Other FAQs Not Being Used

FAQ: How does Collaborative Practice focus on my future?

Divorce is not just an ending. It is a beginning. Collaborative Practice helps the parties anticipate and include their need to move forward. This need considers the financial security of each party. When there are children, the future of these children will become a top priority. As a respectful, dignified process, Collaborative Practice supports the family’s goals for a smoother transition to the next stage of their lives.

FAQ: I would like to explore Collaborative Practice and my spouse is reluctant. What can I do?

This happens! Don’t be discouraged! Contact a member of our Collaborative Team of professionals in Collaborative Law Professionals of Southeastern Pennsylvania for some ideas on next steps to engage your spouse.

FAQ: I don’t have any knowledge about our finances and believe that the other party may be hiding information from me. Don’t I need the court to tell the other party to provide me all of our financial information?

Having all financial information is critical to making an informed decision and having an agreement that is going to be enforceable by the court. For this reason, all parties involved in the Collaborative Process must sign a Participation Agreement in which all parties and counsel commit to a full disclosure of all information relevant to the issue. Your legal counsel and members of the Collaborative Team, in particular the Financial Specialist, have the expertise to assist you in identifying what information is relevant. If a party does not disclose the information, this may be a basis to terminate the Collaborative Process.

FAQ: What happens if we can’t come to a solution and reach agreement?

Studies through the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals show that almost 90 percent of reported collaborative cases result in an agreement. Parties in those cases in which not all disputed issues are resolved may choose to use, within the scope of the Collaborative Process, another of the other alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation or arbitration to help resolve those remaining issues. However, if one of the parties chooses to go to court, then the entire Collaborative Team, including the attorneys, must withdraw from the case. New attorneys must be retained for the court proceedings.

FAQ: This is going to cost us a lot of money. Can we save money and eliminate the Coach?

I know . . . everyone wants more money! Right? And, this thing . . . “cost” . . . I encourage you to consider that cost may mean more than just dollars and cents. It may also mean the emotional and psychological expense to you and your family. For many, divorce is an unwanted and horrific experience. For others, everything about the separation and divorce seems rather cordial until a word is used or someone recalls a particular event. Suddenly and without warning, the atmosphere changes and feelings run high.  The Coach can help you and your spouse or partner manage these emotions, allowing you to focus and reach resolutions on matters that are most important to each of you. The amount of time you spend with a Coach depends upon how well you communicate and problem solve. The Coach helps you move beyond hurts and disappointments and plan for the future. Whether discussing custody, parenting plans, property division, estate planning or business succession, the Coach can help economize your time, money and emotional capital. Skills and tools learned with the Coach can give you a foundation for developing more satisfying resolutions to concerns that will inevitably come up down the road.

FAQ: How can a coach help if we don’t communicate now? We don’t listen or talk to each other.

That’s a great question! In thinking about this, first ask yourself, “Do you wish this could be different?” If your answer is yes, a Coach can help. Developing new ways to let your spouse know how you feel, what fears and concerns you have and what you need may require some new skills. Understanding what gets in the way of having meaningful conversations and then changing that pattern is the beginning to effective communication and problem solving. The Coach can help both of you learn the communication skills you need in order to have a better understanding of one another’s experience and then more effectively work together. The Coach along with the Collaborative Team will help structure improved communication with one another. You each will have a better understanding of the real issues and concerns. Productive, respectful and healthy communication is inevitable. We can help!

FAQ: My partner does not feel like we need a therapist.

It sounds like your partner has concerns that a Coach will be doing therapy. While a Coach in the Collaborative Process is a trained mental health professional, he or she is not going to be doing therapy. Instead, the Coach will help you and your partner manage emotions that may impact the ability to focus on solutions rather than blame and revenge. Emotions may range from fear, anger, and worry to resentment, disappointment, and grief. The Coach will help manage these emotions, freeing you to problem solve, to develop meaningful solutions and to move on with your life.

FAQ: Is it possible to get a Premarital Agreement if I am already married?

Not exactly. But, you can get a Mid-nuptial Agreement and it can accomplish the same goals as a premarital agreement.

FAQ: When is a Marital Settlement Agreement prepared?

Once all of the terms of the divorce have been finalized, one party’s Collaborative Attorneys will prepare a draft Marital Settlement Agreement. Then the other party’s Collaborative Attorney will review the Agreement and may suggest possible changes. When the agreement is in final form, both parties sign it and the terms of the Agreement are final.

FAQ: Can my Marital Settlement Agreement govern all aspects of my divorce including child support and custody?

The quick answer is yes. However, in Pennsylvania, child support and child custody are always modifiable. So, it is often better to have separate child support and custody agreements because they are easier to modify, if necessary. Contact one of our Collaborative Attorneys to help you decide what might work best in your situation.

FAQ: How long wilI I have to pay child support?

In Pennsylvania, both parents are responsible for paying child support until their children reach the age of eighteen years and have graduated high school. In situations where the child has physical or emotional challenges that impact their ability to earn a living and live independently, continued financial assistance of their parents might be necessary. The privacy of the Collaborative Process provides parents a place to identify and plan for the long-term needs of their children and themselves. The parents and their Lawyers can identify and be the voice for their children’s exceptional needs. In these efforts, the Collaborative Team may include the neutral Financial Specialist and Child Specialist.

FAQ: What kind of income is used to determine child support?

The Support Guidelines have a detailed explanation of what might constitute a parent’s income ·for child support purposes. In addition to salary, income may include things such as bonuses, commissions, interest, rent, lottery winnings, income tax refunds, and many others. Sometimes, the determination of a parent’s income is made more difficult if the parent owns their own business or holds an executive position that may involve such things as stock options or deferred income. In the Collaborative Process, parents and their Collaborative Lawyers commit to fully disclosing, sharing, and cooperatively evaluating all financial information, such as tax returns, account statements, stock option and compensation agreements. This is done in a setting that, unlike the traditional court process, is confidential. The Collaborative Team, which may include a Financial Specialist, works together with you to establish a mutually acceptable child support agreement that meets the needs of your family.

FAQ: Does my spouse have to contribute to the expenses for our children’s sports and other extra­curricular activities?

The Support Guidelines may require a parent to contribute to certain of these expenses. Each case is evaluated on its own facts as to whether the needs for such sports or extra­curricular activities are “reasonable” and whether parents should share in the cost of those activities.

In the Collaborative Process, parents and their Collaborative Lawyers work toward a solution that:

  • acknowledges the children’s desire to participate in these activities;
  • promotes respect for each parent’s belief in the importance of their children’s participation in these activities;
  • recognizes the relative financial ability of each parent to contribute towards these expenses; and
  • encourages consultation and discussion between each parent before an expense is incurred.

FAQ: Does my obligation to pay child support extend to having to pay for college expenses?

No. There is no legal requirement in Pennsylvania for a parent to contribute to college expenses of their children. That does not mean that parents do not find themselves at odds over whether they should do so. Because Pennsylvania law does not require a parent to contribute to college expenses, the traditional court process is not available to resolve this matter.

In the Collaborative Process, parents can determine how their children’s post-high school education and training will be paid and whether an agreement on these issues should become a legally enforceable obligation. The Collaborative Team, which may include a Financial Specialist, works together with both parents to discuss and develop a comprehensive approach to provide for their children’s post-high school education and training, which may include contributions by the children such as loans, grants, scholarships and savings. In this way, parents are also better able to save for their financial future.

FAQ: My husband wants 50/50 custody. I think he’s doing that just so he has to pay less child support. Can he do that?

A parent’s child support obligation may be affected by the custody arrangement. The Support Guidelines do allow for a reduction in the amount of child support based upon the number of overnights a child spends in a parent’s home. For example, if a parent has at least 40%, or 146, of the overnights in a year, a reduction in the Support Guideline amount is warranted. A parent may request 50/50 custody because they feel it is in the children’s best interests or because they simply want to reduce their child support obligation. Regardless, this matter is likely headed to court for resolution, laden with accusations and recriminations.

However, in the Collaborative Process, parents and their Collaborative Lawyers, along with a Child Specialist, can explore the motivations and intentions of both parents in a structured, controlled and private setting that is conducive to open communication and cooperation, rather than accusations and divisiveness. The Collaborative Team can provide the tools to effectively assess and balance the financial needs of the children, the financial realities of the parents, and the emotional and developmental needs of the children.

