Flaherty Luvara Law Group, LLP represents clients in difficult issues of Family Law and Domestic Relations with the understanding of the human interactions and emotions, as well as the property issues that surround the divorce litigation, custody, support, and paternity.
Divorce is generally viewed by clients in an entirely too simplistic way. The decision to divorce opens the door to several difficult issues that must be resolved. Generally speaking, it is these other surrounding issues that are difficult, as opposed to the single issue of whether or not to stay married. Part of the misconception stems from the perceived emphasis on the emotional dissolution. Usually difficult, sometimes less so, the degree of personal changes can cloud the more complex issues of property division and settlement, and of course, the future relationships and support of children. However, these are the decisions that need to be assessed and addressed in conjunction with the filing for divorce. However, these are the emotional issues too. These are the decisions that have long lasting results, which cannot be taken lightly. Whether through mediation, negotiation, or litigation, you have rights, interests, and goals that need protection. In order achieve fair and favorable arrangements on the tough issues you encounter.
At Flaherty Luvara Law Group, LLP, we are dedicated to acting with complete integrity in child custody and support negotiations, because these tend to be the most emotional and because they surround the future of the children. Striving for detailed and workable solutions in the best interests of the child (and the parents), our position is that we know that such agreements stand up better over time. However, if litigation is necessary, we are strong advocates for your rights. It is important to understand that deciding issues regarding child custody, the Pennsylvania courts will consider many factors including the preference of the child, the mental and physical health of the parents, the relationship between the child, the parents, and any siblings, and a number of other pertinent factors.
The Paramount Concept - Best Interests of the Child
Negotiation and compromise in the child's best interest is always the approach to emphasize. Respectful, honorable, more humane decision-making is preferable to litigation, since litigation tends to leave feelings of disharmony that last long after the last visit to the courthouse. Working with mothers and fathers to develop child custody agreements that respond to this fundamental need can create more of a sense of win-win, and less of a need for one parent or the child to win at the cost of the other parent. We seek custody arrangements that benefit the children of divorce or separated parents and serve primarily the best interests of the child or children. At Flaherty Luvara Law Group, LLP, legal counsel in these matters should be centered on the principle of dignity. Dealing with child custody or visitation, our clients receive a caring and supportive atmosphere that provides an intrinsic foundation for support along with our legal ability. Needless to say, advocating the rights of all family members during the difficult process of family dissolution is challenging since the emotions are high. The objective is generally to come to a consensus, or, an agreement. We help families establish Pennsylvania custody agreements recognizing and responding to all family relationships. Custody matters can be shared custody, sole custody, and joint custody.
Wrongful claims or Paternity and the denial of Paternity can be one of the most emotionally charged events in Family Law. Establishing paternity is a simple process. However, the legal ramification of fatherhood can be very complex. First, being the parent of a child can bring significant financial responsibilities, though not necessarily the right to have a relationship with the child. As the biological father of a child, a man may or may not have visitation, however, it may be possible to obtain these rights, and the ability to enjoy a relationship with the child. Generally, this requires legal action.
We can represent a man in a dispute over the parentage of a child. A man in this situation needs to be aware that once he is declared the father of a child, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to avoid responsibility for paying child support until the child is 18 years old. Let's discuss your legal options.
A biological father can be required to pay child support. We also represent mothers who wish to establish the parentage of a child for the purposes of obtaining support for an otherwise, fatherless child.
Marriage PlanningValid Marriage Agreements: Prenuptial and Postnuptial
While you certainly can create and enter into a premarital agreement or postnuptial agreement on your own, having an experienced lawyer assist you will make sure that all of your assets and financial interests are legally protected and binding. The main issues are related to the events of separation or divorce. So long as these types of agreements are entered into because of duress, misrepresentation or fraud, and so as long as both parties have made a full and fair disclosure to one another Pennsylvania courts will not consider the "reasonableness" of a agreements In Pennsylvania, even if one party did not have the agreement reviewed by an attorney, it is still considered valid.
Since there are circumstances over which we have little or no control, a prenuptial agreement does not mean you think your marriage will end in divorce. To the contrary, there should be a spirit, especially within the negotiation of such an agreement, that success should be fostered since many things that are subject to control, are (1) identified, (2) memorialized and (3) understood.
Remember that marriage is based on the notion of forming a contract. However, this contract is indefinite in many ways including notions of "richer and poorer" and "until death…. Therefore, the best way to protect this type of contract, which is filled with the uncertainties of "forever and ever", might be best served by another type of contract.
An agreement, whether called a prenuptial or premarital agreement, is a contract between a man and woman before they are married. A prenuptial agreement outlines the division of assets and property in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements may also include the types and amount of alimony, support, and other matters where either party may feel that they are entitled. There are statutory limitations. For example, in Pennsylvania, prenuptial agreements are not binding on issues of custody of for matters of support with respect to children.
Consider a pre-marital agreement if:
- You or your prospective spouse had been married previously.
