One possibly surprising source of marital problems

Couples in Pennsylvania might face many troubles in their marriages, but one unexpected source of marital discord could come in the form of Facebook. According to a survey of 2,000 married British people, one in seven respondents had considered divorcing a spouse because of content they found on social media.

The survey polled people in marriages about social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Skype. It found that a quarter of the people reported having a fight at least once a week about social media use, and 17 percent of people surveyed said that they fought about social media every day. Additionally, 58 percent of those questioned admitted that they knew a spouse’s social media passwords though the spouse was not always aware of this.

When a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers polled U.S. divorce attorneys in 2010, 81 percent reported an increase in social media related evidence in divorce cases compared to five years previously. These attorneys thought Facebook was the biggest source of online information about a spouse’s behavior, and 66 percent of those surveyed said they gathered evidence by searching through one partner’s Facebook page.

Posting information on social media sites like Facebook can influence divorce proceedings or child custody arrangements because the information found on Facebook may not coincide with what one spouse has told the other about finances or his or her whereabouts. While attorneys may choose to use social media as a resource when they have to, it is usually best if both partners are willing to be honest when going through a divorce. This usually allows divorce proceedings to conclude faster and is less costly, and some couples use mediation services when trying to resolve communication issues that might impede the process.

Claiming tax breaks for divorced parents

Parents who are divorcing may not realize that there are some federal income tax credit and exemptions available for single parents that they may be able to take advantage of. These tax breaks may be able to ease some of the financial burden that parents sometimes shoulder following the end of their marriage.

Parents may claim children as dependents, but it is not possible to split the deduction. If there is more than one child, parents sometimes agree that each will claim one or more of the children. Parents may be eligible for deductions and tax credits for each dependent child.

The head of household filing status is allowed for single parents who make at least 50 percent of the household income and have children living with them for at least 50 percent of the year. This may put the parent in a lower tax bracket than if single filing status is used. Some deductions for qualifying child care expenses may be available as well as a dependent care spending account, which allows a parent to deposit money up to a certain sum tax-free. This type of account is established through a parent’s employer or business.

Some divorce legal issues can often be difficult to resolve, as parents face child custody, visitation, support issues and asset division determinations. It is best when divorcing parents strive for solutions that are in their children’s best interests, although there may be disagreement about what those should be. A family law attorney can assist a client in the negotiation of these matters. Even if an agreement can be reached, however, it will ultimately be subject to the court’s approval, making the advice of legal counsel advisable.

Source: Forbes Magazine, “8 Things Single Moms And Dads Need To Know About Taxes”, Emma Johnson, Jan. 26, 2015

The divorce rate in the United States is declining

California residents may not be aware of the recent statistics about divorce rates. While there is a widespread perception that 50 percent of couples end up divorcing, the number has actually been declining for years. The highest divorce rates occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s but an estimated 70 percent of marriages beginning in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary. The statistics for marriages that took place in the first decade of the 21st century are even more promising.

Perhaps the 1970s feminist movement contributed to the decline of the divorce rate because financial difficulties have been limited by couples bringing in two incomes. In the past women were typically responsible for raising children, cooking and maintaining the home. In modern-day marriage often couples will share these responsibilities, achieving a sense of teamwork.

It is also thought that the decline of marriages ending is due to couples marrying at a later age in life, resulting in marriages that are more mature in nature. In the 1950s the average age for men to marry was 23 and the average age for women was 20. Those numbers have drastically changed as well, as in 2004 the average age for men to marry was 27 and the average age for women was 26.

While the news about the current state of marriage in the United States is encouraging other important factors may be affected as well. For example, child-related issues that stem from the issue of divorce could also be improved if the numbers continue to go down. While these statistics are optimistic, divorce will continue to occur, and couples will face issues including property division as well as child custody and support.

Source: The Huffington Post, “The Truth About The Divorce Rate Is Surprisingly Optimistic“, Brittany Wong, December 02, 2014

Same-sex custody battle taking a toll on Pennsylvania woman

As Pennsylvania residents are well aware, a federal judge this week struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for many same-sex couples in our state who have been patiently waiting to get married. Of course, not everyone will have waited for this decision to make their life plans; some people went to other states to get married, while others have been living together as a family for many years.

