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Divorce: Learn the Legal Terms You Need to Know

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By Robert M. Going Jr., Attorney

Divorce is difficult on many levels. Often both parties feel anger and hurt as well as worry over how the break-up of the marriage will affect their children. Added to an already stressful situation is an often complicated legal process that can make it easy for couples to make costly mistakes. Understanding these common legal terms can help.

Adversarial 

An adversarial divorce is one in which the spouses cannot agree on the terms of the divorce in regard to a variety of issues, including spousal and child support, division of property and debts, custody, and visitation.

Action

A lawsuit or a proceeding in court.

Affidavit

An affidavit is a written and sworn statement of fact made and signed before a notary public.

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Agreement

The resolution of a dispute. It can be verbal or written.

Alimony

Also known as spousal support, alimony is a financial payment one spouse makes to support another during a separation or after divorce.

Annulment

A legal proceeding available under limited circumstances that declares a marriage invalid, as if it never took place. The law still considers the children of an annulled marriage legitimate.

Answer

A written response to a petition for separation, divorce, or annulment. The answer contains an admission or denial of the allegations made in the petition.

Appeal

If one party doesn’t agree with a court decision in a divorce case, they can file an appeal, which is a request for a higher court to review the decision to determine if the original judge did not correctly apply the law.

Change of Venue

A motion for a change of venue is a request to have a different county court hear the divorce case. A court may grant a change of venue if for example, neither party lives in the county where the divorce was filed or if the distance one party has to travel is too great.

Common-law Marriage

A common-law marriage is one in which two people who have the capacity to marry and express their intent to marry are considered legally married without the need for an officiant. Pennsylvania stopped recognizing common-law marriages in 2005. Couples who can prove they had entered into a common-law marriage before 2005 can go through divorce proceedings like any other married couple, meaning a court can decide issues like child custody and division of property.

Complainant

The spouse who files for divorce.

Complaint

A complaint is a petition filed with the court that initiates a divorce proceeding. The complaint includes the grounds for divorce, claims against the defendant, and a request to grant a divorce, divide property, and decide child custody and spousal support.

Condonation

Condonation is the forgiveness of a marital transgression that would be considered grounds for divorce. A common example is a spouse who chooses to continue a marital relationship after learning that the other spouse committed adultery. Condonation can cause a roadblock if the innocent spouse decides later to seek a fault divorce on the grounds of adultery. The judge could deny a divorce on those grounds should the court find there was condonation or forgiveness of adultery. 

Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree, either about getting a divorce or about the terms of the divorce.

Corroborative

In a divorce based on fault, the spouse filing for divorce can bring a corroborative witness to court who will confirm their testimony and the grounds for divorce.

Court Order

An instruction from the court telling someone what they must or must not do.

Custody

Custody is the legal right to care for a child, and it has two important components. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare. Physical custody refers to where the child lives.

Decree

A written order that finalizes a divorce and includes the court’s decision on spousal support, child custody, and the division of property and debt.

Default

A spouse is in default if they fail to file an answer to a petition for divorce or they fail to appear in court. In such cases, the judge may grant the divorce.

Deposition

A deposition is a sworn statement made under oath but outside of court. Typically, an attorney will conduct the formal interview while a court reporter records the proceeding. In a divorce case, the questions can range from financial to parenting issues. A transcript of the deposition can be used as evidence at trial. 

Discovery

The pre-trial process of exchanging evidence and information between both sides in a divorce proceeding. Some forms of discovery might be requests for financial documents or sworn statements about issues relevant to the divorce case.

Dissolution

Another word for divorce, dissolution is the legal termination of a marriage.

Divorce

The legal end of a marriage.

Equitable

Equitable means fair, but not necessarily equal. In Pennsylvania, the method for dividing marital assets in a divorce is known as equitable distribution, meaning it won’t necessarily be a 50-50 split. A judge will look at factors such as the length of the marriage, the health of both parties, who will have custody of the children, prenuptial agreements, the income and employability of both parties, whether one party advanced the income of the other, and more to determine a fair distribution of assets.

Ex Parte

An ex parte divorce is one in which only one party participates in the divorce proceeding. A court may grant an ex parte divorce if one spouse moves away, can’t be located, or fails to respond to a divorce petition.

Filing

Submitting a legal document to the court, where it becomes part of public record.

Financial Affidavit

In a divorce case, a common form of affidavit is the financial affidavit, in which each party itemizes information such as assets, debts, income, and expenses. Courts use financial affidavits to determine the division of property and spousal support. Submitting false written statements under oath can carry hefty penalties.

Foundation

Foundation refers to proof or facts that back up the accuracy of evidence before that evidence can be submitted for consideration in a court case.

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Grounds for Divorce

The specific reasons for the break-up of the marriage – such as adultery, abuse, or incarceration – that a party must prove before the court will grant the divorce. 

Guardian Ad Litem

In custody cases, a guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to serve as a child’s advocate and legal representative. The guardian ad litem will make recommendations that are in the best interests of the child.

Hearing

A proceeding before a court.

Hearsay

Hearsay is secondhand testimony or testimony quoting a person who is not in court. Generally, hearsay is inadmissible in court, but there are exceptions.

Incompatibility

Incompatibility refers to parties being so different that they can no longer live together in harmony as husband and wife. Pennsylvania recognizes incompatibility as grounds for divorce.

Interrogatories

Written questions that one party in a lawsuit asks the other party as part of the discovery process. The party receiving the interrogatories must answer them in writing and under oath.

Judgment

A court’s decision in a divorce case.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to the authority of a particular court to decide the legal issues in a divorce case. Under state law, a Pennsylvania court can decide a divorce case if one of the spouses has lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to the divorce filing.

Legal Separation

Much like a divorce, a legal separation requires a court decision and includes rulings on issues such as child custody, spousal support, and division of assets. As the term implies, a legally separated couple lives separate and apart. However, unlike a divorce, a legally separated couple remains legally married. Couples may choose this route for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs against divorce or so a spouse can maintain medical benefits. While most states recognize legal separation, a few, including Pennsylvania, do not. In Pennsylvania, couples can choose to live separate and apart. 

Litigation

When the parties in a divorce can’t agree, litigation is a means of resolving their issues in court, where a judge will make all decisions in a legally binding court order.

Maintenance

Maintenance is another term for spousal support or alimony. It is financial support that one spouse pays to another.

Motion

A motion is a formal request for a judge to make a legal ruling.

No-fault

In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse has to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. Couples can get a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania if they mutually consent to the divorce or if they have been separated for a minimum of one year.

Nuptial

Of or related to a wedding or marriage.