FAQ: How is the amount of spousal support determined?

Spousal support is calculated based on a formula found in the statewide Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The formula utilizes net monthly incomes or earning capacities of each spouse and considers whether one spouse is paying child support. Sometimes, circumstances result in a lower or higher spousal support amount than the formula indicates.

In addition to each spouse’s income and earning capacity, the Collaborative Process focuses on identifying each spouse’s financial needs, along with their unique family circumstances. The Collaborative Team works together so that each spouse has an understanding of the other’s income, financial needs and unique circumstances. In this way, spouses have a voice in determining an amount of support that realistically meets each of their needs.

FAQ: How long will I have to pay spousal support?

Generally, spousal support ends at the time a divorce decree is entered. However, under certain circumstances, the court may terminate it sooner.   Using the Collaborative Process, spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers are able to fashion their own timetable for the duration of spousal support that meets the couple’s unique needs and goals without having to wait for court hearings.

FAQ: My spouse and I are still living together in the marital home. Do I have an obligation to pay spousal support?

Ordinarily, spousal support is not paid when the spouses are living under one roof unless basic necessities, like the mortgage or rent, utilities or food are not being provided. When this occurs, one spouse may be obligated to pay support to help cover the cost of those basic needs. In the Collaborative Process, the spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers work together as a Team, rather than as adversaries, to de-escalate financial worries and fears and to structure a financial plan for the household that offers each spouse the assurance that daily necessities will be paid for while they are in the process of separating and perhaps divorcing.

FAQ: My wife makes more money than I do. Am I entitled to spousal support?

Regardless of your gender, you may be entitled to spousal support if you are financially dependent on your spouse to pay the cost of your reasonable needs. In the Collaborative Process, the spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers will consider the Support Guidelines, but also look beyond the formula and consider each spouse’s concerns and needs in order to accomplish a mutually satisfying spousal support determination.

FAQ: My spouse left me and moved out of the marital home. Is she still entitled to spousal support?

A request for spousal support may be defeated if you are able to show thought testimony in court that your spouse acted in a way that would constitute a “fault” ground for divorce, such as abandonment or adultery. In the Collaborative Process, such painful, personal matters surrounding a separation can be discussed confidentially in a private setting rather than being aired in a courtroom. The Collaborative Process also creates an opportunity for each spouse and their Collaborative Lawyers to find a resolution that focuses more on problem solving, rather than placingblame.

FAQ: I have heard of something called alimony pendente lite. Is that the same thing as spousal support?

No. Alimony pendente lite (“apl”) and spousal support are two distinct and separate forms of financial assistance for a spouse while separated and before a divorce decree is entered. Spousal support is available after separation and before anyone files a divorce action. APL is only available after a divorce complaint has been filed. A spouse cannot simultaneously receive both forms of financial assistance. While certain defenses may be available to a request for spousal support, there are no defenses to defeat a spouse’s request for apl. Both apl and spousal support are calculated by using a formula found in the statewide Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. In the Collaborative Process, each spouse and their Collaborative Lawyer are not constrained by the support guidelines, defenses, and court proceedings. In an informal, cooperative and confidential environment, each spouse shares their income and expense information and assesses, at their own pace, an amount of financial support that will enable each of them to live in separate households without worry about having enough money. With these immediate financial worries resolved, each spouse is better able to focus their time, energy and financial resources on other issues in the Collaborative Process.

FAQ: Is there a minimum period of time I need to be married in order to receive alimony?

There is no ”magic” number of years that a spouse has to be married before being eligible to request or to receive alimony. Ordinarily, the longer one is married, the stronger the claim for alimony. However, the number of years married is only one of 17 factors that a court must consider in determining if a spouse is entitled to alimony. While it is important to understand these 17 factors, it is equally important to consider your unique circumstances. The Collaborative Process helps each spouse identify and discuss these unique circumstances in a confidential, cooperative and respectful manner. This environment creates an opportunity for each spouse to consider the other’s needs and plan for the future.

FAQ: My spouse is likely to receive a large share of our marital property. Will I still have to pay alimony?

Even in the case where a financially dependent spouse receives a large share of the marital property, alimony may still be appropriate in order for the financially dependent spouse to be able to pay for their reasonable needs.   In these situations, one spouse generally has far greater income than the other party or has non-marital property of substantial worth.

