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State College Family Law Blog

How do you prove that you're a child's primary caretaker?

If there's a battle over who should receive physical child custody, family law courts will usually favor the parent deemed to be the "primary caretaker." The primary caretaker is the parent who predominantly cared for the children, bathed them, fed them, took them to school, put them to bed, took them to the doctor and performed other activities on their behalf.

Courts will typically award full physical custody to the primary caretaker, meaning that the children will live with this parent full time. As for the parent who does not receive physical custody, he or she will usually have limited visitation rights. For this reason, it's important to understand how much a child custody battle usually hinges on which parent is the primary caretaker.

Important questions about child support in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania family laws offer strict guidelines that require the noncustodial parent -- i.e., the parent with whom the children do not live -- to pay child support to the custodial parent. This financial support is intended to assist the custodial parent to pay for housing, food, entertainment and other costs associated with raising and caring for the children.

If you're like most parents, you might have the following questions about child support:

Is your spouse hiding cryptocurrency during your divorce?

If you don't know what cryptocurrency is, it's time to bring yourself up to speed. Individuals can now convert U.S. dollars and other currencies into digital currencies, which they hold in "digital wallets." These cryptocurrencies exist apart from any standard banking system, and the only person who can access them is the individual who holds the private key. If that person does not willingly give up the private key, they can take that cryptocurrency to their grave.

This presents a unique problem for divorce proceedings -- one not so different from if a spouse buys a massive sum of gold and buries it in a secret location. That gold -- or the cryptocurrencies -- will remain hidden and inaccessible by the court system. This, however, does not mean it's legal to hide marital assets in the form of cryptocurrencies.

What should I do if my ex isn't paying child support?

When a family law judge issues an order to pay child support, the order becomes law. Failure to comply with that law means that the offending party could be in contempt of court, which can result in steep fines, wage garnishment and even jail time. A judge can also suspend the negligent parent's professional licenses, and the parent may face criminal charges.

If your ex has failed to fulfill his or her child support obligations, you are on the right side of Pennsylvania law. Your local Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) office is at your disposal to enforce your child support orders. Here's what the BCSE can help you with:

  • Pursue as much as six months of jail time, six months of probation and $500 in fines.
  • Conduct the seizure of bank assets belonging to the offending party.
  • Conduct the seizure of workers' compensation and personal injury award money belonging to the offending party.
  • Conduct the seizure of state and federal tax return money belonging to the offending party.
  • Suspend the offending party's driver's license, occupational license, professional license or recreation license.
  • Deny the offending party his or her passport.
  • Apply liens against the offending party's real estate property.
  • Intercept the offending party's lottery earnings.
  • Report the offending party to credit reporting agencies.
  • Publish the offending party's name in newspapers as a delinquent parent.

Statistics on unpaid child support in the United States

Pennsylvania courts will usually issue a child support award in favor of the "custodial parent" to be paid by the "noncustodial parent." The custodial parent is the parent with whom the children live, and the noncustodial parent is the parent who has visitation rights. This child support payment is meant to benefit the child to ensure that he or she is well taken care of and there's enough money to go around for the custodial parent.

However, just because a court issues a child support award does not always mean that it will be paid. In fact, it's not uncommon for two parents to argue about how much child support needs to be paid by the noncustodial spouse. It's also not uncommon for noncustodial parents to fail in meeting their child support obligations.

Children's unique characteristics can affect the parenting plan

No two people -- and especially no two children -- are the same. Your child could be calm, physically energetic or emotionally excitable; it all depends on his or her unique temperament. These and other unique characteristics are a joy (and sometimes a challenge) to witness as a parent, and if you're in the process of divorcing your soon-to-be ex-spouse, these characteristics could also affect your child custody and time-sharing arrangements.

Ages of children and parenting plans

What kind of child custody options do I have?

As a part of every divorce that involves children, the parents' divorce decree from a family court judge will describe the child custody arrangements. These arrangements will state who the child is living with (the custodial parent), how visitations with the noncustodial parent will occur and how the parents will share decision-making about raising the child.

In most divorces, the parents will receive what's called "joint custody." However, it's important for parents to realize that -- among their various child custody options -- joint custody might not necessarily mean that the child will live with both parents for an equal amount of time. Essentially, there are two categories of child custody that could be referred to as "joint."

Tips for finding hidden marital assets in a divorce

Not all spouses are entirely honest with one other, especially when it comes to money. In fact, your seemingly honest and upfront husband or wife could be hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in a secret bank or investment account. For this reason, if you have any suspicions that your soon-to-be ex is hiding assets in your divorce, you may want to try the following three strategies for uncovering hidden money in a divorce:

Voluntary disclosures: Every spouse must voluntarily disclose his or her assets and liabilities as a part of the divorce process. Disclosing assets like this happens during the discovery – or information exchange – process of divorce litigation. The voluntary information spouses provide at this stage is important for determining the distribution of the marital estate. Look over these voluntary disclosures carefully to see if you can identify any noteworthy omissions or mistakes. You may want to have specific property independently appraised as well.

Why business owners need prenuptial agreements

Imagine you have a thriving professional practice. You might work as a doctor, dentist, carpenter, mechanic, plumber, air conditioner technician or psychologist. If you plan to get married, you run the risk of losing full ownership of your business in the unlikely event that you get a divorce. Even if you don't believe divorce is possible in your future, you might want to consider drafting a prenuptial agreement to protect your business interests just in case.

If you don't have a prenuptial agreement in place, and you and your soon-to-be spouse later get a divorce, you may need to divide ownership of your business, even if your ex didn't have anything to do with the running or management of the business. This happens as a result of Florida marital property laws, which -- if your business grows significantly in value during your marriage -- will assign your wife part ownership of that increase in value.

How to prove you’re the primary caretaker of your children

Family law courts used to believe that children were best raised by their mothers. In this respect, barring extreme circumstances like addiction, abuse or criminal behavior, the courts tended to view the primary caretaker of the children to be the mother by default, and they would give preference to the mother during child custody disputes.

These days, the situation is much different. Family law courts are just as willing to give preference to the father of the children when he can prove himself to be the primary caretaker during the marriage.

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