Alimony, Support and Division of Assets Explained in Pennsylvania

Spousal Support

Spousal Support is available to a married spouse, when the couple resides in separate homes and one spouse earns more than the other spouse. There are defenses against spousal support and it is important to have an attorney assist you in your claim for or against spousal support.
Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite is a type of support that is limited in nature and paid to the lesser income earning spouse by the higher income earning spouse in accordance to a statutory formula until the divorce is finalized. This support was enacted to equalize the parties incomes during the divorce proceedings and allow each spouse to afford the divorce process and expenses.

In Pennsylvania, there is not a set formula to determine post-divorce alimony. Whether or not to award post-divorce alimony payments lies within the exclusive discretion of the court. The court relies on the following 17 factors to determine whether to award post-divorce alimony.
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The 17 Factors of Alimony

The relative earnings of both spouses.

The duration of the marriage.

The ages and physical, mental and emotional states of the two spouses.

The sources of income of both spouses. This includes medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.

The expected future earnings and inheritances of the two spouses.
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The degree to which one spouse has contributed to the other spouse’s education, training or increased earning potential.

The degree to which a spouse will be financially affected by their position as the custodian of a minor child.
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The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.

The relative education of the parties. This also considers the amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or training necessary to find employment.

The relative assets and liabilities of the two spouses.
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The property each spouse brought to the marriage.

The degree a spouse contributed as a homemaker.
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The relative needs of the two spouses.

The marital misconduct of either of the spouses during the marriage.

The federal, state and local tax consequences of the alimony.
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Whether the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs.

Whether the spouse seeking alimony is incapable of supporting themselves through appropriate employment.

[1] Title 7, Pennsylvania Code, ยง6102.

Division of Assests

In Pennsylvania “marital property” means all property acquired by either party during the marriage and the increase in value of any non-marital property acquired. However, marital property does not include:

Veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure pursuant to the act of September 2, 1958 (Public Law 85-857, 72 Stat. 1229), as amended, except for those benefits received by a veteran where the veteran has waived a portion of his military retirement pay in order to receive veterans’ compensation.

Property to the extent to which the property has been mortgaged or otherwise encumbered in good faith for value prior to the date of final separation.

Any payment received as a result of an award or settlement for any cause of action or claim which accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of final separation regardless of when the payment was received.

Property acquired prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage.

Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage.

Property acquired by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property.

Property acquired after final separation until the date of divorce, except for property acquired in exchange for marital assets.

Property which a party has sold, granted, conveyed or otherwise disposed of in good faith and for value prior to the date of final separation.

Pennsylvania states that the increase in value of any non-marital property acquired pursuant to subsection shall be measured from the date of marriage or later acquisition date to either the date of final separation or the date as close to the hearing on equitable distribution as possible, whichever date results in a lesser increase.

Legal Claims in Pennsylvania Involving Stormwater Onto Your Property

In Pennsylvania, there is a law of surface waters found in legal case law. That is, a municipality or another property owner is responsible for harm to an adjoining landowner if that first owner or municipality artificially diverts or channels surface water (including storm water) onto that adjoining property.

Even if there is not additional volume of water, if the storm water is diverted resulting in higher intensity or concentrated flow, then there is liability if damages result.

A municipality has the right to manage storm water and to protect public health and safety. However, it must balance that with the rights of adjoining landowners.

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If a storm drain system or runoff pipes are negligently constructed such that they do not adequately control the runoff, then there is liability for harm caused.

This can be found at the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act (32 PS Section 680.13 et seq). The Act requires that there be a plan in place to handle water runoff resulting from construction that involves drainage or alteration of storm water runoff.

If the soil disturbance from a construction project is large enough, or if the soil disturbance is close enough to a protected waterway, then a permit and/or a soil erosion control plan must be filed with the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

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So, there are two main things to be aware of that may give rise to a legal claim in Pennsylvania regarding storm water. First. if you are doing construction involving a large amount of soil disturbance or you are within proximity to a protected stream or waterway, you should determine whether you need a permit and soil erosion control plan. Second, if you are a homeowner or landowner in which you believe that storm or surface water is being diverted onto your property at a greater flow or intensity, then you may have a claim if you have resulting damages.

