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December 2016 Archives

Legal Update: Reduced waiting period in Pennsylvania for no-fault divorces

There is a new answer to the question "How long do I need to wait for a no fault divorce in Pennsylvania?" Since 1988, Pennsylvania law has required that, unless both spouses are consenting to a no-fault divorce, the parties must be separated for a period of 2 years and the court must make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken before the court will allow the divorce action to move forward. Governor Tom Wolfe recently signed a law which reduces that waiting period from 2 years to 1 year. This change will take effect in 60 days (December 2016). Proponents of the change argued that the 2 year waiting period was unnecessary and didn't benefit anyone, least of all any children involved. Further, they argued that the long waiting period allowed manipulative spouses to maintain control over the other spouse who wished to move on. Opponents to the bill believed that the shorter waiting period simply made it easier to obtain a divorce and reduced the time that a dependent spouse could receive certain benefits during the pendency of the divorce.

Spotlight Issue: Child tax credit and custody

Tax season is approaching and you may be asking how your child custody arrangement affects your taxes. Your custody arrangement may have a very specific impact on whether or not you can claim a child tax credit. The child tax credit allows a parent to claim a credit for each dependent child. But what happens if the child's parents are separated or divorced and are not filing their taxes jointly? Who gets to claim the child in that situation? The IRS says that generally speaking, the parent who has the child for the majority of the overnight time is the one who is eligible for the credit. This would generally be the parent with primary physical custody. But what happens when the parents have 50/50 physical custody? If the child stays with each parent for an equal number of nights then the parent with the lower adjusted gross income is considered the custodial parent and is able to claim the child tax credit. However, please note that even if the custody arrangement is called joint custody, if the parents have an unequal number of overnight visits then the parent will the greater number will be considered the custodial parent for tax purposes. While these are the general rules, the parties can make different arrangements which could be ordered by the court in a marital settlement agreement. While taxes are certainly not a determining factor what deciding on custody arrangements, the tax consequences are something to keep in mind and should be discussed with your attorney.

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