Regardless of the manner in which a divorce is handled, it will be stressful. However, at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., our divorce lawyers are mindful of the emotional difficulties you face as well as the financial impact a divorce may cause. We will work to help you stabilize the situation and resolve disputes in a manner that enables you to move forward.
Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.
Taking Control Of The Dispute
With more than 40 years of combined experience, our attorneys can help you take control of your future. Our office believes that, whenever possible, the most effective method for resolution is one in which the parties and counsel work together on an agreement. This is obviously a difficult concept during a divorce. However, no matter what agreements are made between the parties in a divorce, they will likely be much more favorable than a stranger deciding your future in a contested divorce.
At Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., we help clients resolve issues through smart negotiations. We offer tough litigation and courtroom experience if an agreement cannot be reached. We know that this may be necessary, and our attorneys are there to help when you need it.
We can help you with:
- Postnuptial and marital separation agreements
- Spousal support/alimony
- Division of property/equitable distribution in divorce
- Child custody
- Child support
- Military divorces
- Same sex marriage issues
Legal Separation Laws In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separations. Therefore, before separating from your spouse, it is important to consult with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce and property division lawyer at our firm. We work with clients to create valid separation agreements which dictate how to divide property during a separation and a divorce.
Pennsylvania Divorce Laws And Older Couples
It is always difficult to go through a divorce, but it can be even harder if you are about to end a long-term marriage. With an experienced lawyer at your side, you can make sure you have the resources you need to move forward.
After 30 or 40 years of marriage, you have come to rely on your partner for a number of emotional and financial needs. If you are just now going through a divorce, you may be unsure about what the future holds and how you will take on new challenges by yourself. Luckily, you do not have to go through this difficult time on your own.
Our Divorce Lawyers Answer Your Questions
If you are contemplating going through with a divorce after a long-term marriage, it is only normal to be worried about your next step. We are here to answer any questions you may have, including questions regarding your medical insurance and financial needs. We will help you understand asset division, including pensions and alimony.
When coming up with a divorce settlement, it is important to take a look at your relative needs. If you have a debilitating injury or illness and are no longer able to work, the courts may take that into consideration when determining spousal support and property division. We can help you find answers to all your questions:
- Are both parties entitled to support from one party’s pension?
- What is the financial value of the contribution of a homemaker?
- How does work as a homemaker affect settlement of pension benefits as well as support?
- How does illness, disability or lack of work experience change one party’s plan?
Pennsylvania Property Division Laws
Whether a couple agrees to separate in an amicable fashion or is involved in a heated and emotional divorce battle, there are many difficult topics that must be discussed. Dividing joint property that has been accumulated through years of marriage can be extremely trying, even for couples who wish to end their marriage in a civil manner. People simply become attached to their things, and it can be hard to hand those beloved items over to another person. Pennsylvania couples know that if they are unable to reach an agreement regarding their division of property, the court system will separate the property for them.
Equitable Distribution Of Property
According to Pennsylvania state legislation, state officials follow the equitable distribution of property model when it comes to dividing marital belongings and assets. Under this model, the items and assets are split fairly, which does not mean that they are split equally. The judge presiding over the divorce case will carefully consider the specific circumstances of the case. They will then use that information to determine who gets what in the final divorce settlement.
The Pennsylvania state code describes the following factors that judges will consider when making their final decision:
- The age, health and employment of each spouse.
- Whether each spouse has a job. If the spouse does not have a job, the judge will look at their education level to determine the likelihood that they will find employment.
- How many years the marriage lasted.
- The income of each spouse, including insurance, social security, disability and retirement benefits.
- The couple’s standard of living that was established during the marriage.
- Whether the spouse has custody of the children.
If one spouse financially contributed to the education or career of the other spouse or stayed at home while the other spouse pursued their career or education goals, the judge will take that into consideration as well. Judges must also determine the value of the items before they are able to divide them.
Pennsylvania Separate Property Laws
Although marital property is eligible for division, there may be separate property involved, which is not eligible for property distribution. Separate property consists of items that were owned by a spouse before the marriage took place or have been obtained after the divorce was filed. Any gifts that are received while a person is married, including inheritance funds, are also considered separate.
People should be cautious handling separate property throughout a marriage. Any property that is retitled to include the other spouse on the deed or assets that are deposited into a joint bank account becomes marital property, and is able to be distributed in a divorce situation.
When going through a divorce, it may be extremely helpful to partner with an attorney who has extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania state law. Our team of lawyers at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., can work to see that you get what is rightfully yours during the divorce and help walk you through the divorce process.
Alternatives To Divorce Litigation
When people who have never been through a divorce try to imagine what it would be like, many imagine soon-to-be exes exposing each other’s secrets in court while their family, friends and neighbors are called in as witnesses and forced to take sides. Divorce, however, doesn’t have to be — and really shouldn’t be — a public and humiliating affair. In fact, the proceeding does not even have to be played out in the courtroom. Divorcing couples today have many options to get through the process in a much less adversarial way.
Why isn’t court always the best process?
For some couples, court may be their only option, but for the vast majority of couples, there are other alternatives that will make the future easier and better for both of them. There are several reasons why it is helpful for couples to consider an alternate process to get divorced. Most importantly, for couples with children, avoiding a nasty court battle will help them salvage their parental relationship so they can effectively co-parent.
Using other processes will also save stress on the entire family so they do not have to go through litigation and witness the couple as they struggle to resolve their private matters. When couples face each other in court, they feel like enemies out to defeat each other. By using a more collaborative process, that antagonistic feeling is not as present.
