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AAML PENN RESOURCES

  • 28 Nov 2022 3:06 PM | Anonymous

    By Amy P. De Shong, AAML Pennsylvania 2022-2023 President | Wisler Pearlstine LLP

    If you are going through a divorce, the holiday season can be a special nightmare.

    The expectations of your family of origin and/or those of your in-laws are added to the demands placed upon you by your soon to be ex, your kids, and your work place. If you are struggling financially, you may feel inadequate because you cannot provide the quality of gifts for your family that you may have provided in the past years. Commercial expressions of "good cheer" are everywhere.

    If you are the spouse who sought the divorce, you may feel some guilt or uncertainty about your decision. Your spouse may be all too good at pushing those buttons.

    Here are some tips for getting through it all:

    1. Place yourself in your children's shoes.

    Really. When you are tempted to argue with your spouse, respond to an attack launched by your spouse, or even launch one of your own, stop, breathe and think. Where are your kids at that very moment?  

    Are they in the next room? Are they in the back seat? Are they upstairs in your house? If so, they are within earshot. They are probably even straining to listen. Don't kid yourself.

    You cannot control your spouse any more than you can control the north wind. You can control your response to your spouse's behavior. Block the chance that things will escalate into an argument. Acknowledge whatever legitimate point is being made by your spouse and do your best to respond only to that. If you are wrong, say so and apologize. Offer to think about what he or she is telling you and tell him or her that you will respond later. Buy yourself some breathing room. If you can, paraphrase the content of your spouse's message, so that he or she see that you have indeed heard it. 

    Example 1: "I understand that you are mad because I got here 30 minutes late and that is making you late for your doctor's appointment. I got stuck at the office and I am sorry. I will make sure it does not happen again. Next time something happens that I cannot control, I will call you right away."

    Example 2: "I understand that you are very angry with me, but I do not think we can have a good conversation about it right now. Let's see when we can talk about (lateness, money, whatever the problem is) when we are alone and we are better able to do it without yelling at each other."

    Example 3: "I hear you. This is something that our attorneys will have to discuss and advise about because I do not know what the answer is. I will call mine first thing in the morning and ask for his/her guidance."

    Example 4: "I hear you and I want to understand why you are so upset. As long as you are screaming at me, however, I just can't do that."

    If none of this is possible, leave the room. Leave the house if you have to do so. Drive away. Whatever it takes to break the circuit. Try to envision your spouse as a co-worker. You wouldn't launch into an intensely personal argument in the work place, even if you were unfairly attacked, would you?

    2. If you normally use alcohol or other substances to get you through difficult family events, do not do it this year. 

    Remain focused and alert. You want to be in full control of your ears and mouth so that you can respond appropriately to any provocations. After having a few beers or too many glasses of wine, you will find it harder to keep your mouth shut.

    3. Demonstrate patience and grace

    If your spouse backs out of or tries to change a holiday custody agreement, is late for a pick up or drop off, or holds your kids hostage for an hour or two, go back to Tip #1. Give way.

    This is hard. It's really hard. Be that parent who takes the high road. Your kids don't care who "wins" - they just know that if mom and dad spend the next 15 minutes fighting over pick up, drop off, or who does the driving, they'll be late for or even miss their holiday concert or, worse, they will be deeply embarrassed in front of their friends. Unless your spouse's conduct threatens an overnight or the holiday itself, it rarely makes sense financially to get your attorney involved. 

    4. Remember that your new relationship takes a back seat to the (reasonable) needs of your kids. 

    If your significant other starts placing demands on you that feel unfair and unreasonable, that's probably because he or she is feeling insecure. The stress of the holidays heightens our sensitivity to that sort of thing and that means unintended slights get magnified and people make demands that make no sense. Stop, hug, and talk. Repeat as needed. Your significant other may be worried about his or her role in your life - give him or her permission to directly tell you about those feelings, rather than acting out, so that you may respond appropriately. 

