Family Law Blog

5 Christmas Survival Tips for Divorcing Parents


Divorce and custody issues can make Christmas and other holidays stressful for parents. Children are very perceptive and will feel your stress. Here are some ways to lower your stress and survive the holidays: Focus on new traditions. Christmas will never be the same as it was when you were married. Maybe that is a good thing. As I talked about in my Halloween post, focus on your favorite traditions and cut out the ones you went along with for your spouse. So, if you hated spending the day traveling to visit family members, skip it this year. Instead, do something you enjoy like spending the whole day baking cookies, sipping eggnog and listening to Christmas music. Never liked that fake tree, go cut down a real one. Decide if you can handle spending some of the time together. Sometimes, even in contentious divorces, parents decide to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together. If you can make it about the children and not be tense, have it. If you have doubts that one or both of you will behave, it is best to divide the time. Figure out the schedule ahead of time. Do not wait until Christmas Eve to decide who gets the kids when. If you both want Christmas Eve, try to figure out a compromise such as alternating who gets Christmas Eve each year. You can also work in other holidays. For example, you can agree that if you get Christmas Eve, your spouse gets Christmas Day and/or Easter Sunday. Be flexible, your children will thank you. Coordinate gifts. It is not fair to your children if you both buy them the same thing. Worse yet, focusing on topping the other parent takes the spirit out of the holiday. Talk to your kids, appropriately. Open and honest communication with children is best. Read More

Halloween: What Divorcing Parents Need to Consider


Halloween has always been a special holiday for children, and parents enjoy reliving it through their eyes. However, divorce can put a damper on things if the parents do not plan ahead and work together. Here are some tips to help things go more smoothly: Decide who is doing what for the costumes. It is no fun for kids if their parents are too busy fighting over who is doing what when it comes to the costumes. Take your ego out of it. If the other parent really wants to take the lead on the costume let them and agree you will take the lead next year. Or, if you have more than one child, you each are in charge of one of them. Determine if you are both going to trick or treat together. The determinative question is whether both of you can get along and make it a positive experience for your child. That usually means being willing to leave your new significant other out of the picture. Remember, the focus is on your child and not to make your ex jealous or upset. If you cannot make it a positive experience, it may be better to alternate years. Determine where you are trick or treating. If you are both still living at home, this one is easy. If you are now living in separate homes and both neighborhoods trick or treat at the same time, you have to select a location. Think of this from the child’s perspective. Do they have friends in the new neighborhood and feel excited about it? Would they rather spend their first Halloween where it is familiar? Remember that divorce is an opportunity to create new traditions. If you do not have your children on Halloween, you can still create new traditions around the holiday and the fall season. Read More

A Sunset to Plan for: The Changes in Federal Estate Tax in 2025


Taxes. Nobody likes dealing with them. However, they become especially relevant and important when planning your estate. Being aware of the applicable federal and states taxes that will be due can have an immense impact on what will remain to be distributed to your family and other beneficiaries. With taxes in mind, everyone needs to be familiar with the “unified credit”, which is the amount each individual can leave free of tax, upon death, to a non-spouse under federal estate taxes. Let me fill you in on this. This amount is very important as every dollar which exceeds the unified credit is taxed at an exceptionally high federal estate tax rate of 40% (yes, you read that correctly, 40%). Additionally, this amount is also “portable” between spouses. This means that any portion that is not used by the first spouse upon death, the remaining amount “ports” or transfers to the surviving spouse to be added to that spouse’s unified credit which effectively increases the amount which may pass that second estate free of federal tax. To illustrate how this works, let’s say there is a married couple, and Husband dies first with $7,000,000 in his estate, with the current unified credit amount being $12,920,000. Since Husband is under the exclusion amount, the entire $7,000,000 is not subject to federal tax. The “unused” $5,920,000 passes to his surviving spouse who now has an increased amount of $18,840,000 which may pass through her estate (as opposed to the original $12,920,000) excluded from federal estate tax. Over the last number of years, the unified credit amount has been changing annually as it is indexed for inflation. However, it is likely to have a major change at the end of 2025. Prior to the Trump Tax Reform Act of 2017, the exclusion amount was set at $5,000,000 (adjusted annually for inflation). Read More

Working with Mental Health Professionals


Attorney Robert Weinberg provides insight as to how experienced family law attorneys can guide clients through difficult aspects of custody cases, especially thinking about and working with the various mental health professionals that are typically involved in these cases, and ultimately how to maintain a focus on the best interests of clients’ children throughout any litigation process. Source Read More