Another reason why it may be better to pursue other avenues of dispute resolution is that it will be less expensive. Money is already going to be tight, and court costs add up quickly. Other processes, like mediation, do not cost as much money and allow the parties to have more control over the process.
The court process also takes a long time. Dates for hearings leave spouses at the mercy of the court calendar. The longer the divorce stretches out, the more emotional turmoil the family has to go through. Once the decision to divorce is made, it is best to get through the process quickly.
Seek help from professionals
It is difficult to go through a divorce alone. Experienced legal professionals, knowledgeable about Pennsylvania divorce law, can make the process of divorce much less adversarial. An attorney can help people gather all of the information that they need to go through the divorce smoothly and fairly, and will also help people discover alternatives to litigation so they can get through the divorce faster and with less stress and expenses.
Helping Children Cope With Divorce
When it comes to coping with children and divorce, much of the unsolicited advice that well-meaning friends offer includes a statement about how the “real” victims of the divorce are the children. It is as if the mother and father had not ever thought about the negative impacts on their kids before coming to this decision. In reality, knowing that the kids will be inevitably be affected by a divorce in some way, is probably the hardest part of the divorce for most parents.
To try to make the process as healthy as possible, it’s important parents explain to their kids what is happening, and that it is not their fault. Because attorneys are not therapists, they will often recommend that clients and their children begin therapy at some point in the separation process. Statistics show that therapy, especially therapeutic games, can help mitigate some of the long term effects of divorce. Parents, who are the most “tuned in” to their children’s emotional needs, may or may not notice signs of anxiety or depression in their children. It is important to consult with daycare providers, teachers and other adults who interact with the kids. It’s not likely that their friends will disclose anything your children told them and it is not fair to put a child in a position to betray another.
However, it is important that the children’s friends know that the parents care about how the child feels throughout this process. As out-of-control as parents might feel, it is very important to keep a child’s life as normal as possible. Try to maintain as much of the child’s daily routine despite the fact that it means one parent or the other might “get” more time with them. Try not to make decisions about the kids’ lives based only upon the desire to get even with or punish a spouse, such as when one spouse decides to move before final decisions are made. In the end, this type of behavior only hurts the children.
Spouses who constantly “bad-mouth” the other spouse in front of the children are hurting them quite deeply. As rotten as the other parent might have been, children are not able to fully understand why it is so hurtful to an adult in a marriage. Barring a situation where the children have been abused or neglected by a parent, communication with both parents is healthier for children. Since children see themselves as a part of both parents, speaking negatively about the other parent sends the message to the kids that they are unloved, or hated, because they are half like the other parent.
As adults in a horrible situation, which going through a divorce usually is, not reacting to the other soon-to-be ex’s latest antics at the family dinner table is extremely difficult, to say the least. It is even harder when one parent commits delinquency and wants nothing to do with the children during, or after the divorce, leading to single parenting. Another negative risk is if conditions of payment of child support on the time spent with the children become contrary to a court order.
On the other end of the spectrum is the parent in the better financial situation who uses his or her wealth to influence the children’s opinion of the other parent. While this parent appears to the world to be a great divorced parent who is not neglecting the needs and wants of the children, the parent is subtly and indirectly portraying the other parent as less important and less caring, simply because he or she has fewer resources.
This type of behavior works in the short term—precisely because children are, well, children. They are easily influenced by wealth, power, peer-acceptance and stability. Often, while the children are indulged by one parent, the other parent is desperately struggling to make ends meet. Children grow to resent the parent who is unable to earn the same income as the other parent (which is the result of many factors including education, child-rearing and treatment by the other spouse). They resent that this parent is not able to provide the exotic vacations, designer clothes, fancy cars and private college tuition. The parent that provides these things is a hero and soon becomes the favorite. The children often view the other parent as uncaring or selfish because he or she cannot provide the same material goods. It really is a rare child who might be able to fend off the influence of the wealthier parent at such a young age.
Ideally, a good divorce attorney will take these under-the-radar behaviors into account when negotiating with the other parent’s lawyer. Going to counseling and having a therapist document the behavior in notes and reports can help. The attorney will also work to equalize the financial situations of the parents and take into account the educational and employment background of the parent he or she represents.
Often, payment of child support and maintenance (alimony) affects the tax considerations of a client. While receiving child support is non-taxable income in most states, receiving alimony is taxable. A divorce attorney will consider the impact of both on the client and advise about the best way to structure these payments. Other important considerations are a spouse’s contributions to the other’s educational, business or personal financial achievements and how the spouse should be compensated for this.
The long term effects of divorce on children are documented in study after study, many of which contradict each other. However, most studies do agree that the following factors will negatively affect children in some way over the long term.
- – Great income and wealth inequalities between the divorcing parents leaving the children to witness the one parent’s ongoing financial struggles.
- – Speaking negatively about the other parent to the children.
- – Intentionally excluding one parent from the children’s activities and sports.
- – Refusing to allow the children to see the other parent or grandparents.
Divorcing is probably one of the most traumatic events in life. Retaining an attorney who is experienced with many of the tangential issues that accompany the process of divorcing is paramount to the parent’s and children’s health, financial stability and long-term well being.
Our lawyers at Bentley, Gibson, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., is centered exclusively on representing clients with family law concerns. To schedule a free initial consultation contact us. Call 610-685-8000.