Pendente Lite Order

Pendente lite is a Latin term meaning “pending litigation.” In a divorce proceeding, a pendente lite order grants temporary financial support to the lower-earning spouse during the divorce litigation to ensure they have the financial resources necessary to defend themselves during litigation.

Perjury

Knowingly lying under oath during a divorce proceeding.

Petition

A formal written request seeking an order from the court.

Petitioner

The spouse who files a petition for divorce.

Plaintiff

The one who brings a case against another in court. In the case of divorce, the plaintiff is the petitioner.

Precedent

A precedent is a previously decided legal case that establishes a rule that courts use to decide future cases with similar issues or circumstances.

Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by both spouses before the marriage that outlines each spouse’s rights to property and assets should the marriage end in divorce.

Pro Se Divorce

A pro se divorce is one in which a spouse chooses to represent themself without an attorney. While it may be an option in simple divorce cases, a pro se divorce is not a wise choice when there are complicated assets or child custody issues.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, is a court order that determines how retirement benefits will be divided between divorcing spouses. QDROs are complicated, technical documents.

Quid Pro Quo

Giving one valuable thing for another.

Rebuttal

A rebuttal is evidence that one party submits to refute the evidence submitted by the opposing party.

Restraining Order

A temporary court order that prohibits one spouse from doing something, such as texting or harassing the other spouse.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legally binding agreement that ensures that finances, custody, and spousal support are fully documented and enforceable. Separation agreements can map out who pays the mortgage, car payments, and other expenses, as well as temporary child support to meet basic needs, including food, clothing, daycare, and medical expenses.

Spousal Support

Also known as maintenance or alimony, spousal support is the payment one spouse makes to financially support the other spouse during the separation or after the divorce.

Standard of Living

Standard of living refers to the lifestyle the couple had prior to their split and includes things such as vacations, homes, clothing, and vehicles. Standard of living is one of the factors the court will use to determine alimony and the distribution of assets.

Subpoena

An order requiring someone to appear in court to testify or produce documents in a divorce proceeding.

Stipulation

A stipulation is a written agreement between spouses regarding issues related to their divorce. The court can enforce such agreements in the future, so it is important that both parties are very specific and include all details in writing to avoid potential conflicts down the road.

Summons

A document notifying one spouse that the other spouse has started a divorce case and that they must file an answer within a specified period of time.

Testimony

A written or oral statement made under oath.

Transcript

A written, word-for-word record of what was said during a court proceeding

Uncontested Divorce

Also known as a mutual consent or no-fault divorce, an uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree the marriage is over and work together to resolve issues of child support, division of assets, and spousal support without the need for a judge. Uncontested divorces tend to be quicker and less expensive.

Venue

The location of the court that will hear a divorce case. The venue is typically the court in the county where one of the parties currently lives or where the parties lived together as a married couple before their separation. 

Talk to an Experienced Family Law Attorney

The Law Office of Going and Plank can help navigate the complexities of the divorce process, meet filing deadlines, offer advice on custody agreements, and secure a fair settlement. Contact the Law Offices of Going and Plank today to schedule a consultation.

Want to find out more about Robert M. Going, Jr.? Read these articles and blogs:

Are You Prepared for a Divorce?

6 Tips for a Less Stressful Divorce

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

The Divorce Checklist

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for a Divorce

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Or click here to discover an even wider range of topics in our legal blog.

Lancaster Divorce Attorney Shares Tips for a More Amicable Split

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney

When we think of divorce, we often picture a nasty, expensive, adversarial affair where couples fight in court over everything from the custody of the children to the tiniest of possessions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As a Lancaster divorce attorney, I see many couples opt instead for an amicable divorce.

An amicable divorce is an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree the marriage is over and work to settle issues of child custody and support, division of assets, and spousal support without needing a judge to make those decisions. It doesn’t mean the splitting spouses will end up as best friends or that they won’t have disagreements. It does mean they will commit to cooperating and working together to resolve the important issues related to divorce.

Perhaps most important, amicable divorces tend to take less of an emotional and financial toll on spouses and their families. Here are nine ways couples can work toward a more amicable split:

Hire a Lancaster County Divorce Lawyer Who Can Approach a Divorce Amicably

Filing for divorce is stressful enough without trying to handle all the details alone. While it is important for someone facing divorce to hire a lawyer who will protect their interests, choosing a lawyer who is ready to go on the attack is likely to elicit a similar response from a spouse’s attorney, resulting in contentious, drawn-out, and more expensive divorce proceedings that could end up in court.

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Choosing a seasoned Lancaster divorce lawyer who can offer calm, professional support and advice can help relieve a stressful situation. Even in an amicable divorce, it is important for clients to have someone to guide them through the separation and divorce process, manage deadlines, help draw up a custody agreement, protect their assets, and ensure they receive the child support and alimony they deserve.

Get Legal Advice Before You Start Negotiating

Just because a divorce is amicable doesn’t mean it won’t require negotiations. Couples still need to resolve important issues like division of property, including real estate and retirement accounts; alimony and spousal support; and, of course, child support and child custody. Pennsylvania has laws regarding all of these issues, and a Lancaster divorce lawyer who has knowledge of Pennsylvania divorce laws can offer the necessary guidance. Your lawyer can ensure that a negotiated settlement is legal, fair, and in the best interests of all involved. Without the advice of a lawyer, couples may not think to consider things like life insurance policies, credit card debt, and college savings plans.

An experienced Lancaster County divorce attorney will make sure both parties understand their rights and obligations under the law and that they address all the complex issues necessary in their negotiations, from child custody schedules to the duration of alimony payments. The lawyer will also put all the results of those negotiations into a legally binding and acceptable form. While Pennsylvania does not require couples to hire a lawyer, a do-it-yourself divorce can lead to irreversible mistakes.

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Commit to Full Financial Disclosure

Fighting over who gets what can be one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce, but a full account of financial assets is one of the most important aspects of the divorce process. An accurate picture of marital finances is necessary not only for an equitable distribution of assets but also for determining whether to award spousal and child support. For couples committed to divorcing amicably, open and honest communication about property, assets, and debt, as well as full disclosure of all financial information, will ensure a fair outcome.

When a spouse refuses to turn over important financial documents or answer questions, it can cause suspicion and doubt that can severely hamper the amicable negotiation process. An experienced Lancaster divorce lawyer can help gather important financial and legal documentation, including tax returns, proof of current income, bank statements, pension, and retirement account statements, documentation for loans and regular bills, detailed employer benefit statements, investments, mortgage documentation, credit card statements, and a detailed monthly budget.

Create a Separation Agreement

Couples seeking an amicable divorce may think the process will be quick and simple, or that a verbal agreement will be sufficient, but often a couple’s situation is more complex than they realize and every new issue that comes up can cause stress and disagreement. That’s where a separation agreement comes in.

A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both spouses. It outlines issues such as who is responsible for debts like mortgages, credit card bills, and student loans and how they will be paid. It resolves tax details, such as who will claim the dependency exemptions and who will receive any tax refund. Perhaps most importantly, a separation agreement defines how the couple will make decisions regarding their children, how the children will divide their time between both parents, and who is responsible for child support.

A Lancaster County divorce lawyer can help couples draw up a mutually acceptable separation agreement that offers a roadmap for moving forward without stress or uncertainty.

Create a Preliminary Custody Agreement

The best way for couples to keep child custody proceedings amicable is to keep the focus off themselves and on the best interests of their children. In most situations, the best interest of the child is to have a quality relationship with both parents.

Keeping that in mind, parents should be flexible, sensitive to their children’s needs, and willing to compromise, understanding that the quality of their time with the children is more important than the quantity. A child custody agreement outlines which parent will have primary physical and legal custody of the children and whether custody will be split equally. If it is not, the agreement also will map out a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.

Divorce is particularly stressful for children, which is why it is important to think through shared custody arrangements early, even before the couple is no longer living together.  An experienced Lancaster County divorce attorney can serve as a mediator to help negotiate and finalize a custody agreement that is fair to both parties and serves the best interests of the children. As a mediator, a Lancaster divorce lawyer also can diffuse emotional reactions and offer advice on the best options for managing shared custody and child support.

Try to Keep Realistic Expectations

No matter how amicable the situation, divorce is rarely quick and painless and it rarely results in a clear winner. If it does, then it probably wasn’t very amicable to begin with. Spouses who enter divorce proceedings with realistic expectations are less likely to get caught up in stressful, retaliatory situations that complicate the process.

Neither spouse should expect to get everything they want. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning assets are distributed according to what is fair, which is not necessarily 50-50. Factors such as skills, income, economic circumstances, and custody arrangements all figure into the equation. Neither spouse should expect to have as much time with their child as they want. Generally, courts do not consider sole custody in the best interests of the child.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

It’s natural to have feelings of anger and resentment during a divorce. Often, both parties had shortcomings, failures, or wrongdoings that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. However, couples who wish to divorce amicably will gain nothing from the blame game. Assigning blame can escalate an already stressful situation, spark feelings of revenge and retaliation, and result in a more protracted and costly divorce.

Couples should also remember that while the failure of their marriage is difficult for both of them, it is far more difficult for their children. When both parents accept responsibility for the breakup of the marriage, it frees children from hearing parents badmouth one another and feeling that they have to choose sides. Blame is not necessary to reach a fair settlement. Viewing divorce as a business deal, rather than a competition or a way to exact revenge, will make the process faster, cheaper, and less stressful.

Don’t Assume It Will Be Easy

Filing for divorce is not an easy decision and the divorce process is rarely straightforward. In addition to the emotional toll of a broken marriage and the prospect of a hectic life that now includes shared custody and visitation schedules, there are a host of other considerations to complicate the process, even when negotiations are relatively smooth. There may be a loss of medical benefits and a need for new health care options. Divorced couples will also need to change beneficiaries on retirement accounts and pensions. It’s also smart to create new bank accounts and redirect mail.

Divorce can be lonely, stressful, and overwhelming. It helps to have a support network, whether it’s friends and family, a support group, or even a professional therapist. A reliable Lancaster County divorce attorney can be another part of that support network, to help shoulder some of the burden with compassion.

Contact a Lancaster Divorce Attorney for More Information

The Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster cannot promise a painless divorce, but we can help clients handle all legal and filing considerations and negotiate custody and support agreements that protect their interests. Contact us today for more information.

Want to read more about divorce? Check out these articles from Going and Plank.

Are You Prepared for a Divorce?

6 Tips for a Less Stressful Divorce

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

The Divorce Checklist

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for a Divorce

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

 

Are You Prepared for a Divorce?

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M. Going, Attorney

Divorce can be stressful, messy, and full of complications for everyone involved. Anyone considering divorce or separation in Lancaster County should seek the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer and take these important steps in advance to protect their finances, their possessions, their personal information, their children, and their peace of mind.

Gather Documents Before Filing for Divorce

Dividing up property, assets, and debt is often one of the most contentious aspects of divorce, and it requires thorough financial and legal documentation. A clear picture of marital finances not only helps a judge determine who gets what, but also whether to award spousal and child support. Gathering documentation early makes it harder for a disgruntled spouse to block requests for information, which will slow the process and increase costs. Make two copies of all important legal and financial documents – one for the divorce attorney and the other in a location inaccessible to the spouse, such as a safe deposit box or trusted relative’s home.

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Among the key documents to collect:

  • Federal, state, and local tax returns from the past five years for both spouses
  • Proof of current income, such as pay stubs or employment contracts, for both spouses
  • Bank statements, including certificates of deposit and money market accounts
  • Pension and retirement account statements
  • Detailed employer benefit statements for both spouses, including health and dental insurance, life insurance, retirement funds, dividends, profit-sharing, stock options, and use of company vehicle
  • Documentation of investments
  • Mortgage documentation and property tax statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Documentation for all loans
  • Utility bill statements
  • Documentation for recurring bills, such as tuition, daycare, dues, etc.
  • Life insurance policies
  • Detailed monthly budget

While organizing documents, take note of items such as wills, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies that will require a change in beneficiary and take care of that as well.

Document Personal Property Before Divorce

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning the courts will divide marital property in a way that is fair but not necessarily equal. Marital property is any property acquired during the marriage, including everything from real estate, businesses, and collectibles to life insurance policies, retirement plans, and bank accounts. Among the factors that may influence that distribution are the age and health of each party, their earning power, whether one spouse contributed to the training and education of the other, and who will care for minor children.

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In Pennsylvania, however, the division of assets does not include personal, or separate, property acquired before the marriage or after the separation. Each party may keep their personal property, including an inheritance, sentimental family gifts, or any other items acquired outside the marriage, including a woman’s engagement ring.

Before filing for divorce, it is important to protect all personal property and take account of all marital property in the event it mysteriously disappears during the heated divorce process. Take an inventory of all property, with photos and video, before filing for divorce. This will provide proof of the property’s existence and ownership should it go missing. In the case of irreplaceable items with sentimental value, such as photos and family heirlooms, consider removing them from the home and storing them in a safe location. Just remember that if any of those items were acquired during the marriage they must be declared as part of the divorce process.

Separation Means Separate Bank Accounts

The divorce process is financially risky when both spouses still have access to joint credit cards and bank accounts. Be proactive about future financial security by opening a new bank account at a new bank. Try to save enough money to cover a few months of expenses and have some cash on hand should an angry spouse decide to cancel a credit card or empty a bank account. Pulling a credit report is also an important first step in getting finances in order and protecting credit before and after a divorce. The report will show all unpaid bills and paint a complete picture of all credit cards, mortgages, and loans made in both names.

Once the divorce is final, check the credit report again to ensure no joint accounts remain. A forgotten and rarely used joint credit card could mean unwanted debt and a bad credit score if an ex-spouse decides to maliciously or accidentally run up a bill.

Protect Passwords During a Divorce

While it is convenient and sometimes even necessary for married couples to know each other’s passwords for email, bank accounts, online retail accounts like Amazon, and even cloud-based devices like Alexa and Echo, the same is not true for couples headed for separation and divorce. It is never a good idea to give a spouse the ability to sabotage social media accounts, track browser history, or access any kind of information that they could use in their favor during divorce proceedings.

Now is the time to install passwords and PINs for personal bank accounts, computers, smartphones, tablets, social media accounts, apps that show location, and voice-activated phone, text, and email functions in vehicles. Where passwords already exist, take the time to change all of them. If possible, change them from a computer or smartphone that a spouse can’t access. Don’t forget to also change security questions using information that a spouse will not easily guess. Change the email account password first, especially if the account is used to correspond with a divorce attorney. Blocking email will also help ensure that a spouse cannot log in and access newly changed passwords and credentials to other accounts.

In cases of shared computers or other devices, transfer any important information to a new personal device and permanently delete it from the shared device. One caveat: Always consult a divorce lawyer first before changing passwords and log-in credentials to joint bank accounts.

Remember to guard the privacy of snail mail, too. While a spouse is entitled to open mail addressed to both parties, they should not have access to correspondence from divorce lawyers and creditors or bank statements for private accounts. No password will stop a spouse from opening a confidential letter, so now is the time to open a P.O Box and redirect mail delivery.

Avoid Social Media During Separation and Divorce

Social media may seem innocent, but it frequently turns into ammunition in divorce proceedings. A spouse can easily take a post about a night out with friends, a new purchase, or a recent vacation and turn it into evidence of inappropriate behavior or poor parenting. Likewise, posting disparaging remarks about a spouse or an ex will reflect poorly in court. As divorce proceedings begin, it’s best to refrain from posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and consult with an experienced divorce attorney about the possibility of deactivating or deleting social media accounts. At a minimum, those preparing for divorce or separation should unfollow or unfriend their spouse and their spouse’s friends on social media and change the privacy settings on all accounts to restrict public access to posts, photos, and contacts.

Explore Health Care Options Prior to Divorce

For those covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy, divorce presents an added challenge: finding an adequate alternative for health care. Before filing for divorce, research health care options, whether it means accessing an employer’s health plan, changing jobs, or entering the healthcare marketplace. In the meantime, take care of any health needs before filing or finalizing a divorce, including routine checkups and shots, dental visits, prescriptions, and any other medical procedures that were put on the back burner.

Start Mapping Out a Custody Agreement Before Separation

Divorce is particularly stressful for children, which is why it is important to think through shared custody arrangements early, even while both parents are still living under the same roof. A child custody agreement outlines which parent will have primary physical and legal custody of the children and whether parents will split custody equally. If it is not, the agreement also will map out a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.

However, parenting is about more than simply handling the normal routine. Now is the time to consider how both parties will deal with exceptions to the routine, such as holidays, birthdays, special family dates, school vacations, babysitting needs, and family emergencies. An experienced divorce attorney can serve as a mediator to help negotiate and finalize a custody agreement that is fair to both parties and serves the best interests of the children. As a mediator, a divorce lawyer also can also diffuse emotional and unbiased reactions and offer advice on the best options for managing shared custody and child support.

Create a Divorce Support Network

Going through a divorce often feels lonely and emotionally challenging, so it’s important to connect with friends and family who can offer support. Also seek out those who have had similar experiences, whether it is a divorced friend or a Lancaster County support group. Professional therapists can help, too, and many insurance plans will cover the expense.

Don’t forget the important support of an experienced divorce attorney. At the Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster, we handle the divorce process with compassion, take the time to find out what’s important to each client, and fight for a fair settlement. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Want to find out more about Robert M. Going, Jr.? Read these articles and blogs:

Tips for an Amicable Split

How to Reduce Stress for Child Custody Proceedings

6 Tips for a Less Stressful Divorce

5 Common Custody Questions

A List of Common Custody Agreements

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

Or click here to discover an even wider range of legal topics in our legal blog.

6 Tips for a Less Stressful Divorce in Lancaster

going-bob-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M Going, Attorney

Divorce is naturally stressful, even under the best of circumstances. When you add in issues of child custody and visitation, division of assets, and debt, it becomes even more stressful.

If you’re a Lancaster County resident filing for divorce, there are steps you can take to make the process less traumatic for you and your family.

 

Don’t Focus Your Divorce on Revenge

The end of a marriage is often the result of wrongdoing by one or both spouses, so naturally, you may feel angry and hurt. Don’t assume that exacting revenge on your spouse will solve your problems. The more you try to make things difficult for your spouse, the more likely your spouse will retaliate, resulting in a more protracted and far more costly divorce process.

A drawn-out, nasty divorce also adds stress to an already stressful situation, especially for your children. You don’t need revenge to reach a fair settlement. Try to view your separation as a business deal, instead of a way to settle a score. You’ll likely speed up the process, save on legal fees, and reduce stress on your family.

Before You Divorce in Lancaster, Get a Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both spouses. This document can map out details concerning the division of property, spousal support, and child custody. You may think divorce proceedings will be quick and straightforward, or that a verbal agreement will be sufficient, but often a couple’s situation is more complicated than they realize. Without a separation agreement, each new issue that arises can result in disagreement and stress.

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A separation agreement can address issues such as who is responsible for debts like mortgages, credit card bills, and student loans and how they will be paid. It will resolve tax details, such as who will claim the dependency exemptions and who will receive any tax refund.

Perhaps most importantly, a separation agreement will define how you will make decisions regarding your children, how they will divide their time between both parents, and who is responsible for child support. Establishing guidelines for temporary child support before the divorce is settled can ensure your child’s basic needs are met, including food, clothing, housing, daycare, and medical expenses.

Don’t Forget About Retirement Funds

Couples typically give a lot of thought to how they will split time with their children and how they will divide significant assets, such as their home, vehicles, and property. Often, however, they tend to forget some critical non-liquid assets, including pensions, 401ks, 403bs, IRAs, life insurance, brokerage funds, and stock options. All retirement, investment, and insurance assets are communal property that you should include in your divorce settlement.

