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Johnstown Legal Issues Blog

You can control the health care you will receive in the future

Pennsylvania readers know that the choices they make today can affect their futures. This is especially true in the estate planning process. There are steps you can take to protect your future interests, financial security and much more. Through your estate planning efforts, you can even outline the type of health care you may want in case of a medical emergency.

Health care planning is an important step for everyone, no matter his or her age or current health status. It is impossible to predict what will happen down the road, but you have the right to have a say in what will happen to your body in case you experience a serious injury or sickness. You can do this by drafting a health care power of attorney. 

Frequent reasons for divorce

There are many different reasons people in Pennsylvania may decide to get a divorce. However, there are reasons for a divorce that are more common than others.

Based partly on a study that was conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a list that ranks leading causes of divorce was created. The study that was used involved the polling of 31 women and 21 men who had taken part in a prevention and relationship enhancement program before getting married. The purpose of the program was to instruct couples on developing their conflict resolution and communication skills.

How courts determine the best interests of the child

When Pennsylvania parents are getting a divorce and cannot reach an agreement about child custody and visitation, they might have to take the matter to court. A judge makes a decision about child custody based on the best interests of the child. This involves taking a number of factors into account.

A court will prioritize a child's safety above all and will not place the child in a custody situation that does not appear to be safe. The court looks at each parent's physical and mental health and their ability to provide for the child. This means being able to give the child things like food and shelter as well as offering emotional support, access to education, and general parental guidance. Younger children may be particularly bonded with one main caregiving parent while older children may want input into the arrangement. A judge will also consider how disruptive any given arrangement might be to the child. Keeping the child's schedule as consistent as possible is a priority.

Is divorce more likely when one partner is prettier?

When people in Pennsylvania get on a dating site, the physical attractiveness of the people they connect with may be one of the most important factors bringing people together. According to research, people are likely to contact others considered up to 25 percent more attractive than themselves. While individual ideals of attractiveness may differ widely from person to person, social beauty standards have a major impact on how people perceive others and not only in the field of romance. Still, many couples appear to include partners with widely variant levels of attractiveness.

Several researchers set out to assess how this kind of attractiveness gap could affect the future of a relationship, especially if it progresses toward marriage. Some studies found positive results. For example, an interview-based study of newlywed couples that involved both parties' attractiveness being assessed by a panel of observers found that husbands were happier and more committed when their wives were considered much more attractive.

Are you heading toward a divorce this season?

Going through a breakup in your marriage can be hard. Even if you know that you are looking to divorce, it can be tough to know when the right time is. Could it be possible that the time of your divorce filing is predetermined?

A Washington state study has shown that filings for divorce consistently peak in two months: March and August. Why are these the months that divorce rates are highest?

A will is a good start to an estate plan

While it is more desirable to begin estate planning early and have a comprehensive scheme in place, it is never too late to begin the process, and a will is a good foundational document to start with. And in fact, for some Pennsylvania residents, a will may be all they need. However, estate planning can be thought of as preparing for what could happen, not necessarily what is likely to happen. A will can achieve much of what many people need, but there may be better ways to get there.

Legal experts explain that a will at its most basic purpose can serve as the vehicle to transfer assets from the newly deceased person to his or her heirs. However, there are other ways to do the same thing. Bank accounts, investment accounts and brokerage accounts, for example, can be transferred via a transfer on death designation established before the decedent passed that becomes effective at the time of death. Additionally, assets that have ownership title or deeds, such as real estate, can be transferred via a trust instead of a will.

Finalizing alimony agreements under the new tax law

Changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which passed in December 2017, are going into effect as 2019 begins. One of the most dramatic changes for divorcing couples is how alimony is treated at tax time.

For over 70 years, tax rules stipulated that alimony was taxable income for recipients and that payers could write off those dollars on their taxes. Now, the inverse will be true: Alimony payers will have to include payments in their income taxes, while recipients can write them off.

Successful parenting after a divorce

Pennsylvania parents who have gone through divorce understand the role that resolving conflict, showing respect and planning play in successful co-parenting. During the custody arrangement, the court often makes decisions based on the willingness of both parents to work together with the best interests of their children in mind after divorce. The courts rarely grant sole custody to one parent unless there is clear evidence that giving the other parent custody would put the child at risk.

In an ideal world, divorced parents would be able to communicate with each other and resolve conflict easily for the best interests of their children. Unfortunately, some ex-spouses are not able to get past the hurt they felt during the marriage or during the divorce, and this inhibits communication. There is a danger that if parents do not get along, their arguing will negatively impact their children.

Differences between trusts and wills

Lots of people in Pennsylvania utilize trusts as part of their estate plans. However, many still don't quite understand how a trust differs from a will.

There are several important differences between living trusts and wills. Unlike a will, a trust allows beneficiaries to avoid the expenses and time of going to probate court. They are also a faster way to distribute property since living trusts take effect immediately rather than upon the grantor's death. In addition, trusts can be used if the grantor becomes temporarily disabled to allow a successor to immediately take control of assets.

The special issues of military divorces

Military families have many unique circumstances and concerns. So, it may come as little surprise that divorces involving such families can end up looking a bit different from other divorces. Today, we’ll go over some of the unique issues related to divorces involving servicemembers.

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