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In the second instance, if you believe your property is being damaged, or there is a resulting injury to a person, then you should investigate the source of the problem. If there is recent construction of culverts or some drainage system, you should check with both your local government and PA Department of Environmental Protection.
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Find out what the project was and whether there needed to be a permit and/or erosion and soil control plan. Even if a permit or plan was not required, it still may be a violation of the Storm Water Management Act or Pennsylvania case law if the diversion of the surface water was negligently constructed or otherwise artificially channels water at an increased flow or velocity onto your property.

In such legal claims, there may be legal causes of action for: negligence, trespass, nuisance, or violations of the PA Storm Water Management Act or the PA Clean Streams Law. The Clean Streams Law (35 PS Section 691.1).
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The Clean Streams Law does allow for private citizen legal claims for pollution runoff into a waterway. It more often applies to PA Department of Environmental Protection or other governmental actions against polluters.

Usually, a legal claim involving an argument that there was a negligently constructed storm water drain or system or artificially channeled water runoff, requires use of an engineer. That engineer would need to inspect and possibly do a study to compile engineering findings to support the claims.

Pennsylvania Custody Explained

Legal Custody

When a parent has legal custody of their children, it means they are responsible for making decisions about the important things in their lives, such as what educational instruction they receive, their religious preferences, any important medical decisions, and where they go to school. When a couple is together, they usually jointly make these decisions, but upon separation either one or both parents can continue making these decisions.

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The couples can jointly share legal custody or a parent can request sole legal custody, which would mean that parent would make all of these decisions and keep the other parent informed. The default option is usually shared legal custody.
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If parents frequently fight over decision making, one parent lives far away, or if one parent is abusive and neglectful, a court may find that is in the best interest for one parent to have sole legal custody.

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Physical Custody

When you have physical custody of their children, it refers to which parent the children are residing with on a day to day basis.
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If parents choose to share physical time of their children, they can request “joint physical custody,” which means that each parent will have equal time with the children. Joint physical custody works in situations where parents live close to one another, so the children can move back and forth between their parents house and maintain their school and recreational activities.

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If you have more than fifty percent of the physical custody time with their children, then this parent would receive primary physical custody and the other parent would receive partial physical custody. Situations where parents would choose this arrangement are where one parents lives further away. The partial custodial parent could request alternating weekend visits and a few weekday evening visit with their children.

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If one parent has the children the majority of the time and would like to maintain this type of custody, this parent may be granted sole custody of the children. This is usually granted in situations where one parent is deemed unfit due to abuse or neglect.

Child Support

When parents separate they have an obligation to provide support on behalf of their children until the children are emancipated, which is until the children graduate from high school or reach the age of 18 years old, whichever occurs at a later date.
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Pennsylvania’s support guidelines are based upon the concept that the children of separated, divorced or never-married parents should receive the same proportion of parental income that she or he would have received if the parents lived together.
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A custody lawyer will help parents file for child support on behalf of their children.

The court will determine the amount of support to be paid based upon the custody schedule. Parents must additionally continue to pay any un-reimbursed expenses in proportion to their respective salaries. An experienced custody lawyer in child support can assist you in the process.

Settlement of Minor’s Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania

In, Pennsylvania, the Settlement of Minor’s personal injury cases, that is, anyone under the age of 18, requires approval by a Judge. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 2039 requires that any claim involving a Minor as a party must have a Court Order approving the settlement of the case. Rule 2039(a) says that “No action to which a minor is a party shall be compromised, settled or discontinued except after approval by the court pursuant to a petition presented by the guardian of the minor.”

A Petition is a legal paper requesting the Court take action. The parent or legal guardian must filed with the Court a Petition for Minor’s Compromise. This is a legal document that is or should typically be filed by a lawyer on your behalf. The Petition will tell the Court what the amount of the settlement is, what the case was about, it will include relevant medical records and any legal costs and fees. The parent or legal guardian must sign a verification that they believe the settlement is fair and reasonable. The Judge will then schedule the case for a hearing.

At the hearing, the parent or legal guardian must be there with the child. The Court will look to determine whether the settlement is fair and reasonable first. They want to protect the interests of children. The Judge will go by the medical records and the child’s current medical condition. The other reason a Court Order is needed is because Minors can not enter into contracts or agreements and in Pennsylvania a contract entered by a parent on behalf of a Minor might be nullified by the Minor once they turn 18.

Usually, at the hearing, the Judge will have the parent or legal guardian of the minor sworn in and ask them questions about the medical treatment, the condition of the child, how the injury happened and whether the parent understands that the settlement of the case is final..

If the Minor’s personal injury settlement is approved by the Court, the Judge will require that the funds payable to the minor go into an FDIC interest-bearing account until the child turns 18. The funds will not be permitted to be withdraw without a Court Order approving (it would require extenuating circumstances such as medical bills or a legitimate emergency). If the case involves an insurance company paying a settlement, then that Insurer will be aware of these Rules. You would need to provide them with the Court Order approving the settlement before they will send a settlement check.

Curious Sayings and Humorous English Expressions of the Pennsylvania Dutch

English as a World Language

English, with its growing number of varieties, pidgins and inflections, is now firmly established as a world language. It is currently spoken as a second or foreign language by more speakers than those who call it their first language. Now there are more than three non-native speakers of English for every native speaker and the number of non-native English speakers continues to grow on a daily basis. “There’s never before been a language that’s been spoken by more people as a second than a first”, said David Crystal, author of the book “English as a Global Language”. In the area where I grew up in south central Pennsylvania, there is an interesting variety of the English language spoken by the “Pennsylvania Dutch”.

One difficult aspect of the English speech in Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties located in south central Pennsylvania, where a large concentration of Amish, Mennonites and other “Pennsylvania Dutch” sects live is the manipulation of the grammar elements of English. Here are a few examples of the ways in which grammar and word order are managed in everyday Pennsylvania Dutch speech. For “Outlanders”, anyone who is not Pennsylvania Dutch, these expressions of everyday speech can range from amusing to startling. Here’s a look at just a few of the many aspects of this variety of English.

Convoluted Grammatical Forms

“Throw Papa down the stairs his hat.”

Explanation: Throw Papa’s hat down the stairs to him. (I don’t care how old he is, don’t you dare touch ole Papa!)

“Go out and tie the dog loose and don’t forget to outen the light.”

This expression uses convoluted grammar in addition to “Germanic” verbalizations. Here the verb “outen” means “to turn out”. The adjective and noun are used in reverse order from other forms of Standard English.

“The owner says he’ll pay me ten dollars a day if I eat myself, but just five dollars if he eats me.”

Explanation: No, there’s no cannibalism here! The worker will get ten dollars a day for providing his own meals, but five dollars a day if the owner has to provide the worker’s food. (Whew! I’m glad we cleared that one up!)

“He’s a pretty good man yet, ain’t not?”

Explanation: He’s a pretty good man (provider), isn’t he? (a tag question form)

Use of Specialized Vocabulary

Addition of specialized, but “local” vocabulary is also quite commonly done as demonstrated in these examples.

“Shall I put the candy in a toot?” (A “toot” is a paper bag.)

When talking about that fact that his father or grandfather is sick a child might say:

“Pop ain’t so good; his eatin’s gone away and he don’t look so good in the face, either.”

Speaking about his son’s difficulties in school a father could be heard to express the following sentiments: “My son ain’t dumb. It ain’t that he can’t learn, it’s just that after he learns it, he forgets it.”

If you don’t speak “Pennsylvania Dutch” in one of its multiple forms, they just might say of you: “You don’t make yourself out so good. You talk so fancy like a body can’t understand you.”

In talking about someone who doesn’t read aloud well, at a meeting or in school for example, people might say something like: “When he gets up to read he gets befuddled.”

Or how about this amusing little observation of another person’s speech: “Don’t talk so quick, it runs together too much when I think.”

Pennsylvania Dutch Proverbs

Some interesting Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs include these offerings:

“Kissin’ wears out, cooking don’t”

“No woman can be happy with less than seven to cook for”

“A plump wife and a big barn never did any man harm”

“He who has a secret dare not tell it to his wife”

“Ve get too soon oldt, und too late schmart”

The Keystone State

In this region of the “Keystone state” as Pennsylvania is monickered, this variety of is often called “Ferhoodled English” by the Pennsylvania Dutch themselves and by local “Outlanders”. Famous for their frugal lifestyle and natural, delicious farm-fresh cooking, the Amish and other sects contribute to the tourism of the state. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to sample the crafts, food and “peculiar” language this austere people. It is but yet another of the many continually developing varieties of English as a global language.

“When you come over – come out” When you’re in the area, drop by. See, hear, and experience the food and the Pennsylvania Dutch for yourself.