Archive for January, 2018

Spotlight Issue: Social media and family law

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

You may not realize the significance of social media posts in your Berks County family law case until it is too late. For that reason, think before you post! Having a social media presence is expected and common these days, but when you’re embroiled in a contentious custody, divorce or support case, what you post on Facebook, Twitter or any of the other sites, could negatively impact your chances of success.

Let’s examine some possible scenarios.

You’ve made an argument in domestic relations that your support obligation should be reduced because your hours were cut at work. But, the week before your modification hearing, you post pictures on Facebook of the new vehicle that you just purchased. The attorney for your ex brings those pictures to the conference officer’s attention and argues at the conference that your support obligation shouldn’t be reduced because there obviously hasn’t been a significant change in your circumstances. The conference officer agrees and recommends to the judge that the support order not be amended.

You’ve filed a petition asking the court to grant you more custodial time with you children. However, the last 3 weekends that you’ve had your children, you hired a babysitter to stay with them and went out with your friends. You also posted pictures on Instagram while you were out. The attorney for your ex brings those pictures to court and argues that you aren’t taking advantage of the time that you currently have with your children and that modifying the custody schedule would not be in the best interest of your children. The judge denies your modification request.

You’re in the middle of a difficult divorce and negotiations have been ongoing. Your attorney tells you that you are finally getting close to a resolution and it looks like you’re going to end up keeping the marital residence, which is what you really want. Late at night you decide to write a tweet talking about karma which is obviously about your ex even though you don’t mention any names. You get a call from your attorney the next day that the deal is off.

How can you prevent the above situations from happening? Well, aside from the obvious answer of not making the posts in the first place, we have a couple of tips to keep in mind. Be sure that all of your social media accounts have high “privacy” settings so that strangers can’t access your pages. Remember that social media posts and text messages are very easily preserved and can be used against you in court. Be aware that social media posts can inflame emotions and make negotiations in Berks County family law cases more difficult. If you’re questioning whether it’s a good idea to post something, it probably isn’t.

The scenarios we’ve discussed may seem extreme and obvious, but similar situations are not uncommon and it’s important to think about how something you post on social media could affect your own case. If you’re already involved with divorce, support or custody case in Reading, PA or are about to be, it’s important for you to have a Berks County family law attorney who pays attention to the details of your case. Contact our knowledgeable attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

Spotlight Issue: New tax law will affect alimony deduction

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

The new tax law makes many changes to the existing tax structure, but for our purposes we will only discuss the one which clearly impacts Berks County family law clients: the removal of the alimony deduction.

Alimony is a regular payment made to a spouse during the pendency of a divorce (alimony pendente lite) or a payment scheduled put in place after a divorce is finalized. Alimony can be part of a prenuptial agreement or a marriage settlement agreement or it can be ordered by a judge following a hearing. The purpose of both types of alimony is to place spouses on equal financial footing for some period of time. The amount of alimony pendente lite is generally determined by statutory guidelines, just as with child support. Alimony, on the other hand, is a discretionary award and the court uses statutory factors to determine the amount. The amount of time that alimony will be paid is also determined by the court. Some relevant factors considered by the court in determining amount and length of time for payments are length of marriage, earning capacity of each party, assets of each party and the degree to which one spouse has contributed to the education and career of the other spouse.

So, while there are a variety of factors that determine amount of alimony and alimony pendente lite awards, all payors and payees followed the same tax rules regarding these payments: recipients included the payments as income and payers could claim the money as a deduction. However, for all divorces commenced after December 31, 2018, these tax rules will cease to exist. The person paying alimony can no longer claim it as a deduction and the person receiving alimony will no longer need to include it as income. This change will not affect anyone with a current alimony award. This will bring the the tax rules for alimony in line with the rules for child support although the discretionary aspect of alimony prevents the two forms of support from being equal.

Some experts fear that the loss of a deduction for the person paying the alimony will lead to a reduction in agreed upon alimony awards. Only time will tell whether or not that is the case. However, this is certainly something that should be discussed with your divorce attorney and it will undoubtedly become a more pressing issue as the December 31, 2018, deadline gets closer.

If you have questions about how the new tax law could affect your Berks County divorce case, contact our knowledgeable Reading, PA divorce attorneys at 610-372-5128 or info@enmlaw.com.