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5 Things To Do In Preparation For Your First Meeting With Your Divorce or Family Law Attorney

Posted by on 09.21.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on 5 Things To Do In Preparation For Your First Meeting With Your Divorce or Family Law Attorney

5 Things To Do In Preparation For Your First Meeting With Your Divorce or Family Law AttorneyBy John Zurzola

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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

Posted by on 09.18.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Parent Coordinators Will Once Again be Able to Aid Custody Issues

Parent Coordinators Will Once Again be Able to Aid Custody Issues

By Donna Marcus, Family Law Attorney

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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

Posted by on 09.07.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on India’s Top Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex in Landmark Ruling

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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

Posted by on 09.04.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Matt Lauer and the High Asset Divorce

EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)

EAST HAMPTON, NY – AUGUST 12: Annette Roque and Matt Lauer attend Apollo in the Hamptons 2017: hosted by Ronald O. Perelman at The Creeks on August 12, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Apollo)

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 dmarcus@wglaw.com or 610-278-1502.

 

The Ins and Outs of Retirement and What You Need To Know

Posted by on 08.30.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on The Ins and Outs of Retirement and What You Need To Know

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

Posted by on 08.23.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on It’s The End of summer… Avoid Back to School Custody Issues with Carolyn’s Tips

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.

Court Systems Concerns In Domestic Violence Cases

Posted by on 08.15.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Court Systems Concerns In Domestic Violence Cases

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.

Dealing with Custody Experts in the Courtroom

Posted by on 08.03.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Dealing with Custody Experts in the Courtroom

DEALING WITH CUSTODY EXPERTS IN THE COURTROOM
By: Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin

Many lawyers are concerned when they go into Court with a custody expert that, since the expert knows more about their field than the lawyer does, who is going to control who in the Courtroom? Obviously, the answer is the lawyer should be controlling the witness. While the psychologist may know more about their particular subject than lawyers do, we certainly know how to ask questions to control their performance.
There are many questions we should be asking before we bring an expert into the case. For example, what is the role of the expert, and why were they hired? What is the problem in the family that needs a psychological evaluation?
How about the order of appointing of the expert? What role does the lawyer have in recommending how the order should be drafted? In Pennsylvania, the use of the American Psychological Association Guidelines used in child custody cases is mandated by the Psychologist Ethical Standards. Therefore, the order should specifically provide that they must utilize that in the evaluation and if there are any other special problems in the family that should be put into the order, as well.
In dealing with the expert, once they have provided their report, how should the lawyer look at the report? First, have you made arrangements to get a copy of the file? Review the file to ensure that the same facts that are in the file appear in the report is a priority.
Have they spent an equal amount of time with both parents? Have they done any psychometric testing? If they have, have they reviewed the testing, for example, the MMPI-II with the parent after the testing has been done? By reviewing the dates of visits to the expert’s office, the lawyer can see whether or not there has been a visit after the testing. The MMPI requires that the testing be reviewed with the test taker, as well as any critical items that may be identified through the testing results.
Are the quotes accurate? Do they make sense? Does the report quote third parties that you as the lawyer know could not have said those things?
In reviewing the testing, it is objective, subjective or projective? These tests will not develop fees in custody cases. Why are they being used at all and what do they have to do with the ultimate report?
Most importantly, should the expert make any recommendations as to a custody schedule. There is no research on schedules and no psychologists can point to any research to show that any schedules they recommend have anything to do with the best interests of the child. Why are they making recommendations at all? That is what the judges are supposed to do based on all of the facts.
The ATA Guidelines specifically provide that it is up to the psychologist to talk about the best psychological interests of the child. There are many other best interests beyond psychological. Therefore, allowing the psychologist to make a recommendation goes beyond their expertise. There is no scientific literature to support it and all they can talk about is the best psychological interest.
Lawyers should remember that when the psychologists come into the Courtroom, they are in our ballpark. By phrasing the proper questions and knowing what to ask, you can utilize them properly and not let them take over the Courtroom.

Child Support…a blast from the past

Posted by on 07.30.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Child Support…a blast from the past

Welcome back Melzer. Well, not really, at least that’s what they are telling us. In a recent Pa Supreme Court Case, the Court has opened the door to a lifestyle analysis in calculating child support in high income cases. In Harrahan v. Bakker, (19 MAP 2017), the Supreme Court held where the parties’ monthly net income exceeds $30,000 the parties have to show a lifestyle analysis in order to determine the needs of the children. The Court did away with the Melzer analysis many years ago because attorneys and clients complained of the cost and time involved in calculating child support in high income cases. One would think the higher the income of the parties, the higher the needs of the children. This was not always true. For example, what if the family lived very modestly during the marriage and didn’t spend their millions on extravagant items? What if the children attended public school and local camps during the marriage? Should those same children post-divorce now attend private school and travel to South America for a summer experience? Many issues relating to Melzer may have just returned. Contact the Family Law Group at Weber Gallagher to discuss your support issues under the new support law.

For more information please contact Carolyn Mirabile at cmirabile@wglaw.com or 610.278.1524.

Disclaimer: The contents of this post are for informational purposes only, are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship.

Tax issues in 2018

Posted by on 07.26.2018 in Posts | Comments Off on Tax issues in 2018

Often during a divorce the parties will negotiate who can take the dependency exemptions for the children. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act this was a valuable deduction. Beginning in 2018 the dependency exemption has been repealed. Along with the new tax law, the Child Tax Credit was increased to $2,000 per qualifying child. The child must be age 17 before the end of the tax year to qualify for this credit. Unlike a deduction which reduces your tax liability, the tax credit acts as a credit against monies you may owe in taxes. Additionally, up to $1,400 is also refundable if you don’t owe any taxes. The Family Law Group at Weber Gallagher can assist clients in obtaining important tax advice from professionals to maximize your negotiation in the divorce process.

For more information please contact Carolyn Mirabile at cmirabile@wglaw.com or 610.278.1524.

Disclaimer: The contents of this post are for informational purposes only, are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship.