PA. Supreme Court Affirms that “Contractual Expectancies” Are Gifts & Non Marital Property
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
6M ago
Those of us from large firms sometimes read opinions where solo practitioners take a shot at an issue and force us to take notice. The facts in this Bucks County case litigated by a solo practitioner against a two lawyer firm are easy. Woman has a child in 1987. Woman and man marry in 1990. Child is never adopted. Woman filed for divorce in 2009 but never prosecutes or withdraws it. Couple stays together. Woman’s child dies in 2017 with a $3,400 IRA and four life policies which pay $633,000. Three months after the child’s death the parties separate a second time and wife reinstated her divorce ..read more
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FEAR, MONEY & MARKETS: As if Covid Isn’t Enough
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
8M ago
People often ask divorce lawyers how they do it. My stock answer is that it’s like any other financial transaction, except that the transaction is wrapped in layers and layers of emotion. Usually, that emotion has to do with the relationship and the breach of “trust.” But in markets like the current one, emotions related to financial insecurity and financial ignorance make matters even worse.             Year to date the market is down 13% as of the close today. Interest rates on mortgages have jumped from 3 to 5%. Inflation is expected to ..read more
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RESPONDING TO THE DIVORCE WHERE ONE SPOUSE IS READY TO “BURN DOWN THE (FINANCIAL) HOUSE.”
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
8M ago
Extreme times produce irrational responses. A day ago, an unhappy orthopedic patient in Oklahoma decided it was time to kill his surgeon. He took three other lives as well as these people got “in his way.”             We are seeing this kind of irrational and largely self destructive conduct in the domestic world was well. A few weeks ago, the Superior Court decided a case where the books and records of the business were so bizarre that no sense could be made of them. In an odd twist the Superior Court remanded the case out of concern that ..read more
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Don’t Forget, it’s the Economy Stupid! Aunt Fannie Mae Says the Housing Boom Seems Over
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
9M ago
It’s not actually Aunt Fannie but her Chief Economist Doug Duncan who has concluded today that the party ended in March as interest rates spiked 200 basis points since January 1. Fannie Mae revised new homes sales for March down to 709,000 from an earlier estimate of 763,000. The numbers for April also reflect a continuing slowdown with sales estimated at 591,000. Duncan described this as a normal market response when the Federal Reserve increases borrowing costs to consumers while trying to stem inflation. A report issued by Realtor.com suggests that the market has not lost all its wind, but ..read more
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DIVORCE: THE NEW ESTATE PLANNING TOOL?
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
9M ago
  This morning (5/17) presented an article by Michael Waters in the on-line edition of The Atlantic noting that only about half of Americans die with a will (i.e., testamentary instrument) and suggesting that many of the state laws that profess to divide assets where there isn’t a will are antiquated. That may be a fair point but the real problem in modern estate planning is the unspoken expectations of senior couples about how estates should be divided. Many of these couples are living with spouses who are not the parents of their children. Many have children by several former relationsh ..read more
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SHOULD YOU CONVERT YOUR IRA/401K TO AN ANNUITY?
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
9M ago
This is an odd topic for a family law blog until I started to think about. Today’s on line Marketwatch website featured an article by Chris Farrell about whether retirees should consider rolling assets from defined contribution products into annuities. The law allows you to do so without the transaction being a taxable event at the federal level. The appeal of Farrell’s argument comes from the fact that your $100,000 IRA in an S&P500 index fund may have been $100,000 on December 31. But today it’s looking more like $82,000. If you are drawing on that fund because you are retired, things ge ..read more
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IS CONTINGENT DEBT SUBJECT TO DISTRIBUTION? A Student Loan Guaranty Needs to be Addressed in Divorce
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
10M ago
A panel decision issued April 27, 2022 takes on an issue heretofore undecided in Pennsylvania but an issue of enormous consequence to many marital estates; the matter of student debt. Massar v. Massar involves a 20 year marriage that produced two children ages 23 and 19. During the marriage the eldest child attended Bloomsburg and Temple Universities and assumed $58,000 in student debt during the marriage, which Father guaranteed. In equitable distribution the husband asked the court to address the debt should the child default on the obligation and trigger father’s guaranty. In addition, husb ..read more
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Divorce Financing Encounters A Turbulent Real Estate Market
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
10M ago
At the end of the day, divorce is a financial transaction wrapped in complex human emotions. Part of the divorce lawyer’s mission is to try to gently unwrap the emotion so that each party can walk away from a failed relationship with assets that make sense. Custody of children is the most difficult part of the problem. Each parent tends to see him or herself as the “better” or “more stable” parent. But custody disputes are often meshed with disputes over housing. Almost every parent would agree that the children are the innocent victims of divorce. But things get messy when parents start askin ..read more
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Family Law Litigation in Pennsylvania; What Hath Covid Wrought?
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
11M ago
We try to keep tracks of trends in family law. 2020 was, for many reasons, an unusual year but some trends are continuing when we reviewed the statistic survey published by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.   Recall that in 2020, Pennsylvania was pretty much closed from March 15 until the first week in June and some courts worked vastly altered schedules for many months after that.   One of the big concerns arising when Governor Wolf issue his “stay at home” order was whether this would prompt a spike in domestic violence cases. Ironically, the effect appears from the ..read more
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Communicating the Divorce News to the Family
Pennsylvania Family Law | Divorce
by Mark Ashton
1y ago
We recently posted on the matter of how to let friends and family know that a separation/divorce is imminent. In so doing, we neglected the far thornier subject of how to tell the kids. This is indeed a ticklish subject often because parents underestimate how much kids already know about their parents’ unhappiness. It also become problematic because it is difficult for two parents who already disagree about so much to orchestrate a common front when telling the kids. But a joint meeting is the right thing to do and can try to set a course toward a civil divorce. Here is what I sent to a client ..read more
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