Dividing these assets can be a complicated process with serious tax implications and a loss of benefits should you do it incorrectly. In the case of defined contribution plans such as 401ks, the distribution of assets may depend on the size of the plan before the marriage, during the marriage, and after the separation. Pension plans often require an actuary to calculate the value based on factors such as the employee’s years of service, salary, and life expectancy.

Some plans call for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, a special court order that allows the division of retirement benefits in a divorce. QDROs are necessary to avoid early withdrawal penalties, but they also are complicated legal documents with highly technical language outlining the distribution of assets.

A qualified divorce attorney can help you organize your assets, ensure that your spouse is not hiding any assets, and take the legal steps necessary for a stress-free and penalty-free transfer of assets.

Get a Custody Agreement in Place Immediately

A child custody agreement outlines which parent will have primary physical and legal custody of the children and whether custody will be split equally. If it is not, the agreement also will map out a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.

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The end of a marriage is particularly stressful for children, which is why it is important to think through shared custody arrangements early, even before your spouse has moved out. An experienced divorce attorney can serve as a mediator to help negotiate and finalize a custody agreement that is fair to both parties and serves the best interests of the children.

As a mediator, a divorce lawyer also can diffuse emotional reactions and advise you on the best options for managing shared custody and child support in your unique family situation. 

Be Careful With Social Media During the Divorce

No matter what you may think, nothing on social media is private or secure, and all of it can be used against you during proceedings. Think about how photos of your new car, your recent weekend getaway, or your fun night out will look when you’re trying to convey in court that you need financial support.

Social media can do even more harm when it comes to child custody. While posting photos of yourself dating or partying may help you to feel empowered at a time when you are hurting emotionally, those posts can end up backfiring in the long run.

In Pennsylvania, social media posts can be used as evidence that you are an unfit parent, even if they are taken out of context. Don’t post anything that would allow your former spouse to paint you as a partier rather than a responsible parent. If you’re in the middle of ending your marriage, it’s best not to post on social media at all.

Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer, Committed to Reducing Stress

Filing is trying enough without attempting to handle all the details alone. Hiring an experienced attorney who can protect your interests and the interests of your dependents can go a long way toward reducing stress.

A seasoned divorce lawyer will guide you through the separation and divorce process, help draw up a custody agreement, and ensure you receive the child support and alimony you deserve. Good legal counsel will also help you protect your assets, manage deadlines, help you deal with Protection From Abuse (PDA) filings, and advise you before you make crucial decisions.

If you’re considering divorce, contact the Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster. We will guide you through the process, help you organize your assets, and review your options for child custody, child support, and alimony. We can also offer the calm, professional support you need to minimize stress and ensure a fair settlement for you and your family.

Want to find out more about the legal aspects of divorce? Read these articles and blogs:

5 Common Custody Questions

A List of Common Custody Agreements

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

The ABCs of Child Care in Pennsylvania

5 Tips for a Better Custody Agreement

Changes in PA’s Grandparents’ Rights Laws

6 Tips to Get a Better Custody Agreement

The Divorce Checklist

The Child Custody Checklist

6 Reasons to Consider Getting Custody of a Grandchild

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for a Divorce

Common Mistakes Parents Make in Custody Proceedings

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Or click here to discover an even wider range of legal topics in our legal blog.

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

going-bob-Lancaster-County-Pennsylvania

By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney

Divorce is always stressful, and when debt is involved, the process of splitting up assets and money owed can be especially tense. It’s important to know that every state differs in the way they handle the process of dividing marital property, assets, and debt. As a result, filing for divorce in a different state has a variety of consequences.

While every case is different, some commonalities apply to all types of divorces. This article explains how asset and debt distribution works in a divorce in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania is an “Equitable Distribution” State

In Pennsylvania, the process of dividing marital assets and debts follows the laws of “equitable distribution.” Some states follow a “community property” system in which each person is entitled to half of all property regardless of what they brought into the marriage. But in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, laws demand more equitable solutions, so courts must work to determine fair and appropriate asset division based on a number of factors.

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Equitable distribution is based on factors that can include considerations of timing. For example, if one spouse had a house prior to the marriage, that person may get to keep the house as part of the settlement. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements may also play a factor.

The state generally classifies assets and income acquired before the marriage as personal property. Assets and income acquired during the marriage are generally considered “shared.”  These assets can include homes, businesses, retirement accounts, vehicles, art, or investments. Notably, inheritances or personal gifts receive during the marriage may be exempt.

In addition to striving to take a fair view of marital assets, Pennsylvania considers debts acquired during the marriage to be shared as well.

However, couples can choose how to divide their property without the help of courts. In mediation, the couple sits down, often with lawyers, and negotiate the distribution of assets and debts. Only when couples refuse to negotiate or can’t arrive at a shared agreement do courts become involved. A skilled negotiator can help manage the process and may get their party a better settlement.

Once settlements go to a divorce court, judges have quite a bit of leeway in how they divide debt and assets. They will factor in many variables, including the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses, current income, earning potential, whether the spouses were previously married, the scope of non-marital assets, how each spouse contributed to the wealth accumulated during the marriage, assets or debts accumulated during the marriage, the standard of living established, tax consequences of any award, and custody arrangements and responsibilities. Each judge will weigh these factors differently, so spouses are often surprised or displeased by decisions.

Because Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, Going and Plank advise divorcing couples to make every attempt to negotiate the distribution assets and debts through mediators and attorneys. Once the case is placed in front of a judge, each spouse loses much of their negotiation power.

Spouses are Not Automatically Responsible for Debt

While debts are divided in PA, it is possible to be exempt from some types of debt. For example, if a spouse bought a vacation house before marriage, they kept the house in their name, and they are keeping the house after the divorce, it’s unlikely that the other person will be responsible for any debts associated with that home.

However, these situations can be complicated. For example, if the other person took out a loan to make improvements on that same vacation house during the marriage, that person may be responsible for some or all of the outstanding debt on that loan. This is known as commingled debt, and it’s fairly common. Many spouses have credit cards in their name before marriage, but during the marriage, they spend on shared purchases like vacations and furniture. In that case, the credit card becomes a marital debt.

Any debt under both spouses’ names will likely continue to be the responsibility of both spouses. In negotiations, couples sometimes agree to take on debt in exchange for additional assets. A skilled divorce attorney from Going and Plank can provide advice on smart tradeoffs and potentially problematic compromises.

Protection Against Unfair Debt

In some divorces, one spouse has been, intentionally or unintentionally irresponsible with finances. In these cases, both spouses suffer the effects. One spouse’s behavior can impact the other in the form of poor credit ratings, liquidations, or even bankruptcy. But some things can be done to minimize financial risk.

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A good divorce lawyer provides protection by including an indemnity clause in divorce agreements. This gives the client the power to seek restitution if their spouse doesn’t hold up their end of the agreement by missing or stopping payments.