    5. Do the same with your kids. 

    If it feels like your kids are making crazy demands, being especially needy, or seeking to manipulate you, ask them about their feelings and try to do directly. Are they feeling threatened by your significant other? Are they terrified that if they show any kindness toward him or her, the other parent will punish them? Are they worried that they are losing you? Consider one on one time with each child. Even an hour can mean a lot. 

    6. Be patient with yourself. 

    You are not perfect. And, let's face it, perfect people are dull. All that stuff that always drives you nuts during the holidays is still out there, in addition to your divorce. If you continue to circle back to Tip #1, you will find yourself starting the New Year without regrets. 

    This article was first posted in December 2011 and has been updated. It is intended to be used only for informational purposes. Neither this article, nor the contents of this article, are intended to be nor should be construed as legal advice. 

  • 12 Nov 2022 11:25 AM | Anonymous


    By Amy P. DeShong, Esq. | Wisler Pearlstine LLP | AAML Penn 2022 - 2023 President

    After 28 years of handling divorces and counseling clients, I am able to identify ten common mistakes that clients make when they hear that their spouse wants out of the marriage.

    1. Thinking that guilt will keep your spouse with you.

    Guilt has its limits. If one party is made to feel guilty and stays from that sense of obligation, the relationship is going to remain unhealthy for each of them. If your spouse has betrayed you, whether by cheating or hiding a spending problem, you've got to identify and understand the source of that behavior before you can move on together. Shaming, as tempting and temporarily satisfying as it may feel, will cause your spouse to turn on you later on. The more you lecture your spouse about marriage vows, the obligation to stay with you forever, and your gift of "the best years of your life," the faster he or she will head for the door.


    2. Assuming that your spouse really wants to divorce you.

    Don't take your spouse at his or her word or start packing your bags when you hear "I want a divorce" or "maybe we should separate for awhile." These words often mean "we are in trouble and I don't know what to do" or "help -- I am not happy and you must be the problem" or "this threat to divorce is the only way I can get your attention!" In either case, seeking some professional help can get the two of you back on track.


    3. Badmouthing your spouse to friends, family, and coworkers at the first sign of trouble; oversharing personal information about your marriage.

    Don't betray yourself or your spouse by doing too much talking, whether by phone, in person, or online. Once you figure out your feelings, you will only have to "walk back" a lot of what you've said. If you've done too good a job at alienating people from your spouse, they will wonder why you've grown a second head when you take him or her back. You will have to do repair work plus you'll have to hear everybody's advice which may include "I told you so."


    4. Lying about your feelings in order to make things easier for your spouse.

    Do not lie and do not make false promises in order to get your spouse to stay. You may well be unhappy in the marriage. Maybe your spouse had the courage to speak up first, but now the opportunity for change lies before you both. You do not owe your spouse what he or she wants to hear: you do owe your spouse as much honesty and direct explanation as you can muster. Give yourself that respect.


    5. Trying to appease your spouse in order to keep him or her in the marriage.

    Do not agree to have another child, add onto your home, buy a second or third home, or take an expensive vacation in order to "fix things" and/or "make him/her happy again." Do not buy cars or boats. Seek out the professional and do the hard work of identifying and then discussing, directly and clearly, what you want from yourself and your spouse.


    6. Using food, drugs or alcohol in ways that lead to excessive weight loss, weight gain, or addiction.

    The occasional binge with well-meaning friends or that date with the ice cream carton is to be expected. Not eating for three days is something altogether different. Be aware of any changes in your eating or drinking habits. Is addiction among the reasons your spouse wants out? Don't hesitate to seek help: do what you need to do in order to protect yourself. Whether or not your marriage ends, you are worth the effort.


    7. Relying on the Internet for legal advice.

    No one wants to pay legal fees. But when you are in real trouble, there is no substitute for learning about your legal rights, options, and obligations from an attorney with expertise in divorce. Just as medical websites can educate about ailments you can learn about family law on a lot of websites, but only an attorney who knows your situation can put the big picture together for you. Invest in a one- to two- hour consultation in order to give yourself peace of mind and power.