- You have children from a prior marriage whose financial futures or interests you want to protect.
- You have more income or assets than your future spouse
- You want to protect your premarital business or other assets you acquired prior to marriage from the equitable distribution process.
- You want to decrease your financial liability, protecting the wealth you have acquired throughout your lifetime, inherited, or have acquired during marriage in the event of a divorce.
- You have an inheritance in your name or expect one in the future.
Since you can plan a wedding, why cannot the persons who are intending to divorce, do so based on some sense of understanding before they file? They can! Postnuptial agreements, (sometimes referred to as post marital agreements) are agreements entered into after a marriage has taken place, but before the parties seek to divorce. As with premarital agreements, one or both of the parties usually is seeking to protect assets or income in the event of divorce.
Equitable Distribution is the legal term for dividing marital assets and marital debts in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is not a community property state. Pennsylvania courts divide marital property and debts based on the principles of equity. Equitable distribution does not always mean that property and debts will be equally divided. The goal is to achieve an equitable, or fair, distribution of property. Pennsylvania courts may use some of the following in determining equitable distribution: Previous marriages Age of both parties Health of both parties Income Sources of both parties Respective employability of both parties Amount of non-marital assets Prenuptial agreements Custody of children when applicable Advancement of the other's income Standard of living during the marriage Tax implications Length of marriage
Marital Property (Marital Assets) and Marital Debts
If a settlement cannot be reached, the court will divide the marital assets in retirement accounts. Generally speaking, anything purchased during the period of time considered as "the marriage" will be deemed marital property, even if it was purchased or put in only one party's name. Marital assets (or martial property) include a home, other real estate, cars, furniture; businesses owned by the parties, jewelry, art, investments, insurance policies, annuities, rights under some lawsuits, and even pets. To be marital proprerty does not require your name does not appear on the title to property so long as it was purchased during your marriage. Even though the title looks as though the property is separate, you may be entitled to half. With respect to the martial debts, In Pennsylvania, marital debts are defined as debts that were acquired by either spouse after the marriage date and before the date of separation. Common marital debts include credit card bills, mortgages, car loans, home equity loans, tax obligations and judgments, even if only in one spouse's name appears, if the credit was used during the marriage, both parties are responsible.
Separate Property (Non-Marital Property)
In Pennsylvania, separate or non-marital assets may be omitted from the equitable distribution. First, any property that was excluded by a prenuptial agreement will not be included in the equitable distribution. Also, any property brought into the marriage and kept separate during the marriage is also considered non-marital property. Further, gifts received by one spouse during the marriage may also be kept separate. This includes inheritances received before or during the marriage that is kept separate may also be excluded. This is not without limitation, however. If the value of any of the non-marital property increases during the marriage, the increase in value may be considered marital property. If a spouse chooses to use non-marital funds for a common purchase, like buying a home, that money will often be considered marital property.
Mediation Differs from Arbitration
Mediation is our preferred way of dealing with virtually any contentious matters between persons seeking to file for divorce since the forum tends to open lines of communication and empowers, yet holds responsible, those who have decided to file. However, both mediation and arbitration are ways you and your spouse can resolve any differences between you without going to court. Many people tend to view Mediation and Arbitration as the same. They are not. These are very different ways of resolving differences.
Mediators really do not have any power to impose a decision on the husband and the wife. He or she is there solely to help the husband and wife find a resolution that both of them will find acceptable. If they cannot agree, that's as far as the mediator can go. The secret to mediation is to give the power and authority to the husband and wife and for the mediator to guide both the those issues that are of paramount importance and those which can be reduced to a written agreement.
An arbitrator, on the other hand, has the power to impose a settlement. The arbitrator listens to the arguments in favor of the husband and the arguments in favor of the wife, and then renders a ruling. Typically, the husband and the wife will agree in writing to submit to arbitration before the process begins. Also, they will decide whether or not the arbitration is binding. If it is not, then the husband and wife will determine what level of review is to happen next. They will agree in advance to be bound by the arbitrator's decision a way it deems fair given the particular circumstances of the cases.
Mediators and Mediation
With escalating legal costs and the limitations placed on most families, the cost of protracted litigation is something that should be avoided. Further, the emotional toll can be diminished, if the persons who have filed for divorce, or, who are going to file for divorce, agree to mediate those things that they deem to be differences.
The goal of mediation in matters of Family Law is to look beyond the immediate position of the spouses and look to the deeper interests and concerns that each may have and which may not be fully understood by the other. While divorce mediation sounds like new idea, it is not. However, it is increasingly being more widely accepted, since much of the litigation cost of a nasty divorce can be diminished.
Mediation means different things to different people. Mediation can also be used prior to the actions associated with the filing of the divorce. With the mediator's help, working through all the issues necessary in order to resolve disparate positions, can aid in gaining more efficient and more effective results when going through the divorce. Mediation is flexible and confidential. For those with children, it may be the way to settle the conflict between you, and in a certain way that helps you to work together as parents after your divorce.