An experienced divorce lawyer can also help include refinancing or liquidation in a divorce settlement. If a client is keeping assets, refinancing is a way to get their spouse’s name off the loan. For shared assets, selling the home and splitting the proceed is often the best solution.

As soon as the divorce process begins, take the spouse’s name off all credit cards and revoke their authorization to use those cards. The same goes for bank accounts. Cancel joint credit cards and close joint bank accounts.

If a person is responsible for paying debts in their spouse’s name, their spouse must make sure that person is making timely payments. Don’t assume they will follow through. The spouse should check on the payment status of accounts or get updates on their credit report so inactivity can be flagged immediately.

Why Hire a Divorce Lawyer?

While some couples are able to divorce amicably without issue, they are the exception. Most couples argue over assets and debts, and many are unaware of their rights and options in this stressful process.

Having an experienced family law attorney will help anticipate issues, understand if settlements are fair, and help avoid big issues down the road.

If you or someone you know is getting ready to divorce or needs help from a divorce lawyer, contact The Law Offices of Going and Plank today and find out what we can do for you.

Want to learn more about divorce in Pennsylvania? Check out these blogs:

The Divorce Checklist

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for a Divorce

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

The Divorce Checklist

15 Ways to Reduce Stress, Confusion, and Delays

bob-going-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaBy Robert M. Going, Jr.,

Attorney

Divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania can be stressful, complicated, and overwhelming. It’s hard to keep track of the details when so many life-changing events are happening all around you. That’s why it’s important to try to take care of details early in the process.

If you’re a Lancaster County resident thinking about a divorce, if you’re separated, or even if you’ve already started divorce proceedings, you’ll need to prepare yourself and your family for a new way of life. To set the stage for less stress, less mistrust, and more cooperation, it’s smart to avoid tense situations by taking care of some tasks early in the process.
A family law attorney at Going and Plank developed this divorce checklist to help you prepare in ways that can save you time, aggravation, and even money down the road.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Gather Documents Early

Start gathering documents as soon as you have decided to pursue a divorce, even if you have not contacted a divorce lawyer yet. If you start collecting these documents before your divorce is filed, you will be able to acquire many of these documents without much resistance or delay. If you wait until after you file, you may find your spouse can hold up or block some requests, resulting in slower deliveries and increased costs. Once you acquire these important legal and financial documents, make two copies; one for your Lancaster County divorce attorney, and one to store in a location inaccessible to your spouse, such as at a relative’s home or a safe-deposit box.

These documents may include the following items;

  • Federal, state, and local tax returns for the past five years for you and your spouse
  • Proof of current income, such as pay stubs or an employment contract
  • Proof of spouse’s current income, such as pay stubs or an employment contract
  • Bank statements, including certificates of deposit and money market accounts
  • Pension and retirement account statements
  • Benefits statements from employers that include details on health insurance, life insurance, retirement funds, use of company vehicles, dividends, profit sharing, stock-options, dental insurance, or other benefits
  • Documentation on stock portfolios, stock options, and trusts
  • Documentation on mortgages and property tax statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Loan documents, including loans for vehicles, education, and home equity loans
  • Utility bill statements
  • Documentation for recurring bills, such as tuition, daycare, tutoring, activities, club dues, lawn maintenance, etc.
  • A worksheet outlining your monthly budget
  • Life insurance policies
  • Check with a divorce lawyer at Going and Plank to see if your situation requires any additional documentation.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Inventory Personal Items Before the Divorce

In Pennsylvania, all property that you owned before your marriage is personal property and usually remains yours after a divorce. Personal property may include an inheritance, a gift given to you prior to marriage (such as your grandfather’s watch), legal settlements such as a personal injury settlement, furniture and home items you owned before the marriage, and a woman’s engagement ring.

Property acquired during a marriage is considered marital property. Marital property includes your wedding band, gifts from your spouse, the property you purchased during your marriage, and home items purchased during your marriage.

It’s smart to inventory all these items and take photos or videos of them as soon as you can. Once they disappear, it will be difficult to prove their existence or your ownership.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Remove Irreplaceable Items from Your Home

If you suspect that your spouse may claim some items during a divorce, you may want to remove them from your property. Things like photos, mementos, favorite books, albums, family heirlooms, or other items with special personal meaning can mysteriously disappear during a heated divorce. However, if these items were purchased or acquired during your marriage, they are marital property and must be declared as part of the divorce process.

That being said, if you have items that you really want to keep, it’s smart to quietly box them up and remove them to a safe location – your parent’s attic, a bank’s safe-deposit box, or some other location that is off limits to your ex. Contact Going and Plank to find out more about protecting your possessions in a divorce.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Pull Your Credit Report

Avoid being surprised by unpaid bills or resulting collections by pulling your credit report. A divorce lawyer from Going and Plank can help you make sure you know about all credit cards, mortgages, and loans made with your name on them.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Redirect Your Mail

Your spouse has the right to open mail that is addressed to both of you, but as your divorce continues, you will get mail from attorneys, creditors, and your bank that you may want to keep private. Open a PO box, and redirect mail delivery to avoid finding out that your ex accidentally or intentionally opened a confidential letter.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Open a New Bank Account at a New Bank

It’s smart to open up a new account and try put enough money in it to cover at least a few months of expenses. Choose a new bank, to avoid confusion between accounts. Your new account ensures that you’re able to keep some money on hand, even if your spouse decides to close down credit cards or empties joint accounts.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Change Your Privacy Settings on Social Media 

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Many social media accounts allow almost anyone to access your posts, photos, and your contacts unless you go into privacy settings to restrict access. If you have social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can choose privacy levels by logging into your account settings. During your divorce period, limit your spouse’s access to these accounts as much as possible. You can remove your spouse from your list of social media connections (for example, unfriend on Facebook) and they will not be notified of this change.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Add Passwords

Does your computer have a password? Does your phone require a PIN? What about your tablet or cloud-based devices like Alexa and Echo? Does your vehicle have voice-activated phone, text or email functions? Now is the time to install passwords and require PINs. Make sure your spouse can’t access your emails, texts, or personal information on any type of device.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Change Your Approach to Social Media 

As you begin divorce proceedings, you should limit or refrain from posting on social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Social media can be used in divorce proceedings as evidence that you are not behaving in optimal ways. Even seemingly innocent posts can be twisted to suit your spouse’s purposes. Don’t post photos of yourself out with your friends, drinking, smoking, spending money, traveling, or on vacation. And never post disparaging comments about your spouse, your ex, or their friends or associates. The best rule during a divorce proceeding is to “go dark” and stop posting until the divorce is finalized.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Change Your Existing Passwords

Yes, it is a pain to change dozens, even hundreds, of passwords and PINs, but it’s possible, (even likely) that your spouse knows many of the passwords to email accounts, bank accounts, social media, online retail accounts like Amazon or E-Bay, along with a lot of other personal information. Play it safe and take the time to change passwords.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Think Through a Parenting Schedule

You may have already thought about how shared custody might work. However, it’s also smart to sit down with a calendar and mark out birthdays, the start and end of school, holidays, and special family dates to make sure you’ve thought through how you will handle these dates.
It’s also helpful to consider your approach to doctor appointments, how you’ll handle babysitting needs (will you be your spouse’s first choice to watch the kids, or will you take this option out of the equation?) What happens when a spouse has to travel for work or a family emergency? Who will take kids to practice?