    8. Expecting that the law will require your spouse to take care of you forever.

    Learn about and make sure you understand your financial picture, especially if you are the spouse who is financially dependent. Whether a divorce is in your future or not, do not allow yourself to be economically vulnerable.


    9. Using sex, especially without protection, to keep your spouse in the marriage.

    Intimacy is one thing. Ending up with a disease from a cheating spouse or an unwanted pregnancy is quite another. Resist any tempation to engage in "mercy sex" with your spouse because it may serve only to upset and confuse you. Avoid any sexual contact with a spouse whom you suspect may lie to you about the use of birth control pills or devices. Avoid any possibility of contact that could complicate your own decision making.


    10. Thinking you can punish your spouse by alienating you kids from him or her. 

    When you are hurt, it is tempting to overshare your feelings of anger and turn your kids against the other parent. I will spare you the obvious "best interests" message, because you already know that your kids need both parents in order to grow up well. I have observed a much more immediate consequence: if you succeed in getting your kids to hate your spouse as much as you do, they will turn on you when they reach their late teens. 

  • 7 Oct 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Plymouth Meeting, Pa. – (October 1, 2022) – Melissa (Missy) Boyd and Elizabeth (Liz) Early are pleased to announce the formation of their new law firm, Boyd & Early Family Law LLC, a boutique, full-service family law firm located in Plymouth Meeting and Malvern.

    Distinguished attorneys and passionate advocates, Missy and Liz are eager to continue to service Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Delaware and Philadelphia county residents involved in a variety of family law matters including divorce, child custody, support, and protection from abuse (PFA) actions.

    Missy, a former owner and partner, and Liz, a former partner, of High Swartz have been colleagues and friends for seven years.

    Missy “I am thrilled to partner with Liz in this next exciting step of my career. Having practiced family law for over twenty years, forming my own firm bearing my name is beyond gratifying.”

    Missy and Liz will be joined by Jennifer (Jen) Ryan and Chelsey Christiansen, two sensational lawyers and young leaders in their personal and professional communities. With Jen and Chelsey joining the team, Boyd & Early Family Law offers services at a variety of price points but does not compromise the superior service provided to all clients.

    Liz echoes Missy’s excitement and regard for the Boyd & Early Family Law team, saying, “We could not ask for a better group of family law attorneys. Each attorney brings a unique background and breadth of experience to the office and to each case.  We look forward to continuing to serve our clients with the personalized approach in which we pride ourselves.”

    Reflecting on their time together at High Swartz, the founding members of Boyd & Early Family Law feel appreciative to have the support of their former colleagues and continued professional and personal relationships with High Swartz LLP. Managing Partner of High Swartz, Joel Rosen, said, “Missy and her group are talented lawyers who are and will continue to be good friends to many at High Swartz. We wish them success in this next chapter.”

    Bonded by their passion for family law and commitment to positively contributing to their community, all four women begin this new chapter excited and energized to continue to make a difference for clients and within their larger communities.

    For more information, go to www.boydearlyfamilylaw.com


  • 19 Aug 2022 1:50 PM | Anonymous

    THE AAML ERIC D. TURNER AWARD is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. A $1,000 cash award is given to one third year law student from each of Pennsylvania’s law schools who, in the opinion of the Law School’s faculty, best demonstrates the positive attributes of a matrimonial lawyer: academic excellence; competence as practitioner; commitment to the practice and development of family law, including assisting the indigent and improving the quality of the administration of justice in the field of family law; and meeting the highest standards for ethical behavior.

    This Award was created to honor and remember Eric D. Turner, a highly respected and beloved Fellow of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Since its inception in 2000, following Eric’s untimely passing, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the AAML has awarded over $80,000 in scholarships to third year law students attending schools in Pennsylvania.

    Our purpose in creating and maintaining this award is to encourage law students to enter the field of family law. Many of our award recipients have in fact obtained employment with prestigious family law firms and have successful careers in family law.

