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State College Family Law Blog

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.

When could parents be stripped of their parental right?

Pennsylvania family court judges have the supreme responsibility to protect the best interests of the children affected by their court ruling. Children are the future leaders of our communities. They are also innocent and require the protection of adults. As such, the family court system is structured in such a way as to protect them.

If, for example, a court determines that a parent poses a severe danger to a child, the court will strip the parent of his or her parental rights and award child custody to someone else -- be that other person another parent, another family member or a representative of the state.

Are you protecting your finances during your divorce process?

Divorce can be expensive, but do you know what's more expensive? Divorcing badly. There are so many financial mistakes that spouses make when bringing their marriages to a close that several books could be written on the topic. Fortunately, that's why we have financial advisers, accountants and lawyers to guide us through our divorce proceedings. These professionals will help steer you on the right track to prevent a costly financial mistake.

There's plenty you can do to prevent financial catastrophe during your divorce process too. Here are three of them:

  • Make sure both you and your spouse are financially settled until the end of your marriage: Some spouses -- especially those in control of the money supply -- will try to cut off the other spouse until an official court order requires them to pay. This is a bad idea and it will only end in the money spouse losing credibility in court.
  • Beware of bad advice from friends and family: Maybe your friend or cousin has been divorced 10 times, but he or she will never have had a relationship exactly like yours. Every divorce is different and needs to be handled in its own special way. Don't take advice from your friends unless they are your attorneys and have an actual attorney-client relationship with you.
  • Keep your privacy secure: Your divorce details are private and talking about them with others could hurt you during your case. Close down your social media accounts, only trust your most trusted people and keep your privacy secure.

Does your 'gray divorce' cloud have a silver lining?

If you do a quick scan of the internet when searching for the phrase "gray divorce," you'll find that people tend to focus on the negative side of gray divorce. They talk about the financial hit divorcees will experience when they go their separate ways right before or during retirement, and the loneliness experienced by 50-plus singles who spent most of their adult lives with a spouse by their side. However, it's vital that you keep a positive perspective and look for the silver lining.

There's no reason your divorce is going to be bleak. Older spouses who divorce may feel that whatever financial setbacks they experience are worth it considering their newfound freedom. Single retirees can spend their golden years the way they want, without any concern for an incompatible spouse who has completely different interests. In fact, many spouses wonder why they didn't make the decision to divorce years ago.

What are your child's best interests?

You probably have a firm idea of what your child's best interests are. Your ex probably has his or her ideas about your child's best interests too. A Pennsylvania family law court will also have a perspective on the matter. Ultimately, if you're in the throes of a child custody disagreement that goes to court, you'll need to align your perspective with the viewpoint of the court if you want to succeed in your case.

When determining the best interests of a particular child, Pennsylvania family law courts will review the following factors:

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