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March 2015 Archives

DCS, Esq. Contributes to Philadelphia Life and Suburban Life Editorial!

One of this month's editorial features in Philadephia Life and Suburban Life Magazines focuses on family law and navigating its choppy waters with a skilled attorney.  As the feature cover subject of the current issue (available now), Diana C. Schimmel, Esq. was asked to contribute to the article and provide her practitioner point-of-view.

DCS, Esq. Speaks to Women Vets About Divorce Rights

On Wednesday March 18th 2015, Diana C. Schimmel, Esquire lead an informational lecture at the Women's Veteran's Center in Olde City Philadelphia for a crowd of retired service women.  The event, which was the last in a 4-part lecture series, focused on family law myths and how service members are viewed under the Domestic Relations Law.  Attorney Schimmel took questions from the crowd and helped put the ladies at ease by answering general questions and dispelling family law myths.  The event was sponsored by the Women's Resource Center of Wayne.

Child Custody & Grandparents Rights

To Grandmother's House We Go?

During the year, one very important custody question frequently comes up: Do grandparents have legal rights to see their grandchildren? Unfortunately, the answer is not super clear and depends on your particular state. The Supreme Court weighed in on the matter in 2000 in Troxel v. Granville, where it held in a 6-3 decision that a Washington statute which allowed any individual to petition for court-ordered rights to see a child over the custodial parent's objection, if it was in the child's best interest, violated the parents' due process rights to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children. Here are some topics to consider when navigating this issue:

  1. Is your state law restrictive or permissive?

    A permissive state is one that allows third parties to seek visitation; a restrictive state only allows petitions if the parents are either divorced or deceased (PA is a restrictive state). Check with a local family law attorney or read the statute to find out the requirements necessary before filing.
  2. Has your grandchild been adopted?

    In some states, if there was an adoption, this can effect third party rights and block a grandparent from access to visits with the child. This can even mean adoption by a step-parent.
  3. Are your grandchild's parents divorced?

    Sometimes divorce can be a threshold requirement in order for a grandparent to petition for rights. A state may require that a divorce be finalized before a third party can intervene.
  4. Should you try mediation before court intervention?

    In cases where there is bad blood or one parent does not want the grandparent to see the child, mediation can be an option to help mitigate some of that tension. This alternative to going to court can be cheaper, faster and less contentious.

Divorce, College and Financial Aid

Recently, on CBS's "MoneyWatch" a divorced mother wrote in with a relevant question about filing for financial aid for her daughter as a divorced parent. Specifically, who should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ("FAFSA") form on behalf of her child. Five helpful tips were given:

  1. Who the child lives with matters

    The parent that the child lives with for the majority of the year is the parent who should file the FAFSA form. That parent would include only his or her income.
  2. Use the correct time period

    When determining the residency of the child, do not look at the calendar year. For financial aid purposes, the parent must determine where the child lived most of the year during the 12-month period that ends on the day the FAFSA form is signed. For example, if the form is signed on February 15, 2014 the 12-month period would begin from February 15, 2013.
  3. The parent who claims the child on his or her tax returns is irrelevant

    Typically, the parent who has the child in his or her custodial care for the majority of the year is the one who claims the child for tax purposes. But, if the parties have set up another arrangement, the party filing for FAFSA does not have to worry that this would effect the form or granting of aid. Child support is also irrelevant.
  4. Remarriage matters

    If a parent remarries, the new spouse's income and assets must be reported on the FAFSA form and could impact an award of aid.
  5. The CSS/Financial Aid Profile follows different rules

    250 schools use the profile aid form which treats divorce differently than FAFSA. The major difference is that both parents income is reported, not just the parent where the child primarily lives.

Child Custody & Taxes

One of the biggest questions I am asked as a family law attorney around this time of year is about taxes. More specifically, about who can claim the children as dependents for tax purposes. Divorced or separated parents want to know:

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