Facebook as a possible channel for serving papers

Pennsylvania residents who are beginning the divorce process might encounter a situation where their estranged spouse might be difficult to locate. The question might arise about how to serve divorce papers after all the traditional avenues have been exhausted. As technology and the use of social media becomes more embedded in society, the possibility of expanding the use of Facebook as a channel for serving divorce papers has grown. In fact, there have already been a couple of cases in which judges have allowed the use of the service for such as task.

The two cases in which judges allowed Facebook to be used as a channel for serving papers occurred in New York, where legislation allowing the use of the service exists. In one case, the service was used to serve divorce papers to an estranged spouse after the wife and her lawyer had used every other avenue to attempt to locate the husband. In the other case, it was used to notify an ex-spouse of the person’s intent to stop paying child support, for the same reasons as in the first.

In both situations, the circumstances surrounding the cases were very unique and therefore became opportunities for progressive action. However, most states still do not have legislation that allows this to be possible, and there are many judges who are still not on board.

Since legislation varies by state, a Pennsylvania resident who is considering divorce and cannot locate their spouse might seek the guidance of a divorce attorney who can better advise them about state legislation and procedure. In any event, it is important to follow all the steps of the process and exhaust all avenue of contact before social media might be considered.

A look at how the IRS views alimony payments after divorce

Pennsylvania residents who are interested in family law issues may wish to know more about how the IRS treats alimony payments. Depending on the circumstances, some payments to a former spouse may not count as alimony.

Alimony is defined by the IRS as money that is paid to a spouse or former spouse as part of a court order or other divorce agreement. The payments must be made in cash, by check or by money order. In addition, the sender and recipient of the payments cannot be jointly filing a tax return. If the payments are voluntary, they do not count as alimony, and the alimony tax rules do not apply. Additionally, other types of payments, including child support, community property income and upkeep on a person’s property, do not qualify.

The person who is paying the alimony is allowed to deduct those payments from their taxable income. There is a space for these payments on each 1040 tax form. The former spouse receiving the alimony must add those payments to their taxable income. However, if these payments decrease significantly during the first three years, this may require the person paying alimony to add them back into their income and pay taxes on them. This is known as “recapture.” The recipient may be able to deduct some of the income that has been recaptured.

Understanding all of the financial issues that accompany a complicated divorce can be difficult without the guidance of an attorney. An attorney may be able to walk a person through these issues and prepare them for the end of a marriage. The attorney may also be helpful in representing the person’s interests and working together with the former spouse to minimize the time and emotional toll through a collaborative divorce.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, “Alimony,” Accessed April 7, 2015

Garnishing a Social Security check for Pennsylvania child support

The first consideration for garnishing a Social Security check for child support is the type of benefits the parent receives. If the parent receives Supplemental Security Income, the government does not allow anybody to garnish it because it is categorized as a welfare benefit. Other types of Social Security benefits, such as disability, retirement and survivor benefits, are subject to garnishment because they are earned income.

To request a garnishment against Social Security benefits, the custodial parent must first get a judge to issue an income withholding order. To do this, he or she has to show that the other parent has not paid child support as ordered or agreed. The custodial parent will then need to take that order to the local Social Security office to request that they garnish the benefits.

The law limits the Social Security Administration from withholding more than 65 percent of a person’s benefits, and this amount may be less if the other parent is supporting another spouse or child. Some state laws also limit this percentage even further. If the person stops receiving benefits for any reason, the Social Security Administration will keep the garnishment on file and begin withholding again after payments resume.

Collecting child support can be a difficult process, and the court could order collection through various methods. An attorney could assist the custodial parent with filing for income withholding orders along with bank levies. This would allow the parent to take money from paychecks, Social Security checks, income tax refunds and even entire bank accounts, depending on state law and the other parent’s financial situation at the time.

Understanding how child support works in Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania has established certain guidelines when it comes to the issue of court-ordered child support. The state calculates the amount of necessary support based on the child’s well-being and how reasonably able the parent is to pay. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued specific support guidelines that a judge will use to calculate the amount of child support. The process can be complicated because it takes into consideration the cost expenses associated with daycare, medical insurance and the living arrangements of the child. Both of the parent’s incomes are also included in the calculation.

In the state, typically the payments will remain ongoing until the child becomes 18 years old. However, if the child has not graduated high school or mental or physical conditions are present, the judge may order that extra support is necessary. The order usually stands for a four-year period.

Child support payments can be established by completing a form and filing it at the Domestic Relations office. The office can also assist in helping to locate a non-custodial parent, collect and pay the support to the custodial parent and enforce payments. If parents are able to establish an agreement between themselves, they can request that a judge grant approval of the order in a divorce or family law proceeding.

The child support order will include basic expenses related to education, food, shelter, clothing and extracurricular costs. If unexpected circumstances arise that cause one or both of the parents to want to modify the arrangement, a conference can be scheduled to discuss the order. Since child support issues can become complicated, parents may choose to hire a family lawyer to assist in identifying the best approach to establishing an order that is mutually beneficial to the parents and the child.

Source: Findlaw, “Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines “, accessed on Jan. 9, 2015

How child support may be used in Pennsylvania

A commonly held misconception is that child support should be used by a Pennsylvania custodial parent only to provide for a child’s basic needs. Child support may instead be used to pay for a wide variety of needs to help ensure that the child is able to grow up in the best possible environment, ensuring that he or she is enjoying a standard of living that would have been enjoyed if the parents had remained together.

