Almost unequivocally, divorcing parties are required to disclose the nature and extent of their finances, including income, cash flow, and assets.  Where a divorcing spouse owns a significant interest in a closely-held business, that party must disclose the full economic contours of the business upon request from the other party.  The court will enforce such “discovery” requests so long as the information sought is relevant to the financial picture of the business-owning spouse.  The exception is where the parties settle matters by agreement.  Recent Pennsylvania Superior Court precedent provides that a divorcing party may waive his or her right to full economic disclosure.  However, the waiver must be explicit, and the agreement must be made absent fraud, misrepresentation or duress.  If these requirements are met, the court will not inquire as to the “fairness” of an agreement.

At Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby, we are highly skilled in navigating the waters of a complex divorce, where high value assets, such as a business, may be involved.  Indeed, “we wrote the book” on it.  If you have concerns regarding the impact a separation or divorce may have on your business, contact us for a consultation.

 

Pennsylvania Divorce Code: waiting period reduced to one year.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has passed a bill reducing the separation period for no-fault divorces from two years to one year.  Under Section 3301(d) of the Divorce Code, when grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage are established, the court may enter a divorce decree after one year.  The law remains that if the parties agree, the court may also enter a divorce decree at any time after ninety days have passed since the filing of the divorce.  Governor Tom Wolf is expected to sign the bill into law, which would become effective in sixty days.

The change will only apply to divorces filed after the effective date of the law.  Divorces that have already been filed remain subject to the two year waiting period.  The only manner in which a litigant in a pending action could take advantage of the change would be if the action were withdrawn; however, the opposing party could object to a withdrawal, especially where he or she wanted to take advantage of the current two year waiting period.

The waiting period was last changed in 1988.  The Pennsylvania Bar Association lobbied for the change, arguing that such would help reduce costs for litigants, allow families to move on, and alleviate stress for children caught in unnecessarily delayed divorces.  Those opposed to the measure argued that there are times when a delay can be a good thing, and that the courts may intervene where litigants are purposely prolonging cases.  However, the new law is more in line with the waiting period in surrounding states.  The waiting period in New Jersey and New York is six months, while Ohio has no defined waiting period.

Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby attorneys regularly update and revise the leading treatise on family law in Pennsylvania; we are thus poised to advise our clients on changes in the law such as the reduction in the waiting period.  We are qualified to advise our clients regarding the timing of a divorce, and the many other issues that our clients must consider.  Especially in cases of high net worth divorces, these issues can have large impacts on the financial aspects of a divorce.  If you have a question as to the impact of the law, our firm can provide the answers.

Divorce does not have to lead to financial ruin. In many cases, you can rely on our lawyers’ knowledge and reputation to secure the resolution of your divorce-related issues by agreement with your spouse.

We are litigators, but we can also facilitate agreement between you and your spouse. Our lawyers have the experience to advise you which course will resolve your divorce in the best manner possible, always in accord with the outcomes most important to you.

To consult with an experienced divorce attorney about your options in a divorce, contact us online or by calling 412-261-4040. We represent business and professional clients with family legal concerns across western Pennsylvania.

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High Net Worth Individuals – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – Enter Divorce

As would be expected, much of the nation engaged in a feeding frenzy of gossip when it was recently announced that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would be going, to the extent such is possible where children are involved, their separate ways.  In light of their high net worth, it has been reported that the couple have a well-crafted prenuptial agreement in place, and thus the financial aspect of the divorce will be of little note (other than the astronomical wealth the couple enjoy).

However, what will be sure to play out in the public is the custody battle over the parties’ children.  The first salvo has already been fired, as an attorney for Ms. Jolie released a statement that she is seeking primary custody of the children “for the health of the family.”  When coupled with a report that the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services was investigating an alleged confrontation between Mr. Pitt and the parties’ oldest son on an airplane, not much reading between the lines is required to spot an accusation by Ms. Jolie that Mr. Pitt is abusive to the children.  Sadly, Mr. Pitt’s parenting style, or at least speculation regarding it, will soon be public knowledge.  Mr. Pitt should expect such; the children don’t deserve such.
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Again in 2016, Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby supports the Allegheny County Bar Foundation and Public Service Committee with its donation to the Backpack Project.
The Project provides underprivileged students in Allegheny County neighborhoods with backpacks filled with school supplies.

Congratulations to Matthew Marcello – recipient of this year’s Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby Family Law Award.
Each year, Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby provides a cash award to the University of Pittsburgh Law School student who receives the highest grade in the Family Law course. Congratulations again to Matthew!

