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Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Family Legal Blog

Your child's best interests: The life they deserve

The court does not make child custody decisions lightly. Contrary to popular thought, the court also does not make these decisions with the primary focus on the parents.

Say that you and your spouse decide to get divorced after a decade of marriage. You have two young kids together, and you both want custody of them. It's natural to assume that the court is simply going to decide "who wins" and give custody to one of you. It's easy to view it as you vs. your ex, as if solving that question is the court's primary goal.

Alimony may cost you even more because of tax law changes

In 2018, many divorcing couples in Pennsylvania rushed to finalize their divorce before new tax laws took effect on January 1, 2019. Why was this? CNBC notes that at the start of 2019, alimony payments were no longer tax deductible under the tax reform. In contrast, the person receiving the income no longer has to claim it as taxable income.

This may at first present a favorable situation for women, who are usually at the receiving end of alimony payments. Closer inspection says otherwise. The payer may be more reluctant to provide higher alimony payments if they will not be tax deductible. This may create a financial crisis for the homemaker in the family who may have set their careers aside to move with their spouse, take care of the home, raise the children or all of the above.

Modifying child support is possible in some cases

One of the most long-lasting financial effects of a divorce is often the child support order. Pennsylvania state law provides clear instructions for the custodial and noncustodial parent in terms of child support payments. In most cases, child support orders last until the child is 18. However, the state may require payments to continue if the child has mental or physical conditions that require additional support. While there are state guidelines that help a court determine child support amounts, it is possible to modify the payments in certain circumstances.

According to FindLaw, Pennsylvania courts may calculate child support based on factors including both parents' monthly income, child care expenses, extracurricular activities and medical costs. The child's living arrangements and any relevant Social Security benefits may also affect the calculation of child support payments. In cases where the child is not in either parent's custody, both parents may have to make child support payments.

When should I update my estate plan?

Creating an estate plan is really only half the battle. There are also times when you'll need to update your will to ensure it continues to meet your needs, or your family could be subject to serious issues after you're gone. Wise Bread explains a few of the times when updating your will is an absolute must. 

After buying real estate

Can my marriage be saved?

Most married couples in Pittsburgh will experience problems during the course of their relationship. However, some problems point to a higher chance of divorce, and being able to recognize the signs is crucial so you can take the proper steps. PsychCentral.com explains some of the common signs that a marriage may be headed towards divorce. 

Fights are common between married couples, but how you fight with your spouse can be an indicator of the health of your union. If you're able to work through problems and reach a resolution that satisfies both of you, chances are your marriage can be saved. However, if one or both of you respond defensively, or constantly plays the victim when faced with issues, divorce may be imminent. It's hard to reach common ground when you're unable to communicate effectively, which is at the heart of all healthy relationships. 

4 estate planning mistakes people keep making

We all need to do estate planning. At some point, every single person is going to need an estate plan to pass on their assets. Many of us will also need plans to set up health care, make medical decisions and much more.

However, people do continue to make the same mistakes with their estate plans, and it can really cause some problems -- both for those people and for their loved ones. To help you avoid such errors, here are four of the more common ones that keep happening:

Importance of naming a guardian for your children

If you have children and are working on your will in Pennsylvania, you are probably focusing on how to divide your assets among them when you pass away. However, one thing every parent must also consider is what happens to the children if you both die before they turn 18? It is imperative you name a guardian in the rare event both parents pass away earlier than expected.

According to Forbes, choosing a guardian is one of the hardest decisions parents make because there are not that many perfect choices. However, if you do not name someone, the court makes the decision, and it could be someone you personally would never choose. There are many factors involved with choosing a guardian, and one is financial. Ideally, your trust should be adequate to pay for your children's expenses, but you also should consider the financial situation of potential guardians.

What are reasons to change beneficiaries on a will?

Just because you have completed a will does not mean you never have to revisit it. In fact, you might need to return to it several times over the course of your life to name new beneficiaries or remove old ones. There are many events that can radically change a person’s life, and it is important that your last will and testament be updated to reflect that. Otherwise, you might find yourself entangled in legal problems in Pittsburgh because of outdated beneficiary designations.

According to FindLaw, people update their wills to name new children or stepchildren as heirs. Generally, biological children are automatically considered by law to inherit from their parents, but unless you specify what your children receive in your will, there is no telling how a court may award your assets to them. Also, in many jurisdictions a stepchild is not granted an automatic share of a stepparent’s inheritance. So if you wish a stepchild to inherit from you, you should name that stepchild as an heir in your will.

Custody and concerns about your ex’s behavior

Child custody is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce for many parents, and the way in which custody is awarded can have a significant impact on a child’s life. Some parents face an especially challenging time during their divorce due to a dispute over child custody, and others may have concerns about custody issues months or even years afterward. For example, you may be worried about your former spouse’s behavior and his or her ability to take care of your child. In the event that you worry about your child’s well-being, it is crucial to look into the situation and some of the options that you may have.

You may be worried about your ex’s behavior for many reasons, whether you suspect that they are verbally or physically abusing your child, or you believe that they have a substance abuse problem. Sometimes, these issues can become magnified in the wake of a difficult divorce. For example, someone may develop a drinking problem after splitting up with their spouse. On the other hand, you may be well aware of problems that your ex has been dealing with for years, and they may have even led to the breakdown of your marriage.

More women are paying spousal support

Women in Pennsylvania are often shocked to find that they may be responsible for paying alimony after divorce. In fact, according to MarketWatch, more women are paying alimony than ever before. In a recent survey, 45 percent of lawyers reported an increase in women paying for spousal support.

But, why? Traditionally, men were the breadwinners of the home. Women either gave up their careers to raise the family or would hold lower-paying and less-demanding jobs during the course of their marriage. As a result, in case of divorce, alimony provided financial maintenance, while the woman got back on her feet.

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