It’s important to think through these issues and develop a plan for addressing them, early on, before the stress of divorce starts making unbiased decisions more difficult. Going and Plank is experienced in Pennsylvania custody law, and our lawyers can help you create fair custody agreements in Lancaster County. Contact us today for more information.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Take Advantage of Medical Benefits While You Can

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If you are under your spouse’s health care policy, it makes sense to take care of all medical needs before you file for or finalize the divorce. Get your teeth cleaned if you have dental insurance. Get your prescriptions filled if you have a prescription plan. Get your checkups and shots, or complete the procedure you’ve been postponing.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Explore Your Health Care Options

If your spouse took care of health insurance, you’ll need to explore your own health care options now. Your place of employment may offer a plan, or you may want to rethink your employment, so you have access to health care through an employer. Or you may want to look for an individual insurance option in the health care marketplace.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Change Beneficiaries

Make a list of items that will require you to change the beneficiary. This can include a will, insurance policies with a life insurance component, retirement funds, investment funds, and pensions. Going and Plank can help you update wills, trusts, and estate plans as part of your divorce. Contact us today to learn more.

Lancaster Divorce Tip: Create a Support Network

While divorce sometimes feels lonely, don’t forget that you’re not alone. Everyone needs a support network to help them work through the emotional challenges of a divorce. While many of your close friends and family can provide emotional comfort, also seek out friends and family members who have gone through a divorce in the past. This might be a good time to join a support group or find a professional therapist.

A free or low-cost divorce support group is just a Google search away. Many insurance plans cover some or all of the expense of professional therapy, so check your policy. And choose a divorce attorney who has your best interest in mind. The Lancaster County attorneys at Going and Plank can help you navigate successfully through one of the most difficult times in your life. Contact us today to discuss your divorce or custody situation.

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Divorce can be stressful and overwhelming, but at Going and Plank, we’re committed to helping you through the process with compassion. After all, we’ve practiced Family Law in Lancaster County for over 60 years. The Family Law team at Going and Plank takes the time to find out what is most important to you, fight for your rights, and help you reach a fair settlement that will set you up for success in your new, post-divorce life.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Lancaster County Divorce Lawyer Shares 7 Mistakes People Make When Filing for Divorce

By Robert M. Going, Family Law Attorney

Seven-Common-Mistakes-Getting-Divorced-Lancaster-County-PennsylvaniaAs a Lancaster Divorce lawyer, I know that deciding to file for divorce is not an easy decision, and the process is rarely straightforward. Even small oversights or seemingly minor decisions can backfire. Maybe that’s why, at the end of a divorce, so many people have discovered that they’ve made mistakes during the process that resulted in more stress, lower awards, or more expense.

If you are one of the many people considering divorce in Lancaster County and surrounding areas, there are several common mistakes you can avoid to help you work towards the best possible outcome.

Mistake #1: Trying to Extract Revenge

Many divorces involve some type of hurtful behavior on the part of one or both spouses. That’s why it’s completely normal to feel hurt and angry at the end of your marriage. However, being able to look at your divorce as a business deal (instead of a way to settle the score) can help speed through the process, save money, put less stress on your family, and still result in a favorable divorce settlement. A family law attorney from Going and Plank can advise you on strategies that can help you avoid an unnecessarily long or exceptionally confrontational process. We also help with child custody matters and agreements, and can even help you file for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order.

Mistake #2: Skipping the Separation Agreement

You might think that your divorce will be quick and easy and want to skip the trouble of filing for a separation agreement. Some couples rely on verbal agreements. However, a separation agreement is a legally-binding option that will ensure that finances, custody agreements, and spousal support is fully documented and enforceable. Separation agreements can help you map out who pays for the mortgage, car payments, insurance, and if you are the lower-earning spouse.

They can also outline alimony payments. Establishing guidelines for temporary child support before the divorce is settled can ensure your child’s basic needs are met, including food, clothing, housing, daycare, and medical expenses. A Lancaster County divorce lawyer from Going and Plank can mediate a separation agreement and can also lead you through the processing of filing with the courts for temporary support and custody orders.

Mistake #3: Forgetting About Investments and Retirement Funds in Divorce Settlements

While most people give a lot of consideration to the what will happen to their home, their children, and their property in a divorce, many forget to consider the division of non-liquid assets such as pensions, 401ks, 403bs, IRAs, life insurance, brokerage funds, and stock option plans.

Your Lancaster County divorce lawyer will remind you that all retirement, investment, and insurance assets are communal property and should be addressed in a divorce settlement.

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Once the division of assets is decided, these types of transfers can be complex and require a thorough understanding of divorce and tax laws in Pennsylvania. Some funds can be transferred tax and penalty-free with a certified divorce decree, with assets require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in order to allow tax and penalty-free transfers. Contact Going and Plank to help you identify and assess all of your spouse’s assets, and to manage the distribution of assets in ways that make sense with your goals.

Mistake #4: Guessing Your Spouse’s Financial Assets

In Pennsylvania, there is a commitment to the protection of the family unit, but, unlike some other states, Pennsylvania divorce laws do not mandate a 50-50 split of assets. Instead, the courts consider a number of factors when dividing assets, including the length of the marriage, amount of assets, age, lifetime earning abilities of each spouse, and other factors.

Your Lancaster County divorce lawyer will advise you to identify all marital assets including bank accounts, investments, trusts, insurance value, retirement funds, business valuation, and more. The Pennsylvania Rules for Discovery in Domestic Relations Matters allow for the process of identifying, qualifying, and determining the value of all marital assets.

However, some people try to hide or divert funds to avoid sharing them in a divorce. While some people believe that hiding net worth only comes into play with high-income families, in reality, people of all income levels can try to hide revenue, ownership, shares in companies, retirement funds, or other assets in a variety of ways. Many times the other spouse may not be aware that these funds or interests even exist. A Lancaster County divorce lawyer from Going and Plank can search for these types of assets and ensure that you obtain a fair and complete assessment.

