Finding Solutions
by Theodora Madison

Legal matters of all natures should always be resolved with determination and sensitivity. Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., a law firm that specializes in family law, including divorce and custody, as well as estates and real estate, recognizes that legal issues can be often daunting and confusing for prospective clients. In return, the firm offers a free initial consultation by phone to gather information and questions in order to best serve a potential client. All five attorneys address some of the most common questions that clients have asked, however, if you find your question is not answered here, you can always email the firm at The firm has two offices with locations in Langhorne and Doylestown and services the entire Southeastern Pa. area and Southern and Central New Jersey area.

What is mediation and is it something worthwhile or a waste of time?
Mediation is a voluntary process where two disputing parties agree to enter into a process with a neutral third party to attempt to resolve whatever dispute they are having, whether it is in the area of family law or some other dispute. In the family law setting, parties may choose to mediate to avoid the expense and delay of litigation. A mediator does not have to be an attorney, as a mediator’s job is not to give legal advice but to try to get the parties to come to a solution for their issues. Mediation is not a waste of time, because even if the parties do not reach an agreement, they both get to be heard and oftentimes they significantly narrow down the issues. We always recommend, however, that someone going through mediation in the family law setting still obtain the advice of an independent attorney so that they are negotiating from an informed perspective. – Karen Ulmer Pendergast

Is it better to offset a pension value or have a pension allocated by QDRO?
This really depends on your client’s specific wants, needs and the advantages that an offset or QDRO present. It is necessary to have an understanding of all the parties marital and non-marital assets. It’s also necessary to understand a client’s specific wants and needs, as well as an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages that either offsetting a pension or creating an alternate payee through a QDRO may yield. For example, does your client want to retain his or her pension as a means of future security? Is the opposing party willing to accept an offset for the pension? Can your client afford to pay a lump sum settlement as an offset? Does your client possibly want more liquid assets that are immediately available? Is there real or personal property that your client would rather retain, and would an offset allow him or her to do this? What is the age of your client? Has the pension vested? Will there be any disparate results even if the parties were to split the pension 50/50? Regardless of the parties intentions, if you intend to QDRO or offset the pension, its present value, including the marital portion of its value needs to ascertained to determine what advantages either has for your client. Once the pension’s current value and the marital portion of this value are determined, a decision can be made whether it is best to offset this pension against other assets, or in the alternative, proceed with a QDRO. – Shane Dilworth

How do I ensure my alimony or support payments can be deducted by IRS?
You need to make sure the specific terms of your alimony award are spelled out in a settlement agreement or court order. Alimony is deductible from the party paying alimony and taxed as income to the party receiving it if it meets certain requirements established by the Internal Revenue Service. Alimony can include payments to a third party if designated that it is in lieu of alimony or payment of life insurance premiums for the other party. It may also include payments to upkeep a property such as mortgage payments, taxes and insurance though only half of the payments would be deductible. The parties cannot file a joint return when alimony is being paid and should not be residing in the same household. Finally, alimony must terminate upon the death of the receiving party so any payments required after death would not count as alimony. Child support, noncash property settlement, and payments on the property of the party paying alimony or use of that party’s property do not count as alimony. – April Townsend

Who can you file a Petition for Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order against and how does the process work?
Any adult individual can file for a PFA against any family member, household member, or current or former sexual partner. Also, a parent or guardian can file for a PFA on behalf of a minor child against any of these same groups of individuals. In order to file for a PFA, the person would go to the prothonotary in the Court of the county where he or she lives or works or where the offending party lives or works or where the abuse took place. This can provide the form for the Petition. Some counties may offer some free legal assistance in completing the form. Once the form is complete, it is filed with the prothonotary and the person has an opportunity to tell the judge their story at an ex parte hearing where the judge may enter a temporary PFA Order that stays in place until the final hearing. A final hearing is scheduled within two weeks of the date of filing. The Petition and final hearing notice must be served on the offending party either by the Sheriff or other personal service. At the final hearing, both parties have an opportunity to present testimony and evidence to support their story. If the offending party was served and does not appear at the final hearing, a default judgment may be entered against the offending party. A judge may enter a final PFA order for up to three years. – Amanda Malamud

What are the first things you should do as executor of a will? After the decedent passes away while residing in Pennsylvania, the executor must take the original will, death certificate, photo ID, and filing fees to the Register of Wills located in the courthouse of the county where the decedent was living before he/she passed away. After the Register of Wills opens the estate, the executor will be issued Letters Testamentary and will be given "short certificates". The executor must then notify next of kin as well as anyone who will inherit under the will. The executor must also advertise in two newspapers – the local legal newspaper such as the Bucks County Law Reporter - and a newspaper of general circulation. At this point, the executor may then begin locating assets and financial accounts of the decedent, determining any debts, and begin preparing the inheritance tax return - which must be paid within 9 months of the decedent's passing, but should be paid within 3 months for a discount. – Michael Raisman

Email your questions to the firm at or call for a free consultation

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
174 Middletown Blvd., Suite 300, Langhorne, Pa. 19047
(215) 752-6200
44 East Court St., Doylestown, Pa. 18901
(215) 348-3800

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, March, 2017.
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