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Do grandparents have custody rights?

If you are the grandparent of a child whose parents’ relationship has soured, you may have some concerns about your ongoing relationship with your grandchild. Luckily, Pennsylvania law does make allowances for grandparents to continue their important role in the child’s life under certain circumstances.

Lawmakers in the Keystone State have outlined conditions for grandparent/grandchild custody situations through the state’s Child Custody Act. The Erie County Bar Association takes a closer look at what these rules mean.

Healthy divorce: cooperating with your spouse

There are many negative stereotypes about divorce. People might think divorce is messy and involves heated arguments between spouses.

Sometimes this is true, but it is not always the case. There are ways you and your spouse can have a “healthy” divorce, one that is better for your family, without too many complications.

Important uses for a prenup

Many Pennsylvania residents might think that a prenuptial agreement is only useful for couples who are very wealthy such as celebrities or politicians. However, that is far from the case today as these marital contracts offer even the everyday or middle class couple many benefits. Understanding what a prenup can do is important for any serious dating couple.

As Time magazine explains, one of the big benefits a prenup may offer is not at all about getting divorced but about helping a married couple communicate about one of the most-fought over topics of all: money. When determining the details of a prenuptial agreement, partners will need to discuss frankly not only their assets or debts but they can also outline how they will handle money together once married. This may include what assets will be kept separately and what will be comingled as well as who will pay the bills.

Can I keep my business when I divorce?

If you own and operate a business with your husband or wife, you know that this can offer the two of you a very good life together. It can, however, become a source of struggle as it has for many other Pennsylvania couples before you. The struggles can only get worse if your marriage starts to fall apart and you appear headed down the path to divorce. At this point you will want to carefully evaluate your options for the business you have worked so hard to create and build.

As explained by Forbes, some couples are successfully able to continue on as business partners even after getting divorced. Clearly this requires a strong ability to communicate and cooperate with your former spouse in the name of the business. If you are unable to do that for any reason, you may need to consider selling your business to a third party or having only one spouse continue to run the business.

Understanding the income shares model

Are you the parent of a minor child or children in Pennsylvania who is getting divorced? Maybe you have never been married to your child's other parent. In either situation, one fact is true and that is the fact that both parents have a financial responsibility to their child. If you are raising your child and interested in seeking child support from the other parent, it will be important for you to understand how these awards are determined.

As explained by the Pennsylvania Code, the state's program for awarding child support is based upon a philosophy referred to as an income shares model. This means that the state views the financial support of children to be the joint responsibility of both parents. As such, the amount of money earned by each parent will be taken into consideration when making a final determination for a child support award.

Why should I consider a prenuptial agreement?

As unromantic as it sounds, marriage is a contractual relationship between two people. Once you become legally married, you and your new spouse are now a legal unit. Considering that financial issues are one of the top drivers of divorce, it makes sense to consider whether you need one. It also provides the opportunity for you and your future spouse to sit down and discuss serious issues together. 

Is it ok to use social media when getting divorced?

For many people in Pennsylvania, social media is part and parcel of everyday life. In the past decade, it has become an integral means of staying in touch with friends and family members and sharing important life events and milestones. However, if you are in the midst of a divorce or are contemplating getting divorced, you might want to think twice before you make a post on your favorite social platform.

As explained by Prevention magazine, you do not have to stop using social media but care is urged at this time especially if you have children together with your soon-to-be former spouse. One of the cardinal rules of parenting together after a divorce is to not say anything negative about each other in front of the kids or in any place or way that your kids might hear or see and social media would definitely fall into this category.

The importance of documentation in a divorce

Even if you and your spouse have decided jointly that you can no longer remain married, you might not expect that they would misrepresent your assets during a divorce. While your spouse might not necessarily do anything illegal it is not uncommon for divorcing partners to fight hard to keep as much as they can from a marital estate and this effort may push the boundaries of what some believe is fair or even ethical. 

For this reason, being prepared before you divorce can be important. The more documentation you have with you to prove what is part of your marital estate before you begin your divorce the better for you if your spouse attempts to dispute that. Fidelity Investments recommends that you collect a minimum of five years worth of records. These things should include all tax returns including those for any businesses you or your spouse were involved in, bank and investment accounts, property deeds, mortgage documentation, online account access, estate plans, life insurance policies and more.

Understanding the Acknowledgement of Paternity

If you are an unmarried woman in Pennsylvania who is pregnant or recently had a baby, you may want to know how you can legally establish the paternity of your child in part so that your child may receive child support from the father. If you are the father of a baby but are not married to the mother, you may want to ensure your paternity is legally established so that you may enjoy your full parental rights and help to raise your child.

In either case, you may be able to benefit from what the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services calls the Acknowledgement of Paternity or the AOP form. This document may offer you the ability to have your child's paternity recognized without needing to go to court. There are a few requirements that accompany this form. One of these is that the mother not be married to anyone including the father. Also, only biological male and female parents are allowed to sign an AOP but they must not be surrogate parents.

Detailing Pennsylvania's child support guidelines

Most divorced parents in Reading likely anticipate having to pay some amount of child support each month. That said, those same people would likely agree that they do not want such payments to be viewed as being punitive. Some may believe that child support is a way in which one can get back at his or her ex-spouse by taking as much of his or her money as possible through child support. The truth is, however, the court does not allow that. It only wants to ensure that children have as much as is required to meet their needs. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, $33.7 billion was owed in child support as recently as of 2015. How do court officials come up with the individual payment obligations that go into that number? Here in Pennsylvania, the court reviews a gross couple's gross income, which may include: 

  • Salaries, wages, commissions and bonuses
  • Unemployment compensation and/or Social Security disability benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Investment income
  • Rent payments and profits from property dealings
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