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Collaborate. Mediate. Separate. Divorce Doesn’t Have to Mean War.

Pittsburgh Family Law Blog

Mistakes to avoid in a child custody battle

Pennsylvania parents who find themselves involved in a custody battle should take several precautions. They should be careful about who they speak to regarding their strategy. This includes both the other parent and any friends who might tell the parent.

They should be careful about how they present themselves in the courtroom. However angry they may be at the other parent, they should not show this in court. Even if their spouse was a poor partner, they might still be a good parent. A parent who appears unable to cooperate might lose custody. Attempting to speak for the children and to predict their wishes may similarly backfire. Older children might be able to express a preference for living with one parent, but if so, they should do themselves and not through that parent. Parents should not allow themselves to be influenced by pressure from family members who may insist they should ask for more visitation or child support.

Jesse Williams' divorce: sorting out the details

Even the hottest of celebrity romances can come to an end, just like the relationship of any Pennsylvania couple. Jesse Williams, a star of "Grey's Anatomy", has filed for divorce from his wife of five years, Aryn Drake-Lee. The two dated for five years before they wed, and they met while Jesse was still a schoolteacher in New York City.

Like many couples dealing with the dissolution of a marital relationship, Williams and Drake-Lee are sorting out the details of their divorce. The split is reportedly amicable. However, there are still questions that could be challenging for any divorcing couple, especially those with children. Williams and Drake-Lee have two children, their 3-year-old daughter, Sadie, and their son Maceo, who is nearly 2 years old.

States introducing anti-LGBT adoption laws

Pennsylvania readers know that the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015. However, LGBT couples still face significant family law hurdles in several states.

For example, South Dakota passed a law in March 2017 that allows adoption agencies to exclude LGBT people from their pools of prospective parents for religious or moral reasons. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have introduced bills that would limit adoption by same-sex couples in their states. The bill in Alabama would permit state-funded child placement agencies to ban LGBT parents on religious grounds, and the Georgia bill would let adoption agencies protect their mission goals by discriminating against potential LGBT parents.

Buyout clauses aid the divorce process for business owners

The prospect of negotiating a prenuptial agreement often causes romantic partners discomfort. If the estranged Pennsylvania couple runs a business together in Pennsylvania, then the importance of discussing the possibility of split becomes even more important because a divorce could force the sale of the company. Whether the founders of a company are romantically linked or simply good friends, the preparation of a buyout agreement could head off future problems if disputes erupt.

When buyout clauses are included in the documents that set up a business, the partners establish rules for separating from the company if a relationship turns unpleasant. Without these guidelines, the partners could be left negotiating the division of business assets during an acrimonious time.

Increasing numbers of older Pennsylvania residents divorcing

The number of couples who are older and decide to divorce is increasing, but their divorce rate is still lower than that of younger couples. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the gray divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s. Gray divorces are those that involve a married couple who are at least 50 years old.

As of 1990, for every 1,000 married couples at or over the age of 50, five sought to end their marriage. In 2015, that number rose to 10 out of every 1,000 married couples. The divorce rate for individuals at or over the age of 65 increased even more drastically in this time frame. Between 1990 and 2015, the divorce rate for couples who were at least 65 went from about two couples per 1,000 to six per 1,000.

Child support and parental involvement

Pennsylvania fathers who do not have a good relationship with their child's mother and who work fewer hours might be less likely to be current on child support based on the results of a study that appeared in the Journal of Marriage and Family in February 2017. Researchers say that the study found that fathers who were behind on child support also spent less time with their children, but they identified a number of other factors that might have contributed to falling behind in support. These fathers were also more likely to have other children by different mothers and to have been incarcerated.

Fathers who were behind on support spent an average of three fewer days per month with their children, and they were involved in fewer daily activities with them such as homework and playing.

Divorce disputes over frozen embryos

Couples in Pennsylvania who are divorcing also have to decide what to do with their frozen embryos if they've been undergoing IVF treatments. Prospective parents usually sign a contract with the facility that stores their embryos that presents them with the choice of continuing to freeze the embryos or donating them in the event of a divorce. Divorcing couples can also choose to have them destroyed.

Estranged couples often disagree about the fate of their embryos. Further complicating the issue is the fact that there are few legal precedents and laws in place that advise divorcing couples about how the custody of their frozen embryos should be handled. Additionally, some of the contracts that IVF facilities make prospective parents sign may not even be legally binding. This can create a legal dilemma because courts generally take the position that a person should not be forced to become a parent against his or her will. However, courts will take into consideration whether the destruction of the embryos will end an individual's opportunity to become a biological parent.

Options for your house in divorce

Pennsylvania couples may wonder what happens to large assets like a house when they get divorced. Deciding what to do with a house is a major legal and financial decision. Making the right decision allows the asset to retain most of its value. Making the wrong decision could be extremely costly for both spouses.

There are several options a divorcing couple has when it comes to a house that is used as their primary residence. A common one is for one spouse to buy out the other.

Co-parenting can shield children from the trauma of divorce

Contentious child custody disputes may be less frequent as Pennsylvania family law judges tend to lean toward co-parenting solutions whenever possible. This is because these decisions are made with the child's best interests in mind, and research shows that children are happier and less likely to develop crippling emotional problems when they receive care and supervision from both of their parents.

Protecting their children from the psychological consequences of divorce is also the major priority of most parents, and even the most antagonistic of couples are often able to get past their anger and mistrust when the future of their children is at stake. Co-parenting works when children know where they stand and are not able to play one of their parents off against the other, but all of this hard work can be undone when parents drag their children into domestic disputes or disagreements.

Social media faux pas can be damaging in a divorce

Many Pennsylvania residents share their cherished moments with others by posting videos, images and accounts of significant events on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Posting this kind of content can sometimes backfire badly if the individual concerned becomes embroiled in a bitter divorce. Angry spouses and savvy family law attorneys will often scrutinize social media accounts for uploaded content that contradicts claims of financial hardship or fidelity being made during asset division, child custody and spousal support negotiations.

Spouses who feel that they may be placed at a disadvantage by their online activity may seek to limit the damage by removing potentially embarrassing posts or deleting entire social media accounts. However, these efforts usually come far too late to do any real good. Individuals who are thinking of pursuing a divorce often begin preparing well in advance of filing any paperwork, and they may check emails, social media activity and financial records long before their spouse knows anything is amiss.

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