For those folks, the recent ruling might be bittersweet. Many couples have gotten together, had children, and then split up. Due to differing laws in different states at the time of their various life events, issues such as child custody may have been handled differently than if they had been able to get married before starting their families.

One Pennsylvania woman has been experiencing these difficulties for some time. She and her partner met in Pennsylvania and had a marriage ceremony there in 2007, knowing that it had no legal effect. They later moved to California, were recognized as domestic partners, and had a child via artificial insemination.

After moving back to Pennsylvania, the couple had a second child. Last year, the couple split up; the woman who gave birth to the children stayed with them in the family home, while the other partner sought custody. However, because she wasn’t listed on the birth certificate of the second child, due to Pennsylvania law, courts have so far refused to grant her any custody rights.

These issues may become moot in the future, now that same-sex couples can be married here. But there are still many couples who will continue to have to deal with a patchwork of laws as a result of their existing situations.

Source: York Dispatch, “Former Yorker embroiled in same-sex custody battle,” Christina Kauffman, May 7, 2014

With big contract looming, football star files for divorce

There are many factors that play into a divorce and its aftermath. Aside from child custody issues, perhaps the most important one — or at least the most heated one — can be the division of property and marital assets. This is especially important when one member of the couple earns a large salary and the other does not. But what happens if the husband or wife is on the cusp of an even bigger salary — one that seems likely, but not yet official?

This scenario could be coming into play with NFL player Russell Wilson. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl earlier this year will remember how he led his team, the Seattle Seahawks, to a surprising blowout victory over the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. One of the main storylines heading into the game focused on the two quarterbacks, Wilson and Manning, due to the differences in their career trajectories. Manning, a veteran with perhaps his last best chance to win another title, was matched up against Wilson, just a couple of years removed from college.

One effect of that inexperience is Wilson’s contract. According to a story in USA Today, Wilson, not regarded as a top prospect coming out of school, is locked into a relatively modest deal that he cannot renegotiate until after his third year in the league — which begins this fall.

That brings us back to the divorce. Wilson knows, assuming that he stays healthy, that he will be handsomely rewarded by the Seahawks with his next contract. By ending his marriage now, when he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, he might be making sure the millions he will likely earn won’t be lost in a divorce settlement.

Source: Seattlepi.com, “Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson filing for divorce,” Stephen Cohen, April 23, 2014

Pennsylvania men to marry in New Jersey Pride parade

As same-sex marriage becomes more and more common around the country, the issues that such couples face are becoming less and less remarkable. Not every state has legalized same-sex marriage, of course, but same-sex couples are everywhere. Issues such as child custody, child support and adoption are commonplace for couples who, in some cases, have been together for a long time.

Couples often go to states that do permit and recognize same-sex marriage in order to get married and then return to their home states. These days, Pennsylvania is almost unique among states in the Northeast in that it doesn’t yet allow same-sex marriage. Our neighbors in New York and New Jersey do, however, making them common destinations for Pennsylvania couples.

Next month, a Pennsylvania couple marching in a gay pride parade that will begin in New Jersey and end across the river in Pennsylvania are getting married. They’ll be wed by the mayor of Lambertville, New Jersey, when the parade is on the New Jersey side; they’ll then march home to Pennsylvania as a married couple.

It’s not inconceivable that the law in Pennsylvania will change in the near future; after all, many states now have laws authorizing same-sex marriages. Until then, however, couples in Pennsylvania who aren’t married can still make sure that the legal needs of their families are addressed. Having the proper documentation in place can make it much easier for same-sex parents to be the legal parents of their children and make sure their rights are preserved in the event of one parent’s death.

Source: Hunterdon County Democrat, “Two men to marry in Lambertville ‘Pride’ parade, then return to Pennsylvania home,” Renée Kiriluk-Hill, April 8, 2014

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