Major Changes in PA Family Law

Right now, it seems every day brings news of significant changes coming in family law. Here are just some of the recent highlights.

Changes to Alimony Taxation.

Effective January 1, 2019, alimony will no longer be deductible to the payor and taxable to the payee. This is a huge change and one that family lawyers are still digesting. The new tax law will apply to agreements or court orders entered on or after January 1, 2019. If you are in the process of getting divorced, this change may be a significant one for you. Of course, this is only one of many tax changes, but it is the one expected to have the most impact in family law matters.

Proposed Changes to the Child and Spousal Support / Alimony Pendente Lite Guidelines.

In light of the tax code changes, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Committee has proposed new support guidelines intended to neutralize the impact of the elimination of the alimony tax deduction. While these new support guidelines have not yet been enacted and are still under consideration, it seems clear that the Rules Committee intends to promulgate new guidelines in the near future which will significantly impact child and spousal support calculations in PA. If you are currently receiving or paying child support, it may make sense to review these proposed guidelines and how they apply to your case.

The Return of Parenting Coordination.

Effective March 2019, a new rule will go into effect which will reinstate parenting coordination in PA. Parenting coordination is a dispute resolution process for custody cases whereby a neutral decision maker is appointed to resolve minor disputes between the parents (subject to review by the court).The process provides simpler, more effective decision making for minor disputes such as temporary changes to the custody schedule, choice of extracurricular activities for the child, and so on. The family law bar has been long awaiting the return of parenting coordination and I anticipate that many lawyers will be recommending it to their clients in the near future. For more information, see my blog post about Parenting Coordination.…

High Income Child Support.

The PA Supreme Court decision in Hanrahan v. Bakker, No. 19 MAP 2017 (June 19, 2018), is expected to significantly impact child support calculations in high-income cases (where the parties’ combined monthly net income exceeds $30,000).The decision now requires courts to consider the reasonable needs of the child as a deviation factor. For high-income parents who pay child support, this decision will be viewed as a relief, as in some high-income cases, a straight application of the guidelines may result in a windfall to the recipient parent.

Custody Standing Expanded.

Effective in July 2018, a new PA custody statute expanded standing for third parties and grandparents. In custody cases where the parents do not have custody of the children, the new law will open the door for individuals who have sustained, substantial, and sincere interest in the welfare of the child to ask the court to award them custody of the child. Under prior law, those individuals may not have had standing at all and would not have been able to seek relief in court. In addition, the new law ensures that grandparents will have the right to seek partial or supervised physical custody of their children in cases where the parents have commenced a proceeding for custody of the child and the parents do not agree as to whether the grandparents should have custody time with the child.

For more information on these changes or to schedule a consultation to discuss how these changes may apply to your case, please contact Christina M. DeMatteo at [email protected].