Dad with Daughter: Child SupportIn Pennsylvania, child support terminates when a child reaches the age of eighteen (18) and graduates from high school.  In Pennsylvania, a parent does not have to pay college expenses for a child who is over 18 unless this has been agreed upon as part of a divorce case.

For a family that separates prior to children completing college, these rules can be devastatingly burdensome to the custodial parent as college age is probably the time when children become most expensive.  However, because children are considered adults at this age in Pennsylvania, the court will not order child support or college tuition payments.  While difficult for the custodial parent, this type of law also protects the non-custodial/support paying parent from being directed by the court as to his or her financial participation in an adult child’s life.

What is the process for ending child support?

According to the Pennsylvania Code, a parent paying child support receives a copy of a notice six months before a child support order is scheduled to terminate. The original notice is sent to the parent receiving the payments. This notice seeks to verify items such as graduation date, residence of the child and other information to ensure the child is no longer a dependent of the parent receiving child support. Parents have thirty days to respond and the order is terminated if no response is received.

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Family Child Support PaymentsWhen spouses separate, the support of their children is considered a “priority obligation” under the law; if necessary, parents are expected to adjust their other expenditures in order to meet a child support obligation. As a parent, you will want to ensure that the amount of child support paid meets the needs of your children while remaining fair to both spouses.  The number one role of child support is to ensure that the child’s needs are meet and to maintain a standard of living for the child as if the marriage were still intact.

A parent’s obligation to support his or her children is nearly absolute, and parents cannot bargain away their duty of child support. Typically, the parent with the majority of custody time, as defined by overnight custody, will receive child support from the other parent. However, in rare cases, if there is a large disparity in incomes, the custodial parent might have to pay support to the other parent.

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In Pennsylvania, the best interest of the child is the overriding consideration in child custody decisions. What courts consider to be the best interest is influenced by numerous legal factors and how a judge interprets those factors.

The formal legal process begins when a parent files a custody complaint. A custody action has to be filed in the state and county where your child has lived for the past six months. Before any scheduled court dates, some counties require both parents to come to court and attend a seminar that explains the court process and your responsibility to protect your child’s emotional health as you go through it.

The process determining child custody is decided based on a series of rules established at the county level.  It’s wise to review your court’s website in the county where your child lives, call the courthouse or visit them in person to gain valuable information.  In many counties, you will attend a mediation session with a court-appointed mediator. If you are unable to reach a mediated agreement, then you may move on to a hearing before a judge or another court employee with expertise in custody matters.

The court may order home studies or psychological evaluations of the parents and children. Once the court receives the report on these evaluations, it will hold a trial to determine the custodial arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

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Wife and Husband Unhappy DivorceIssues facing high net worth individuals entering a divorce are often much different from the issues faced by lower/middle income individuals.  As such, they must be planned for and approached in a manner befitting the unique issues that need to be addressed.  There are simply more financial resources to fund, support and to share. Substantial business assets are often involved and extensive categories of personal expenses must be sorted out.

While this short list of Do’s and Don’ts should provide some guidance, consulting with an attorney to get legal advice is always best.

 

DO:

Enter a prenuptial agreement before the marriage or during:  The reality is that many marriages end in divorce, and of those that don’t, 100% end in death. In either case, there are assets to be distributed. While it is certainly unromantic to discuss and negotiate a prenuptial agreement between the time of your engagement and the wedding, an agreement can save a lot of heartache and money when it comes time to distribute those assets.  These agreements can address property division, spousal support and virtually every financial issue that may arise during a divorce. If there is no premarital agreement in place, a divorce may expose the family wealth to possible division.
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Divorce Attorney Questions Wedding RingsIn the Pittsburgh area, there are many divorce attorneys to choose from, but which one is the best divorce attorney? Which one is right for you?  Remember this important fact – The decisions you make as you begin the divorce process and the settlement you receive upon your divorce will affect the future course of your life. The right divorce attorney can help you make wise decisions and serve as your strong advocate in court and in settlement negotiations.

Spend some time on the phone or in person with the potential divorce attorney.  You should have the opportunity to explain your particular situation, ask questions and outline your goals. Several factors will affect the outcome of your divorce. Legal advice is among the most critical. Think of your divorce attorney as your advocate, your trusted advisor, your negotiator and your guide through the divorce process. You are hiring an attorney to lead you through a life-changing event, and it is important that you feel comfortable with your choice.

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