There are a number of changes to relevant laws and state rules that can affect how Pennsylvania family law cases are handled in 2019. The new year may bring new ways of thinking about your ongoing or upcoming divorce and custody matters.

  1. Tax consequences of alimony: The most talked-about change was announced early last year.  New federal tax laws that were signed into effect in 2018 include provisions that can affect divorcing couples beginning this year.  Most significantly, as of January 1, 2019, alimony payments are not taxable as income to the receiving spouse, and they will not be deductible for tax purposes by the paying spouse.  If a divorce with alimony provisions was finalized by December 31, 2018, the former tax deductions remain in place.
  2. Tax deductions for parents: The new tax laws may also have an effect on decisions in custody cases regarding who will claim the children as dependents.  The head of household assignment and the child tax credit for children who are under the age of 17 at the end of 2018 should be discussed with tax advisors at the time of filing tax returns.
  3. Parenting Coordinators: Beginning in March 2019, the parenting coordination program has been reenacted to allow the Court to appoint trained professionals to decide some custody disputes.  It is expected that this option will free up judges to deal with the most significant, long-term custodial orders, and parenting coordinators can handle ongoing disagreements about existing orders.
  4. Grandparent Custody and Third-Party Custody: Changes to the laws regarding standing for custody went into effect in 2018, but the Courts’ interpretations of the law have not yet been fully developed.  Now, great-grandparents, other relatives, stepparents and friends may request custody of children when parents are not available, if they demonstrate willingness and ability under the established legal standard and process.
  5. Support Filing Procedures: As of January 1st, all support related matters, including requests for child support, spousal support and alimony pendente lite (APL) must be filed in the Domestic Relations Section. APL has been added to the Domestic Relations docket and will be eliminated as a count – and therefore an expense- in new divorce complaints. The Court will continue to hear, decide and enforce all APL claims.
  6. High Income Child Support calculations: A Supreme Court decision issued in July 2018 will continue to affect the calculation of child support when parents have a joint income higher than $30,000 per month.  The Hanrahan decision requires Courts to consider whether the support guidelines result in a child support amount that exceeds the reasonable needs of the children, even when they are accustomed to a relatively high standard of living.  It is a change that occurred in 2018, but it will likely be developed in new court decisions throughout this year.

The experienced family law attorneys at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. remain up-to-date about issues and changes that may affect clients.  Call to learn more about the details that may affect you in divorce, support and custody matters.