When undergoing divorce or separation, you are likely worried about child custody, division of your property, and your pets.
You may view your dog or cat as a member of the family, but under Pennsylvania law, they are as much family as your television set. Pets are technically personal property, which means that a court will not order visitation or custody schedules for pets.
Courts will likely classify the pet as marital or non-marital property. If your ex purchased the pet prior to the marriage, the pet will be considered non-marital property and will likely go to your ex.
However, you have the option to bypass formal court proceedings and mediate this issue with your ex to develop an agreement that works for both of you.
Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law, including: divorce, child custody, child support, and PFA hearings. To speak with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Q: How do courts calculate child support?
A: Courts follow support guidelines created by the Pennsylvania Legislature when determining a child support order. Under Pennsylvania law, both parents must continue to support their children even after a divorce. The obligation generally continues until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. In determining a child support obligation, courts consider the incomes or earning capacities of both parents. Statewide support guidelines establish a presumptive amount of support with the primary focus placed on income.
Spivak Law Firm handles all family law matters, including: divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and PFAs. To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Given today’s economic realities, it is not at all uncommon for married couples to continue living together even after separating and heading toward divorce.
After all, many families struggle to keep up with their expenses in one household. Taking on a second mortgage or another monthly rental payment may not be an option.
Even if the parties still live together, it is possible to establish a date of separation for purposes of divorce so long as the parties:
- Separate bank accounts. The parties should separate their finances by opening individual bank accounts.
- Abstain from marital sex. The parties should no longer share a bedroom or bed.
- Do not hold themselves out as married. The parties should refrain from describing themselves as a married couple to others in the community.
To schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Either parent may seek to modify a child support order at any time. The moving party will need to show a substantial change of circumstances occurred since the final order was entered by the court.
What constitutes a substantial change of circumstances?
Common examples include:
- One parent gets more custody time
- One parent gets a significant pay increase
- One parent gets laid off from work
- A child seeks to participate in a new extra-curricular activity
Do not voluntarily quit a job to avoid paying child support, as a court can assign an earning capacity based on past income levels.
To schedule a consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
The following is the second of three excerpts from a recent column by Nancy Eshelman of the Patriot-News in Central Pennsylvania. Ms. Eshelman’s husband was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a domestic violence related incident.
“The terror is constant. It takes a toll, physically and mentally.
If I think about it, and I try not to, I still shiver from the fear.
Night after night, unable to sleep, convinced that every passing car, every tree branch blowing in the wind is him.
For a victim of domestic violence, peace is elusive, sleep unknown.
I recall rushing home from work and taking a shower because somehow being naked and alone in the bathroom felt less vulnerable in daylight.
The victim longs to feel normal, but normal is no longer part of her existence.
If she’s a mother, she strives to create a semblance of normalcy for her kids. She helps with homework, but can’t concentrate. She attends their activities, but often misses the action.
Instead of watching her son running up and down the basketball court, she’s scanning the stands, terrified she will see that face, the one that haunts her.
As one woman described it, ‘You become like a guerilla warrior – constantly scanning your surroundings, looking over your shoulder, and jumping at every sound.’
Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation in PFA and criminal domestic-violence cases. For a free consultation, call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
In a Protection From Abuse (PFA) petition, you can ask the judge to:
- Order the abuser to stop threatening, abusing, harassing or stalking you and your children
- Have the abuser evicted from your joint home or excluded from your residence
- Keep your new address or location confidential
- Grant you temporary custody of your children
- Grant you temporary child or spousal support as well as other reimbursements of out-of-pocket expenses that were caused by the abuser
- Order the abuser not to have contact with you or your children, or family members
- Restrict the abuser from contacting you at school or work
- Order the abuser to turn over firearms to the sheriff
- Order any other appropriate relief, for instance, requesting the return of your pet, car keys, important papers, etc.
To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
- Non-threatening communication is most effective: People feel accused and respond defensively when they are attacked verbally with the work “You.” Avoid beginning your sentences with “You” and try to use “I” or “We” whenever possible. Using “I” and “We” reflects feelings or attitudes about something and does not evoke a defensive response.
- Limit communications to child-related issues: Pay attention to your non-verbal communications. More than half of communication is conveyed through facial expressions and almost 40 percent through the tone of your voice.
- Try to decide ahead of time that you will not engage or participate in destructive communication: This is extremely difficult and may even seem a bit strained at first. Remember: It is your choice to stay in control. Problems cannot be resolved unless communication works constructively in the family partnership.
- Pay attention and avoid parallel communication: Have you ever started a sentence and realized that the other person was not listening, but rather looking as if he or she was preparing to respond? Suddenly, the person begins talking and you continue trying to finish your part of the conversation. Both of you continue to communicate in a parallel manner, no one is heard and nothing is resolved. Parallel lines never come together and nothing ever changes with parallel communication.
- Learn to listen to the other party: How we communicate and learn to negotiate our differences is the number one issue in the success or failure of any relationship – business, personal, or otherwise. Good communication gives us a means to express our thoughts, feelings, needs, and concerns. As human beings, we all want to know that someone is listening to us while we are talking. Effective listening validates the words of the communicator. When you know that people are listening to you, most likely you will want to make a conscious effort to listen to them.
Spivak Law Firm provides strong, compassionate representation in all family law matters, including: divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and Protection From Abuse (PFA). To speak with an experienced family law attorney, call (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
Whether or not you like your former spouse and whether or not you agree with his or her parenting style, there is not much you can do about what occurs at the other home. Children are generally entitled to spend time with both parents.
Your task is to send them off in the same way you would if you were sending them anywhere else where you wanted them to have a good time while they’re away from you, such as camp or school. Family counselors recommend the following transition tips on discussing your children’s weekend spent away at the other parent’s home:
- Ask your children how their weekend was. To not ask about what goes on when they are apart from you would send the wrong message. Your child might think that you are not interested, or that you can’t stand to hear about them enjoying time with the other parent.
- The motivation for asking about the weekend should be to serve the child’s needs, not to have your curiosity satisfied.
- When children sense that they are being used as spies to report on what is going on in the other home, or when you react to the news with frowns, raised eyebrows, or sarcastic comments, the kids sense that you are not genuinely interested in sharing their lives with them as much as you are about getting some gossip about the other family.
To speak with an experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
In child custody cases, judges are generally reluctant to change an arrangement that is working well for a child. Judges recognize the benefit of stability in a child’s life.
“Status quo” is a term that judges frequently use to describe long-standing custody arrangements.
If you are the primary caretaker of a child, then it is important to show the judge that the status quo has been for the child to spend most nights in your care.
On the other hand, if you are seeking to expand your custody time, then you should try to create a new status quo for the child that involves more time in your care.
Some parents go to court seeking to preserve their custody time, while others aim to expand their custody time. To speak with an experienced child custody lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.
The most important times to reassess your will include the times when your family makeup changes. For example, if you get married, everything changes to include your spouse. If you have a new child, you want to include the child in your will as well. If you have a divorce, you want to go back and change the funds and property that you are giving your soon-to-be ex-wife or ex-husband. You will also want to look at your will for other reasons to make changes.
To speak with a Pittsburgh attorney about drafting your will, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.