In the Collaborative Process, each spouse and their Collaborative Lawyers are able to call in a Financial Specialist whose role in the Collaborative Team is to assist the spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers to:

  • assess the income and expenses of each spouse;
  • evaluate the nature and extent of the marital property;
  • consider the financial realities of the separation and divorce;
  • help structure the distribution of marital property, alimony and child support;
  • support the development of practical options and a structure for the distribution of property and payment of debts, alimony and child support, if applicable;
  • educate each spouse on the financial implications of each option; and
  • empower each spouse to make sound financial decisions for the short and long-term.

FAQ: I have heard that I would be entitled to one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. Is that true?

That has become a bit of an “urban legend” as there is no statute or case law that creates a formula for determining the duration of alimony. The length of time you receive alimony is in the discretion of the court and dependent on the facts and circumstances of each case.

FAQ: My husband is living with another woman. Will I have to pay him alimony?

If a former spouse is cohabiting with an unrelated member of the opposite sex, they may not be entitled to receive alimony. When addressed in court, these cases require testimony on the sexual nature of the relationship, living arrangements, shared expenses, shared bank accounts, and similar reflections of the interdependence of a “husband and wife” relationship.

In the Collaborative Process, spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers are able to hear these personal and, perhaps, painful conversations in a confidential and respectful setting. The acrimony and expense of court proceedings gives way to respectful problem solving, rather than blame and shame.

FAQ: Are there tax consequences to the payment or receipt of alimony?

Generally, alimony is considered to be taxable income to the person who is receiving payment and deductible for the person who is making the payments. There are a number of requirements that must be met in order for a payment to be considered alimony for tax purposes.

In the Collaborative Process, spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers, work together to carefully craft an alimony agreement that considers these tax implications. The Financial Specialist will also be able to:

  • advise and educate on the tax implications of a proposed agreement; and
  • suggest appropriate tax

FAQ: My ex- and I haven’t talked together about our children since the court’s custody decision last year. We just text. It’s too hard. Things aren’t working with this schedule. I need to go back to court. I don’t see how Collaborative Practice would work for us.

I can understand how this process doesn’t make sense for you. Consider this . . . Do you wish you and the other parent would talk more? Do you imagine what it might look and feel like to work together as a team with the other parent, as partners in parenting your children? Do you feel a bit hopeless in not knowing how to make this different for you and your children? If you have these or similar thoughts, simply getting a new custody order, if you are successful, will not change your situation. The Collaborative Process will create opportunities, in a confidential setting, for you and the other parent to develop clear understandings of what you need from each other to parent your children together, to explore what gets in the way of meeting those needs, to identify what you want most for children and how you can accomplish these goals in an environment that acknowledges and supports the critical role each of you has in the lives of your children. Already strained relationships between parents can be further eroded in the lengthy and confrontational litigation process. Children for sure suffer.  Choosing the Collaborative Process and working with our Collaborative Team of professionals that include Child Specialists may be just the change you need to make for yourself and your children.

FAQ: My kids are 8 and 10. They tell me they want nothing to do with their mom. They refuse to take her calls or see her. The court won’t make them see their mom. Right?

The court’s job is to make decisions that are in a child’s best interest. The court is going to want to understand the reason a child has decided not to have contact with a parent. The court may order evaluations/assessments of your children and each parent to determine what professional intervention will encourage and promote reestablishing the children’s relationship with their mom. You should not count on the court supporting the children’s decision to have nothing to do with their mom. With the cost of litigation and evaluations, you should each conservatively expect to invest $30,000 to $50,000 or more. That’s upwards of $100,000 and a year or two before a court decision is made. And then, there’s always the possibility of an appeal, more money and more time.

The Collaborative Process and Team offer another possibility and opportunity. Collaborative Lawyers will educate and advise you on the points of law while remaining committed to resolve the case out-of-court. A Child Specialist is trained in child development, expected behaviors and common struggles children experience when divorce results in a changed family system. The Child Specialist will give the children a voice, help to strengthen the children’s relationship with their mom and develop hope. The Coach will help you and the mom manage emotions, identify your own emotional struggles that may be contributing to this situation and help you focus on the future for each of you and your children.   Our Collaborative Team of Professionals are here to help . . . contact us to learn more!

