Taking tax deductions for alimony

If alimony has been awarded as part of a Pennsylvania divorce, the person paying the alimony may be able to take a tax deduction on the amount paid. However, there are several conditions that must be in place. The people must not be living in the same household, and the agreement cannot specify that the alimony is not taxable or deductible. The obligation must be one that ends on the death of the person being paid. Most importantly, the alimony has to be part of a formal legal divorce agreement.

This final point was the decision of the U.S. Tax Court after a man tried to deduct a payment that was not part of his alimony agreement. The man and his spouse had agreed that he would pay her half of a bonus he received in the year before their divorce. However, since the payment was never made part of a court order or separation agreement, the ruling was that the man could not deduct it on his taxes.

The person who receives an alimony payment generally has to pay taxes on it. Child support payments are neither deductible nor taxable.

It may be possible for a couple to reach an agreement regarding alimony, property division, child custody and child support without going to court to have a judge decide. A couple may be more satisfied with an agreement they reach instead of a judge’s decision, and there are a number of ways to structure negotiations for conflict resolution. One way is for the estranged couple to have their respective attorneys take the lead.

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.

Parents should not assume that just because they have an attorney there is no work for them to do. They should research and understand state custody laws and should follow up to make sure any necessary paperwork is submitted on time.

A judge will make a child custody decision based on the best interests of the child. This will mean taking into account the behavior of both parents in court along with many other factors including what situation will best help the child adjust. Whatever the judge’s decision is, if parents can work together, this will also help children adjust. Parents might create an agreement that covers any potential areas of conflict ranging from how they will handle vacations to when children will meet new partners.

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.

They were also less likely to provide such in-kind items as food and medicine. The study looked at 4,897 families and interviewed the parents when their children were of various ages. The data released was from the child’s ninth year. More than 1,000 fathers in the study did not live with their children.

When a divorce happens, parents may be concerned about both child support and custody. A judge may award custody to the parent who is the child’s main caregiver. However, parents might also want to negotiate custody. A parent who is concerned about paying support might want to discuss the situation with their attorney. Support is calculated using a formula, and extenuating circumstances, such as having other children to support, may also be taken into account. Parents who are concerned about whether they will receive support should be sure to get a legally binding child support order. This will help enable the local child support enforcement agency to penalize the parent who does not pay.

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.

Establishing clearly written parenting rules is an effective way for parents to avoid this pitfall, but these guidelines should not be too strict or restrictive. Parents who feel like their hands are tied may search for loopholes to exploit, and this can encourage children to be deceptive and manipulating. However, parents who cooperate with one another set a positive example and teach their children valuable lessons about the benefits of acting responsibly and honoring commitments.

Experienced divorce attorneys often seek to get child custody talks off to a positive start by establishing common ground and identifying shared goals, and they may also remind their clients that court disputes are public, unpredictable and often expensive. Dealing with visitation and custody early on in divorce negotiations also avoids children being used as bargaining chips when more contentious matters such as property division or alimony are discussed.

When should a stepparent consider adoption of a stepchild?

Pennsylvania stepparents sometimes may wonder whether or not they should adopt their stepchildren. There are several scenarios that might make this a good option.

When a child’s other biological parent dies, his or her stepparent might want to adopt the child so that the child can inherit and so that the stepparent may help with the child’s medical and educational needs. If the child’s biological parent to whom the stepparent is married dies, the stepparent will not have legal rights to the child if he or she has not adopted the child. The court would then be the child’s guardian and may send the child to live with the child’s biological relatives. The stepparent may not be granted visitation rights.

If the child’s other biological parent is alive but has abused or neglected the child, the stepparent may adopt the child and terminate the biological parent’s relationship. Adoption may also be a good idea when the stepparent and his or her partner share biological children in addition to the stepchild. This can help to make certain that all of the children will be treated equally and may help to reduce jealousy between the siblings.

Stepparents are not always allowed to adopt if the child’s other biological parent is living. In situations in which the other biological parent has abandoned the child or has a history of abuse or neglect, the court may allow the stepparent to adopt while terminating the biological parent’s rights. This may help to solidify the relationship between the stepparent and the child while also protecting the child from the toxic relationship he or she has with the other parent. People who are interested in adopting their stepchildren might want to consult with a family law attorney for advice about the process. As each situation is different, the foregoing should not be construed as legal advice.

The effect of domestic violence on child custody decisions

No Pennsylvania parent should ever have to be the victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately, statistics show that cases of this type of physical and emotional abuse are on the rise across the country. This can have a profound effect on children who are the subject of it or who witness it being inflicted on one of their parents by the other. Some studies have shown that it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

It can also have an effect on a child custody determination should the victim decide to seek a separation or a divorce from the abuser. However, it doesn’t always produce the result that people would expect. In many cases, the victim is so traumatized and fearful that he or she is not capable of giving proper care and emotional support to the child. Judges who are making child custody decisions are guided by what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. In many cases, victims who are unable to properly care for their children are denied custody.

It has also been found that abusers often use their children as so-called “bargaining chips” during divorce proceedings. A woman who has written several books on parenting has stated that, during the period of separation but before a custody order has been issued, children who are 3 years of age or younger should not be allowed to stay overnight with the parent who has not been the primary caregiver.

A parent who has been the victim of domestic violence may not know where to turn. Family law attorneys can often recommend local community resources and in some cases where necessary obtain protective orders on behalf of their clients who are seeking sole physical custody of their children and a divorce from their abusers.