Summer Vacation: Top 7 Tips For Divorcing Parents


Custody conflict does not have to ruin the fun of summer vacation.  It would be impossible to decide which vacations dates you will want for every year until your children go to college.  At the same time, you do not want to turn each summer into a fight over vacation dates.  The key is to set parameters that allow both parents to enjoy a summer vacation with the kids. Here are my tips: 1)    FIRST, DECIDE HOW LONG THE VACATIONS SHOULD BE How many vacation weeks or days should each parent should receive for vacation?  That depends on the ages of your children and how long you think they should go on vacation away from the other parent.  For example, with really young children, we may give each parent one week each summer.  When they are a little older, that can expand to two nonconsecutive weeks each summer.  With pre-teens and teens, consider allowing uninterrupted weeks for vacation.  Another consideration is whether extended family live further away.  Travel to Europe or Asia, for example, is difficult with only 7 days to travel. 2)    ALTERNATE FIRST CHOICE  I usually alternate on an odd/even year basis which parent gets first pick of summer weeks.  There should be a deadline for the parent with first choice so that the other parent can begin to book their plans. 3)    CONSIDER RULES ABOUT DAYS Choosing your week to begin on the Friday of the other parent’s weekend.  It is the oldest trick in the book that turns a 7-day vacation into a 10-day one.  This is why I like the “no tacking rule.”  The rule is that your week must include your own weekend and not the other party’s. 4)    PRESERVE FAMILY TRADITIONS If the other parent’s family takes a vacation the last week in July each year, consider agreeing to let the tradition continue.  Read More

What Do I Do With My Inheritance


Whether or not your marriage is on the rocks, you should consider putting your inheritance into an account titled in your name alone. In this way, should your marriage end, the inheritance will be considered a non-marital asset and therefore not included in the marital assets that will be divided between you and your spouse in the divorce settlement or litigation. However, the increase in value of your inheritance funds and the income you receive on the inherited funds in the form of interest or dividends will be considered marital in the event of divorce. For example, assume you put a $100,000 inheritance into a brokerage account in your name on January 1. You invest the funds in stocks and bonds worth $100,000. Years later, when you and your spouse separate, the stocks and bonds are now valued at $150,000. In your divorce proceedings, your initial deposit of $100,000 will be considered your non-marital inheritance and not included in the division of assets. The $50,000 increase from the time of settlement through the time of separation will be considered a marital asset and subject to distribution between you and your spouse. If by the time of divorce, which could be months later, the account value has increased to $175,000, the additional $25,000 growth is yours and not part of the marital assets. But, if at the time of divorce the account has dropped from $150,000 at separation to $125,000, the Divorce Code provides that the increase in value of the account will be limited to $25,000, that is, the increase in value of the initial inheritance amount at the time of divorce. Your spouse may be concerned that you are depositing your inheritance into an account in your name alone, particularly if all of your other accounts and assets are jointly titled and your marriage is intact. Read More

Coparent Communication


Parenting is as rewarding as it is challenging. In this video attorney Kerri Cappella discusses co-parenting after separation, even under the best of circumstances, takes those challenges to another level. Effective, respectful communication between parties reduces tensions between them and helps children adapt to the changes in their lives.   Source Read More

The Application of Ice Ice Baby to Custody Litigation Strategy


Many readers will recall the sagacious approach to life challenges postulated by Vanilla Ice in his seminal (only?) hit song, Ice Ice Baby: “If there was a problem, yo, I solve it (check out the hook while my DJ revolves it. Ice ice baby too cold, too cold).” (Citation omitted). How on earth could this epistemological font be applicable to a custody case, you ask? Simple. Our legislature, in its own bout of perspicacity, listed the following as the very first factor that our courts must consider in any custody action: Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party. Vanilla Ice could not have said it better himself: a client walks into your office with a problem in a custody case and, yo, you solve it—with Factor 1 at the forefront of your mind. Start with this simple truism: children do best when they have healthy (safe) relationships with both of their parents. This may not mean 50/50 in every case, but it means that each parent should take every reasonable (safe) step to promote their child’s (safe) relationship with the other parent. Not only is this mindset beneficial to children; it is also good strategy, because it heeds Vanilla Ice’s wisdom and focuses on the consideration set forth in Custody Factor 1. It also informs attorneys how to prepare for a custody trial. Unlike almost any other area of the law, custody cases will focus not only on evidence that occurred before the case but also on evidence that develops while the case is pending up to the date of trial. Keeping Factor 1 in mind, courts will expect that each parent has done whatever they have within their respective abilities to solve problems regarding custody, and evidence regarding these efforts will be critical in terms of the court’s determination. Read More

News & Events

Related News

28 Pietragallo Lawyers Named in 2024 The Best Lawyers in America® and Ones to Watch
August 17, 2023
Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP is pleased to announce that 28 lawyers have been named as 2024 The Best Lawyers in America® and Ones to Watch.  Read More
Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP and Gentile, Horoho & Avalli, P.C. to Merge
August 1, 2023
Business and Commercial Litigation Firm Adds Family Law and Estate Administration/Orphans’ Court Practice AUGUST 1, 2023 – Two established Pittsburgh law firms have agreed to merge, bringing a highly-experienced family law and estate planning, administration, and litigation practice to a nationally-recognized business and litigation firm. Read More

Upcoming Events

Michael Morse to present at the American Bar Association’s 21st Annual Washington Health Law Summit
December 11, 2023
Pietragallo partner Michael Morse will be presenting at the American Bar Association’s 21st Annual Washington Health Law Summit, on December 11-12, 2023 in Washington D.C.. Read More
Eric Soller to present at 34th Annual Academy of Trial Lawyers Federal Practice Program
December 15, 2023
Pietragallo partner and Chair of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County’s Federal Practice Program, Eric Soller, will be speaking at the 34th Annual Academy of Trial Lawyers Federal Practice Program on December 15, 2023 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA. Read More
View More News & Events