Child support may be used to pay for educational expenses, food, shelter and clothing expenses, transportation costs, extracurricular activities and entertainment, child care, medical care and extraordinary expenses and, in some cases, college costs. Shelter expenses can include the cost of additional rent needed to pay for an apartment large enough to accommodate the child and utilities. Transportation costs, including gas, maintenance and upkeep, are allowed as a child needs safe transportation.

Even if a child attends public school, there may be uniform costs, various fees and other expenses related to the school attendance. For example, if a child participates in sports or other extracurricular activities, there are often participation fees and uniform costs. Medical and child care costs are often covered by child support payments, as are any extraordinary expenses not covered by medical insurance. In some cases, courts may order a noncustodial parent to continue paying child support beyond the age of majority to help defray the cost of the child’s college attendance.

Raising a child involves many expenses running far beyond the provision of clothing, food and shelter. In order to help custodial parents pay for a child’s needs, child support guidelines are set in a manner to help cover the associated expenses, including those that go beyond the child’s most basic needs. Those who find themselves in a child support dispute may benefit by consulting with a family law attorney.

Source: Findlaw, “What Does Child Support Cover?“, December 31, 2014

Billionaire founder of hedge fund firm files for divorce

Pennsylvania investors may be interested to learn that the founder of hedge fund firm Citadel filed for divorce from his wife. According to the report, the 45-year-old man, who was married to his 43-year-old wife for the last 11 years, cited “irreconcilable differences” for the reason behind the decision to file.

It was indicated by the report that Citadel’s finances, which were estimated to be at about $20 billion, would be safe from any domestic issues that may be had by the founder. A New York family law attorney stated that, in cases like this, many individuals have their soon-to-be partner sign a waiver that keeps the hedge fund firm safe from distribution in exchange for a certain dollar amount. This dollar amount, which is given to the ex-spouse if a divorce occurs, usually increases the longer the marriage continues. However, it was not known if the founder’s ex-wife would seek any assets from Citadel.

The couple were reportedly avid collectors of art and owned works by well-known artists including Jasper Johns. Both individuals were involved in various foundations and donated millions to multiple causes. In addition, the founder owned several properties that were estimated to be worth just under $100 million altogether. The couple also has three children.

When a couple decides to begin divorce proceedings, they also must determine how to split up any assets that were gained during the marriage and who will become the primary caretaker of any kids that resulted from the marriage. This can be difficult if the ex-couple does not see eye-to-eye. However, a family law attorney may be able to help their client identify all of the assets that were obtained and determine how much spousal support or child support their client should be awarded.

Source: Bloomberg, “Citadel’s Griffin Seeks Divorce After 11-Year Marriage“, Andrew Harris, Saijel Kishan and Katherine Burton , July 24, 2014

Sperm donor continues to fight against child support ruling

Many people in Pittsburgh have probably heard about a case in Kansas in which a sperm donor was ordered to pay child support despite having given up parental rights through a signed contract. The case has made national headlines and has likely made some sperm donors worry about what could be in store for them.

The man answered an ad from a lesbian couple who were seeking a sperm donor. Before helping the couple, the three signed a contract stating that the man would not be responsible in any way for the child. What has been the main factor in the case so far, however, is the fact that no physician was present during the donation process. Kansas law says a physician must be present for a sperm donation to be legal.

After the women who have raised the child fell into financial hardship, they sought aid from the state. The state, however, sought to declare the sperm donor the legal father of the child. A judge ruled in its favor and ordered the man to pay child support. The man announced that he will appeal the ruling.

Of course, this ruling is big news because it raises the question of what kind of protections are afforded to people who choose to help others through sperm donation. How will they know for sure that they are protected from any parental responsibilities?

The answer to that question is to thoroughly understand the laws in Pennsylvania — or whichever state you plan to donate in. Additionally, it is probably beneficial to have an attorney on your side who can review any paperwork and make sure it will hold up in court if need be.

Source: New York Daily News, “Kansas sperm donor to appeal ruling that he must pay child support,” Jan. 24, 2014

Can you get out of a mortgage or lien through divorce?

Not all people are great at staying out of debt. Sometimes it’s because of hardship like a job loss or serious illness, but other times it’s simply due to lack of discipline. What happens, however, if your spouse has failed to stay on top of his or her payments and has fallen into debt? One woman found herself in this situation after her husband fell behind on alimony and child support payments to his ex-wife. Their bank placed a lien on their home, but the woman was hoping to have it lifted because she and her husband got divorced.

Unfortunately, liens and mortgages do not follow the person who caused the debt. Rather, they are attached to the specific property, regardless of who is named on the title. Fortunately, there may be a solution to a problem like this.

 

If a lien was placed on a home because of past-due child support, it may be wise to contact your local child support enforcement agency. There may be other ways to satisfy the debt, including wage garnishment or even pursuing criminal charges that could result in faster collections. Once the debt is paid, the lien would be lifted.

Selling the home may also be a good option if the owner is willing to consider it. In some cases, profits from a home sale can satisfy a lien. However, if a sale would not result in enough money to pay the lien, it may not be possible to sell the home at all.

Although divorce can answer some problems, it may not be able to address everything. To determine the best way to handle a situation like this or any other complicated situation, it is often a good idea to work with an experienced attorney.

Source: Fox Business, “Will Divorce Release You From Home Lien?” Steve Bucci, Jan. 10, 2014

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