    The award is administered by Fellow Colleen M. Neary, Esquire, of Media, PA. Ms. Neary has been a Fellow of the American Academy since 2003 and practices primarily in Delaware County, PA. She is a founding member of Sweeney & Neary, LLP, a firm which limits its practice to matrimonial law.

  • 19 Aug 2022 1:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerald Shoemaker, AAML Penn Fellow | Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller PC

    Effective January 1, 2022, the Supreme Court adopted new and revised child and spousal support rules.  This is nothing surprising or unusual since the Guidelines are reviewed every 4 years.  Here is a summary of the changes which may impact your support matter:

    1. Under the old Guidelines, there was an artificial reduction in the basic child support by 30% to account for assumed parenting time.  Under the new Guidelines, that fiction is removed; however, the economic data has been updated so the numbers generally go down in both the lower and higher income cases.  For the vast majority of cases, the child support numbers increase.  The spousal support calculations have not been modified or changed in any substantial manner. 

    2. The new Guidelines address earning capacity as follows:

    a. the Court shall not adjust a party’s income if that party took a lower-paying job to defeat a child or spousal support obligation or if the party left or changed employment voluntarily or for cause.

    b. the Court shall not impose an earning capacity greater than one full-time job to the parties in a support action.

    c. the Court shall consider child care expenses when imputing an earning capacity to a party.  It’s worth noting that it does not mandate that child care expenses be included in the calculation but instead requires the court to consider those expenses when assessing an earning capacity to a party. 

    d. the list of factors for a Court to consider is more extensive than in previous versions of the Guidelines.

    3. A person paying support still gets a downward adjustment if that person has custody of the child or children for 40% or more of the time (counting overnights).  There is no adjustment for less than 40% despite the elimination of the 30% adjustment noted above. 

    4. The prior Guidelines were not clear on whether a party paying support would be able to submit expenses to the other party for reimbursement, such as expenses for camp, unreimbursed medical expenses, private school, and extra-curricular activities.  The new Rules are clear that those expenses are allocated between parties such that the party paying support is permitted to seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. 

    In a vast majority of cases, the child support paid will increase.  The only times when you will see decreases are when the parties have lower wages or when the parties have substantial income.  Regardless of your income level, you should contact your attorney to determine whether an adjustment in your child support is appropriate.  If you do not have an attorney, you may contact our office and we can assist you in determining the appropriate child support amount to be paid.   

  • 19 Aug 2022 1:27 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerald Shoemaker, AAML Penn Fellow | Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller PC

    1. If I get 50/50 or equally shared physical custody, I do not have to pay child support.  This is not true.  Even if parents have a 50/50 custody arrangement, support is still owed from the parent who makes more.  There is an adjustment in how much support will be paid by that parent but support, nonetheless, is due. 

    2. I am remarried and my new spouse’s income is utilized when calculating a child support obligation.  Your new spouse has no obligation to support your children.  As a result, your spouse’s income is not a data point used when calculating a support obligation.  The court, however, can deviate once it arrives at the support number based upon other household income.  Deviations for this reason are rare.

    3. Since I am the one receiving child support, I have to pay all the expenses for the kids.  This is not accurate.  The Support Guidelines specifically include certain extra expenses which are above and beyond the base child support payment.  These expenses include work-related childcare expenses, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, unreimbursed medical expenses and private school expenses.  The court has authority to award these in addition to the base child support payment, but you should check with your attorney to determine if it is likely the court would award these to you as they are not guaranteed.   

    4. Nothing will happen to me if I do not pay my support.  To the contrary, many things may and likely will happen to you.  For example, the court can deny you a license (drivers’, hunting or other) and can seize your tax refund.  In addition, the court can take action to take money directly from your bank account to pay your child support.  In egregious circumstances, the court will incarcerate a person who is not paying support. 

    5. I file for child support at any time and the court will award it to me back to the date when the child was born or when me and my partner separated.  The court is only permitted to grant support from the time you actually file a request for support through domestic relations.  It will not grant support to someone for a period of time prior to that official filing.  For that reason, it is important to file when you know the other party is not going to pay. 