Income tax considerations for divorcing spouses

Disputes over property division and spousal support are not uncommon for divorcing couples in Pennsylvania and around the country, but approaching negotiations with clear and realistic goals can sometimes reduce tension and conflict and lead to a more amicable outcome. Spouses sometimes agree to give up their claims to assets such as stocks and bonds, furniture or artwork in return for higher alimony payments, but they should bear in mind that such arrangements can have consequences when it comes time to file their income tax returns.

Divorced or legally separated spouses who pay alimony in cash or by check or money order may deduct these payments when filing their income tax returns, and spouses who receive maintenance payments must generally pay tax on this income. These tax rules do not apply if the spouses concerned are members of the same household or still filing a joint return. Child support payments are never deductible, and parents receiving child support are not required to pay income tax on this money.

Understanding these rules can sometimes make divorce negotiations less stressful. Spouses who expect to pay alimony usually earn more and pay taxes at higher rates than the recipients, and deductions may be more valuable to them in the long run than a coveted asset. Spouses who expect to receive alimony could value the peace of mind that a secure source of income brings, and they may be less truculent during negotiations as a result.

Experienced family law attorneys will likely seek to avoid conflicts and confrontations whenever possible. They may point out to their clients that protracted legal battles can be both damaging and expensive while providing no guarantees, and they may suggest alternative means of dispute resolution such as divorce mediation or arbitration.

How the Hague Convention stops international child abductions

Pennsylvania parents who are divorcing and whose relationship has an international component might be concerned about one of the parents taking their child abroad in contravention of a custody order. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is intended to protect against these abductions, and more than 90 countries including the United States are signatories.

A parent who suspects that a brief vacation abroad has turned into a refusal to return the child should file a petition as quickly as possible. This can be done at the state or federal level. It is best if the parent has a custody order before filing. The child must also be habitually resident in the country where the parent is filing.

Filing a petition is supposed to result in an immediate return if the child is under the age of 16, it has been less than a year since the abduction and the other country is also a signatory to the treaty. However, this can be complicated by foreign legal systems or even by the inability to locate the child. Some legal systems privilege the mother over the father in an unmarried relationship. The other parent can also refuse to return the child on the grounds that it would place the child in grave danger or if the parent filing does not have rights to child custody. Parents have 30 days to file an appeal following a denial in a trial court. In the case of an absence of more than a year, the return is discretionary.

The procedure for dealing with an international child abduction is complex. Parents can also take steps to prevent such an incident. For example, both parents’ permission can be required in order to issue a passport for the child. However, in cases where a child regularly goes to another country to visit family there, this would not be effective. Parents trying to balance their concern for their child’s return with the child’s need to visit other family members who live abroad might want to discuss their concerns with an attorney.

Pennsylvania parents and post-divorce holiday issues

Pennsylvania parents whose marriages are ending may find that coming to a fair visitation arrangement for the holidays is one of the most challenging aspects of the divorce process. The holidays are generally focused on family gatherings, which can make the initial adjustment period after a divorce difficult. Co-parenting during the holidays involves putting the children first and fostering an amicable relationship between the parents, if possible. Former celebrity couple Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey accomplish this by prioritizing their twins and focusing on family. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin continue to take family vacations together with their children.

While family vacations may not be a viable holiday custody solution for all divorced couples, working out mutually-agreed upon arrangements is crucial. Parents may choose to alternate holiday privileges each year or divide the holidays. Some parents choose to celebrate with their children on an alternate day if it is not their year for holiday visitation.

Forging new holiday traditions can be a fun way to navigate the first holiday after a divorce. New traditions allow children to become involved in the celebrations. One parenting expert reminds parents that it is acceptable to feel sad during the holidays but essential to avoid wallowing in that sadness. Instead, parents should take the time to do something special and look after their personal health and well-being.

Child custody arrangements are often difficult to agree upon, especially in a particularly tumultuous divorce. A family law attorney may be able to provide assistance with drafting an agreement that offers fair distribution of holiday time. An attorney may also be able to help a parent who is subject to a custody and visitation order that is not being honored by the other parent.

Substance abuse and its effect on child custody

Pennsylvania parents should be aware of the various factors that can influence a custody battle. For example, when news broke that Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick would be splitting up, much of the resulting attention was focused on how the breakup would affect their three children. One expert has speculated that Disick might be the one to end up with custody despite a history of substance abuse. Contrary to popular belief, having a history of drug and alcohol abuse does not necessarily mean a parent cannot gain custody. The same is true of parents with histories of partner abuse, mental health issues and criminality, according to experts in family law.

Many courts award divorcing parents joint legal custody. This means that both parents share the major decision-making power. However, in circumstances where a parent is deemed unfit, such as in cases where one parent is incarcerated, the other parent may have sole legal custody. Even though having a history of substance abuse does not automatically disqualify a parent from having some degree of physical custody, the courts do take it seriously. A parent who has just gotten out of rehab, for example, could be given supervised visitation and mandatory drug testing.

The court also takes partner abuse seriously. However, a parent who has a tumultuous relationship with his or her partner yet is good with the children may receive a favorable judgment over a parent who does not treat the children well. The court does watch these cases closely, as the parent’s temper could eventually impact the custody arrangement.

A parent with children who is considering a breakup or divorce may want to obtain the assistance of legal counsel during the process. A family law attorney can often seek to negotiate an agreement with the other parent that will address custody and visitation issues and be in the children’s best interests.

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