday, October 11, 2018 at 11 am.
5 Things To Do In Preparation For Your First Meeting With Your Divorce or Family Law AttorneyBy John Zurzola
Your first meeting with an attorney when contemplating filing for divorce, child custody or support – or just gathering information about your rights is a very important event. The following list is a handy guide that details the information and/or documents that you should try to bring with you to the attorney on your first meeting.
1). Clear your schedule so that you have enough time to cover all issues in the consultation and to allow your attorney to review any relevant documents.
2). Bring copies of any prior relevant legal documents with you to include: pre-nuptial agreements, Custody or Support Orders, or Notices you may have received to appear in court.
3). Have copies (or a general understanding) of the assets and debts that you and/or your spouse have accumulated so that your attorney can begin to evaluate the financial aspects of your matter.
4). If your case presents a need to file an emergency request for relief with the court, have all necessary information available for the attorney like, addresses (or whereabouts), dates or birth, school information, etc. that surrounds your particular issue.
5). Know that your case is not identical to a friend’s or family member’s case that you may be familiar with.
John Zurzola is a Family Law Attorney and Partner at Weber Gallagher, 610-272-5555, and litigates all aspects of Family Law matters in courts in West Chester, Media, Norristown, Doylestown and Philadelphia.
Parent Coordinators Will Once Again be Able to Aid Custody Issues
By Donna Marcus, Family Law Attorney
Parent Coordinators had long been used to assist the courts with a variety of custody issues. In 2013, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a Rule that eliminated parent coordination based upon concerns that the coordinators were overstepping their boundaries. Since that time, a number of Judges and attorneys have worked to re-introduce parent coordination in Pennsylvania.
As a result of their efforts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently introduced legislation that reinstates Parent Coordination in custody cases. The new Rule, which will take effect on March 1, 2019, addresses the Supreme Courts’ concerns with the prior Rule. The Court wants to avoid parent coordinators from making major custodial decisions and, instead act to assist the parents in normal day to day decisions which affect custody and clog the courts.
The new Rule would permit attorneys to serve as parent coordinators without withdrawing their practice in the same county. The new rule provides guidelines for who can serve as a coordinator and ensures proper training and continuing education for coordinators. The legislation will also permit certain medical professionals and therapists, in addition to eligible attorneys, to perform the parent coordination once they have received the proper training.
In order to have the coordinators trained prior to the Rule being implemented, training for parenting coordinators is currently scheduled in both November, 2018 and February, 2019.
India’s Top Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex in Landmark Ruling
By: Carolyn Mirabile, Partner of the Family Law Group and Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee
India’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down a ban on consensual gay sex stating the law was, “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”. The Supreme Court also held that, “gay Indians must be accorded all the protections of the Constitution”. The crumbling of a law which existed for over 150 years in a Nation which criminally prosecuted and socially ostracized gays is another example of how countries all over the world are defending same-sex relationships and embracing change.
Matt Lauer and the High Asset Divorce By Donna Marcus, Associate
Matt Lauer managed to amass millions while working in broadcasting, including as the long tenured co-host of the Today show. Late last year, when news of his infidelities and sexual misconduct surfaced, his reputation, career and marriage were all affected. As a result, Lauer was fired from NBC and his wife of nearly twenty years, Annette Roque, filed for divorce in January, 2018.
Roque, who had been a model, put her career on hold while married to Lauer. She focused on raising the couple’s three children which allowed Lauer to focus on his career. Time magazine estimates that Lauer has earned over $100 million while employed by NBC. The couple’s wealth has allowed them to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, including owning multiple million dollar residences, a horse farm in New Zealand and an equestrian training facility in New York.
In 2006, while pregnant with their second child and after learning of her husband’s infidelities, Roque filed for divorce from Lauer citing “mental abuse, extreme mental and emotional distress, humiliation, torment and anxiety.” Lauer, not wanting a divorce to harm his clean cut image, convinced Roque to withdraw the filing and the parties signed a postnuptial agreement. The postnuptial agreement allegedly included Lauer agreeing to pay Roque a lump sum of several million dollars, paying Roque and annual allowance and agreeing that she would get a portion of the value of the homes if they divorced in the future.
Lauer and Roque are reportedly close to a divorce settlement, whereby Roque would receive a $20 million one-time payment. There would be no child support or spousal support, but the couple would split the costs of the children. The fact that the couple had the postnuptial agreement likely helped resolve the divorce more expeditiously than others. Divorces involving high incomes and assets need to be handled extremely carefully with a practitioner who knows what to look out for so that the client’s interests are protected and the client receives the best possible outcome.
For more information on high asset divorces and other family law issues, contact Donna Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-278-1502.
The Ins and Outs of Retirement and What You Need To Know
By Carolyn Mirabile, Partner
Retirement assets are often the main focus of a divorce. In fact, a client will usually come in and say, “I don’t care what I have to give to my spouse, but I want to keep my retirement.”
Understanding the complexities relating to a retirement account is important in reaching a final resolution in your divorce. Clients often come in not knowing they have retirement accounts or the value of their retirement account. Without valuable information, client’s often make costly mistakes relating to their retirement accounts.
Participants in a deferred compensation plan, such as a 401(k), will often accumulate pretax dollars into a retirement account. While participants in a defined benefit plan, such as a pension, have a retirement benefit based on a formula. Both types of retirement assets are usually divided pursuant to a Court Order but there are some exceptions. If the retirement asset can be divided by a Court Order, this will allow monies to be transferred to the other spouse tax free, without early withdrawal penalties. If the retirement asset cannot be divided by a Court Order, the parties may have to be a little more creative in making sure the nonemployee spouse obtains the retirement benefit post-divorce. Additionally, the parties often have to calculate the marital component of a retirement asset before it is divided between the parties.
Retirement assets can be complicated. The Weber Gallagher Family Law department can help you discuss the particulars of your retirement account and the benefits of how it should be divided.
It’s The End of summer… Avoid Back to School Custody Issues with Carolyn’s Tips
By Carolyn Mirabile, Partner
With back to school right around the corner, there are many important tasks which must be completed regarding custody. First, if you have shared legal custody you should attend back to school night and make sure you follow up with your child’s teacher regarding being a point of contact, pick-up and drop-off arrangements and any special needs of the child. You should also provide a copy of the current custody agreement. I often tell a parent to provide self-addressed stamped envelopes for the teacher so you can be sure to receive all documents which the teacher might send home.
Secondly, make sure the child’s school is agreed upon before enrollment. So often a parent moves over the summer and they assume the child will be enrolled in the school where they now live. Both parents with shared legal custody have a right to make decisions as to the selection of school. If both parents live in different school districts, the school selection must be agreed upon or court ordered.
Finally, make sure you have an agreement on any extra-curricular activities in advance of signing the child up. Both parents should discuss any activities in advance of enrolling a child including travel to and from the activity and attending any events relating to the activity.
Discuss these and other custody issues with the Weber Gallagher Family Law Department by calling our office at 610-272-5555.
You may have heard in the news recently parents who are in a contested divorce or custody case which tragically ends with a murder/suicide of the child and parent. Unfortunately these horrific circumstances make everyone wonder how the system failed. It is important that if you have concerns in a custody case to voice those concerns to your attorney so they may be communicated to the Court. Courts take domestic violence issues very seriously. Although sometimes there are cases where the system has failed or a parent did not seek help more often then not the Court will swiftly respond. If you are in a relationship where there is domestic violence, whether it is physical, verbal, economic or financial there are resources available including shelters where you and your children can stay in a safe environment. Contact the Family Law Group at Weber Gallagher if you have any concerns regarding domestic violence.