FAQ: My spouse and I each have our own retirement accounts. So, do we each keep our own account in the property division?

Not necessarily. In a traditional divorce, through the courts, the fact-finder will decide how to divide your retirement accounts, giving consideration to the 13 divorce factors.

In a Collaborative Process, you and your spouse may decide together that you each will keep your own retirement accounts, if that result best meets your individual financial needs and resolves your concerns. In reaching that conclusion, you may consider the thirteen factors or you are free to ignore them and decide for yourselves what seems the most reasonable division of your retirement accounts.

FAQ: Isn’t property division in a divorce always 50/50?

No. If you were to go to court for the property division, the court will apportion the assets and debts based on the thirteen factors in the law. This may or may not result in a 50/50 division. It’s up to the court to make that determination.

By contrast, in a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse decide how to divide assets and debts, which may be 50/50 or in some other fashion by applying the 13 factors as you both see fit. Your Collaborative Team will help you understand the overall picture created by your family’s financial situation, evaluate tax implications of a proposed financial division and achieve a desired financial settlement for each of you that considers your shared values.

FAQ: My spouse and I own our house and nothing else. Do we need a Collaborative Process or can we just do the division ourselves?

That depends. Will one of you be keeping the house and buying out the other’s interest? Will the house be sold? Will these transactions take place before the divorce decree is entered or after? Is the house titled in your name jointly with your spouse? What are your and your spouse’s income? There are many questions to be answered and considerations to be given to the division of a house. You and your spouse may choose to ask the court to decide on who will receive the house or whether the house should be sold and the proceeds (or debt) divided between you. However, you will need to wait at least six months on average before the court will schedule a conference to consider these issues.

In the Collaborative Process, with the careful advice of your Collaborative Attorney and neutral Financial Specialist, you and your spouse can decide who will receive the house or whether the house should be sold. Unlike the court process, you may meet to resolve this issue as soon as you like in a confidential, supportive environment dedicated to help you and your spouse find a solution that considers each of your financial interests and desired outcomes. You can complete the division of your house more quickly with the assurance that you understand the near-term and long-term financial effects of your decision.

 

FAQ: I am getting divorced. Why do I need a financial professional?

Many people are confused about the roles of the various team members in the Collaborative process, especially that of the financial neutral. The role of a neutral financial professional is to help you navigate the financial complexities of divorce. We are NOT meant to replace your personal financial advisor and, in fact, we are not allowed to provide you with any investment advice during or after the process.   Our role is specific to issues surrounding divorce and is unique based on your needs. Most importantly, our role is to educate you on your financial options and help you arrive at a settlement that can address the immediate and future needs of everyone involved.

 

FAQ:  All of our retirement assets are in my spouse’s name. Can I receive a portion of those without having to pay taxes?

 Yes, you can transfer retirement assets as part of a divorce settlement and avoid taxes and penalties as long as the transfer is done properly. However, it is important to understand that different retirement plans have different requirements.

Dividing retirement assets can be complicated. The professionals at Collaborative Law Professionals of Southeastern Pennsylvania can help you avoid the costly mistakes.

 

FAQ: My spouse and I are still living together in the marital home. Do I have an obligation to pay spousal support?

Ordinarily, spousal support is not paid when the spouses are living under one roof unless basic necessities, like the mortgage or rent, utilities or food are not being provided. When this occurs, one spouse may be obligated to pay support to help cover the cost of those basic needs. In the Collaborative Process, the spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers work together as a Team, rather than as adversaries, to de-escalate financial worries and fears and to structure a financial plan for the household that offers each spouse the assurance that daily necessities will be paid for while they are in the process of separating and perhaps divorcing.

 

FAQ: Can I afford to keep the family home?

Often times the desire to stay in the family home is an emotional one. You may want to stay in the family home until the kids graduate from high school, or remain in a neighborhood where you have friends to help you through this difficult transition.

However, keeping the family home is not always feasible. Even if you don’t currently owe any debt on the home, there are many other expenses that factor into its affordability. Make sure you consider ALL costs of maintaining your home and that you have enough ready cash to cover any unexpected repairs. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment.

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