Mistake #5: Not Asking Your Lancaster Divorce Lawyer to Create a Custody Agreement

When there are children involved, it’s important to think through shared custody arrangements early, even before your spouse has moved out. Using a lawyer as a mediator not only diffuses emotional reactions, it also gives you access to an experienced advisor who can tell you what is “normal,” what is unusual, and how other families manage shared custody and child support. Of course, every situation is different, and “normal” may not be right for your family. Contact us at Going and Plank to explore out your options, to help you compare custody arrangements, and to formalize your agreements in ways that are legally binding.

Mistake #6: Not Taking Social Media Seriously During Your Divorce

While social media has become an important part of many people’s lives, it can also hurt you during a divorce proceeding. Sharing your exploits, adventures, or otherwise trying to communicate that you are not hurting emotionally or financially from your divorce may feel empowering at the time, but those posts can work against you in court.

During separation and divorce, it’s wise to reduce the amount of personal information you share about yourself on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This is not a good time to use social media to tell others about what you do with your time, where you’re going, who you spend time with, or even where you vacation. A Lancaster divorce lawyer from Going and Plank can advise you on the best approach for your situation.

Mistake #7: Not Hiring a Lancaster County Divorce Lawyer

Whether you call them family law attorneys or divorce lawyers, this is the time to work with an attorney who specializes in divorce law to protect your interest and the interest of your dependents. At Going and Plank, we can help you during the separation and divorces process and can continue to represent you as you reevaluate custody agreements, child support, and alimony down the road.

When you talk to our team at Going and Plank, we’ll help you understand the process, make sure you do everything needed to protect yourself, your assets, and the life you’ve built for yourself and your family. Once you file for divorce, a divorce lawyer will make sure you understand your options before you make important decisions.

Our Lancaster County divorce lawyer will help you manage filing deadlines, help identify, and uncover, your spouse’s assets, advise on custody agreements, help you understand child support and alimony options, and help you deal with Protection From Abuse (PFA) filings.

While your finances may seem uncertain when filing for divorce, we’ll work with you to understand costs and fees and make sure that our services are formatted in ways that won’t cause undue financial stress. For many of our clients, our divorce negotiation services end up saving them money in the form of more favorable settlements. Contact us today to explore your options, and to talk more about your personal situation.

Want to learn more about divorce? Check out these blogs written by a Lancaster County divorce lawyer. 

Are You Prepared for a Divorce?

6 Tips for a Less Stressful Divorce

Divorce and Debt: Who Gets What?

The Divorce Checklist

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Or click here to discover an even wider range of legal topics in our legal blog.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Last year there were 73,304 marriages and 32,777 divorces in Pennsylvania. While the population of Pennsylvania continues to grow, the number of marriages and divorces is in decline. But one statistic seems to stay the same – about half of all marriages end in divorce. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require citizens to hire a lawyer to get a divorce. You can get paperwork at your county courthouse or online, and government websites outline the process.

DIY Divorces Are Risky

There is no margin for error in the divorce process in Pennsylvania, and PA government websites clearly warn that if you choose to complete your own divorce paperwork, your information must be correct. For anyone who decides to file for divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, it’s critical to spend extra time with each form and make sure you fully understand every part of the process.

Pennsylvania law does not allow courthouse staff to answer questions that could be construed as requests for legal advice, and the law does not provide exceptions for people who did not understand the process or the legal terms involved. If you make a mistake in your divorce paperwork or if you fail to raise a claim for alimony, the division of property, or a claim for your spouse to cover legal fees or filing expenses in your divorce complaint, you will lose your rights to make those claims once the divorce decree is entered.

Using a Lawyer as a Consultant

If you’re thinking of filing on your own, and don’t need a lawyer to do everything for you, it may still make sense to consult with an attorney to discuss the process. The divorce attorney at Going and Plank often consults with divorce candidates at the beginning of the process to help them think through their options and map out a plan that makes sense for their situation. Some people complete and file the paperwork, asking Going and Plank to review it for errors or omissions before submitting it to the court.

Some divorce clients find that, after talking with a divorce lawyer, there are financial or support considerations that they had overlooked. Even in amicable divorces, many couples fail to consider retirement funds, life insurance policies, credit cards and any debt associated with those cards, college savings plans, inheritances, and other long-term, financial planning considerations.

Other clients discover that they know very little about their spouse’s finances. If your spouse makes more money than you or handles the money and bank accounts, you may not be fully aware of how or where assets are organized. While many spouses appear accommodating, it’s not uncommon to discover that your spouse has been selling or transferring assets without your knowledge. It’s also possible that your spouse has established checking, insurance, or brokerage accounts without your knowledge. If you suspect this behavior, Going and Plank can help you locate and value these assets.

Divorce-Attorney-Lancaster-County-PA

When to Rely on a Good Divorce Lawyer

Many couples start the divorce proceedings with good intentions. They seem to agree on most matters, and the process seems straightforward and manageable. However, as the divorce process continues, and the details of their initial divorce agreements become clear, some couples find lawyers are necessary. What value does a good divorce lawyer add to uncontested divorces?

Sound Advice on Divorce Issues

Going and Plank can help you identify and remedy issues that many spouses overlook. We can help you assess and inventory assets, including investments, brokerage accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, and even social security payments. Our divorce lawyer will advise you on the equitable distribution of property.

Confidence

The divorce process in Pennsylvania can feel overwhelming, and the courts warn self-filers that they are responsible for their own errors. When you hire a good divorce lawyer, you’ll know that your attorney is making sure all paperwork is filed properly. Hiring a lawyer from Going and Plank can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Legal Clarity for Your Divorce Filing

The language you use in your divorce filings is important. If the court doesn’t understand the intent of your request, you may not get the results you desire. Our experienced divorce lawyer creates clear, concise documents, written in the language of the court, that ensures your wishes will be accurately reflected.

Expediency

DIY divorce filers often experience delays because of issues with the paperwork. When you use a good divorce attorney from Going and Plank, we make sure your paperwork is in order and help avoid delays and rescheduling.

Divorce Advocacy

Many divorces start out amicable and then devolve into divorce battles. Well-meaning spouses are often surprised and hurt when partners demand new terms, altered custody agreements, or changes in the division of property. A good divorce attorney will help you map out all considerations, and help you identify potential issues upfront. While our divorce attorney can’t promise a painless divorce, we can handle all legal and filing considerations, ensure all assets are identified, and help negotiate custody and support agreements that protect your interests.

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Going and Plank has been providing family law attorneys to the residents of Lancaster County and Central Pennsylvania since 1956. Robert M. Going, Jr. is a partner with over 30 years of experience as a divorce attorney. If you would like to talk about hiring Going and Plank to help with your divorce filing, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank are located in downtown Lancaster, PA. We are proud to participate in the Hyatt Legal Plan.

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