    6. I am currently paying child support, my income has gone up but I do not have to let anyone know.  If you are paying support through the court (as opposed to paying directly to the other parent), you are obligated to let the court and the other parent know of any changes that would impact the calculation of support.  This would include changes in income as well as other changes, such as custody, or an increase or decrease of other expenses which are paid in addition to the base support amount.  If you fail to do so, the court can retroactively change the order to the time when your income increased (or other change occurred that was not reported).  In addition, the court has the ability to award counsel fees to the other party for having to seek the retroactive change in support for which disclosure was not provided. 

    7. I do not think I am the father of the child but I will worry about that after we finish with the determination of support.  Once you agree to a support order, you are conclusively the father.  The time to challenge paternity is at the outset of the filing of support.  If you fail to do so and a final support order is entered against you, you will be required to pay child support until the child is 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later in time. 

    8. If I am not seeing my child, I do not have to pay child support.  This is a fallacy.  Many people assume if the other parent is withholding custody, then the parent not seeing the child can withhold child support, but this is inaccurate.  Child support and child custody are two separate issues and the withholding of custody does not eliminate a party’s obligation to pay support. 

  • 27 Jul 2022 1:39 PM | Anonymous

    The Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section created this video as a resource to help parents who are separated or divorced learn how to improve their co-parenting relationships with positive communication and behavior.

    The video shows parents how strong, positive communication with their co-parent reduces stress and benefits their children. The video, created by Family Law Section members, features realistic vignettes showing parents how to avoid common sources of conflict by using the BIFF Response® Method, courtesy of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California.

    BIFF is an acronym for communication that stands for:

    • Brief

    • Informative

    • Friendly

    • Firm

    The video also features insightful commentary from experienced judges and mental health practitioners from across the state.

    This project was the brainchild of AAML Penn Fellow, and Immediate Past Chair of the PBA Family Law Section, Helen Casale. AAML Penn President-Elect, Kerri Lee Cappella, was also highly involved in the creation of this video.  

  • 5 May 2022 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    Brian C. Vertz, Pittsburgh child custody lawyer and a partner at Pollock Begg with experience handling international custody disputes, said a case set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court could change the way courts deal with cross-border custody disagreements involving domestic violence.

    In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an international family law case between an Italian father and an American mother who fled Italy with her child to escape spousal abuse, triggering the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Golan v. Saada case is only the fifth international child abduction case to come before the Court since 1988.

    The Justices will now decide whether lower courts may consider protective measures to mitigate grave risk of harm to allow a child to be returned to its habitual residence. In doing so, the Supreme Court must weigh the goal of deterring international child abduction against the goal of protecting individuals from domestic violence.

    Vertz filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to provide insight into the complexities of international custody cases and the limitations of the Hague Convention, a treaty between signatory nations, whose sole purpose is to deter parents from wrongfully removing children from their habitual residence.

    Article 13(b) of the treaty carves out a narrow exception for returning children to their country of habitual residence where a child’s well-being is seriously endangered. But, the Hague Convention lacks provisions for judging a child’s best interests, awarding custody or preventing further abuse. Whether a child’s return is granted or denied in a Hague proceeding, further custody proceedings are required to protect an at-risk child.

    Now the Supreme Court must decide whether the law permits courts to consider risk mitigation measures in international child abduction cases, at what stage of the legal process these undertakings may be proposed, who bears the burden of proof and whether the undertakings must be enforceable.

    In addition to the AAML amicus brief, Vertz also outlined the details of Golan v. Saada in a recent analysis piece on Law.com

    Read the AAML’s amicus brief on Golan v. Saada. (PDF)

    Read Brian’s piece on the Law.com website.

    As a partner at Pollock Begg since 2001, Pittsburgh child custody lawyer Vertz is a powerful ally for clients facing child support and custody litigation, divorce, settlements and family law appeals up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A tenacious negotiator, Vertz is skilled in collaborative law, arbitration, and mediation, including cross-border international and Hague Convention cases. Read his online profile to learn more.




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