Frequently asked questions regarding divorce in Pennsylvania…

Our divorce is amicable. Do we really need an attorney?

Even the most simple divorce can become more complicated than it first appears. Having a skilled attorney who knows the court's procedure can save you from problems with your divorce documents that will need to be corrected later, and can help your divorce to proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible. One attorney cannot represent both spouses. However, either spouse may decide to hire a family law lawyer who can prepare the agreement between the parties, called a Post-Nuptial or Property Settlement Agreement, and file the other necessary paperwork to ensure the Divorce Decree is issued as quickly as possible by the court.

How long does the divorce process take in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, all parties must wait a mandatory 90 days from when the Divorce Complaint is served before the final documents requesting a Divorce Decree may be filed. If there are disagreements between the parties, however, or a large amount of property to be divided, a divorce may take much longer than the minimum "cooling off" period. Contact me today to talk about how long you could expect your divorce to take, and what factors can influence the time period it takes for the court to issue a Divorce Decree.

How are assets divided in a Pennsylvania divorce?

Pennsylvania is an Equitable Distribution state. As the name implies, this means that the court will consider what is fair, not necessarily what is equal, when dividing marital property. The court's analysis is based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of the parties, who has custody of minor children, the age and health of the parties, and so on. The specifics of your case will determine how your property is divided. I would be happy to sit down with you to talk about the controlling factors and how they will apply to your case.

Do we need to go to court if we have a divorce agreement?

No. Parties who reach an agreement do not need to appear in court in order to have their Divorce Decree issued.

What if all our property is in my spouse's name?

In Pennsylvania, even if all the assets or debt is in one person's name, it may still be considered marital property and divided between you in your divorce. Courts primarily look at when the asset or a liability was acquired to determine whether a particular item is marital or not.

What is "abandonment"?

Pennsylvania requires the party filing the divorce action to state the ground(s) on which they are requesting the divorce — in other words, a reason the marriage should be terminated. Most divorces in PA are finalized under no-fault grounds. Abandonment, however, is a fault-based means of obtaining a divorce. If your spouse has abandoned the marital home for a year or more, you may have met the requirements to ask for a fault-based divorce. Even so, you should speak to a qualified attorney about whether pursuing a fault-based divorce makes sense for you.

What do I need to do to prepare for my consultation?

It's a good idea to come to your consultation with the pertinent information regarding what you and your spouse own, whether jointly or individually, as well as an idea of when it was acquired and an approximate value. The same kind of information regarding debts and liabilities will also be useful for this meeting. If anything has already been filed, bring that as well. The more details you can provide, the more information and potential strategies we can discuss.

Can't I just get a cheap divorce through materials I found on the internet?

Sure you can… but beware. Pennsylvania and most counties have rules of procedure that require specific documents, wording, and timing of filing. Filing a divorce in a distant county, or buying a packet from the internet to "fill in the blank" for your county, often leads to a mess which is then costly to fix. Worse, if your divorce is finalized without addressing support or property issues, you may have no recourse. We take over many cases each year that were incorrectly started. Lots of these kinds of headaches can be avoided by talking to a local, knowledgeable attorney first. Before you DIY, come talk to me.

How long do we have to be separated before we can divorce?

Sometimes a spouse will not consent to allow the other spouse to move forward with the divorce process. When this happens, you can proceed under a section of the divorce code that lets you go forward, anyway, once you have been separated long enough. Generally you will receive a divorce decree under one of the two no-fault sections of Pennsylvania's divorce code, section 3301(c) or 3301(d). In a divorce under section 3301(d), the court allows you to progress the case even if the other side will not consent. As of December 2016, the required waiting period is one year. When exactly your separation period begins depends on the circumstances of your case, and we can discuss that during our meeting.

I had an affair! How does this affect the divorce? - OR - My spouse had an affair! How does this affect the divorce?

Even though fault grounds are alive and well in Pennsylvania, a vast majority of divorces are finalized using our no-fault grounds. This is because, even if fault can be proven, generally it will not play any role in how the marital property is divided or apportioned. Plus, proving fault requires litigation and makes the entire matter more expensive and adversarial. There are times where extra-marital affairs can affect alimony eligibility or custody matters, but this is rare. Even in the most mutual divorces, emotions run high. When cheating leads to a split, it often makes it difficult for the parties to work together to resolve the financial aspects of the divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help you sort this mess out. Give me a call and we can talk it over.

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