The divorce process in Montgomery County, PA can be a bit overwhelming for individuals going through it for the first time. Men and women anticipating a divorce usually have increased stress when thinking about their soon to be ex, judges, lawyers, and a new life post-divorce. We have represented men and women for over 20 years, so we know what our clients are thinking when they come to our office for the first time. This article will review common questions we get from our clients who want a divorce but have no idea how to start the process.
HOW DO I START A DIVORCE IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA?
To initiate a divorce proceeding, either spouse must file a Complaint in Divorce in the Office of the Prothonotary at the courthouse in Norristown, PA. Divorce lawyers usually e-file the complaint online on behalf of their client.
SHOULD I START THE DIVORCE IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA?
A divorce lawyer can help you decide whether to initiate the divorce proceeding in Montgomery County, PA. Generally, so long as you or your spouse has lived in Pennsylvania for at least six (6) consecutive months immediately prior to filing for divorce, a divorce can be filed in Pennsylvania. If either you or your spouse lives in Montgomery County, PA or both of you agree on Montgomery County, PA, a divorce complaint can be filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
WHAT IS A DIVORCE COMPLAINT?
A divorce Complaint is a written, legal document which sets forth the various legal matters or causes of actions that must be resolved by agreement of the parties or by the Court. The Plaintiff (the person preparing the Complaint) asserts facts that, if proven, can result in the Court awarding the type of relief requested by the Plaintiff. In a divorce action, causes of action usually include divorce (fault or no-fault), equitable division of marital assets, spousal support or alimony pendente lite (APL), alimony, child custody, and child support.
HOW DO I PREPARE THE DIVORCE COMPLAINT?
The Complaint should be drafted by an experienced divorce lawyer. The Complaint must include specific information necessary for each of the causes of action and include other information that is required under Pennsylvania law. Montgomery County, PA local Court rules require a Cover Sheet, Notice to Defend, a proper caption, numbered paragraphs, and a signed Verification.
WHAT INFORMATION IS NECESSARY FOR THE DIVORCE COMPLAINT?
In addition to the specific causes of action for divorce related matters and allegations in support of them, a Complaint for divorce should include the following:
- the names of both spouses and their addresses
- a statement that the either or both spouses have resided in Pennsylvania for the requisite time period
- the date and place of the marriage
- the grounds for the divorce
- details of any prior action of divorce or for annulment of marriage
- a statement that you were advised that counseling is available
- a statement that you may have the right to request that the Court require the parties to participate in counseling
- the specific requested relief (e.g. a Decree in Divorce)
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE?
The Divorce Complaint must set forth the basis for the divorce. In Pennsylvania, a Plaintiff can allege fault-based grounds for divorce (e.g. abuse or adultery) or the Plaintiff can generally assert a no-fault divorce. A “no-fault” divorce means that the Plaintiff does not need to prove specific reasons for the divorce. All he or she needs to allege is an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A NO-FAULT DIVORCE?
Under the no-fault section of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, when a Plaintiff alleges an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the other spouse (the Defendant) can agree to the divorce (mutual consent) or if the Defendant does not agree, then the Plaintiff must prove that the spouses have continuously lived separately and apart for one (1) year. If there is mutual consent, the spouses can be divorced after 90 days passes from the time the Divorce Complaint is filed and served.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A FAULT-BASED DIVORCE?
Fault-Based Divorce is quite different, as the filing spouse must prove that he or she is innocent of wrongdoing and that the other spouse is at fault for adultery, endangerment, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years, or indignities to the other spouse. This divorce process usually requires a hearing in front of a judge.
AFTER THE COMPLAINT IS FILED, WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
The Complaint must be “served” on the other spouse. Service is a term that has special legal meaning as described in the PA Rules of Civil Procedure. Usually, your spouse is served by either the sheriff or another adult either by hand, by leaving a copy with an adult at your spouse’s residence, or to a person in charge at your spouse’s office or place of business. Another common method is for service by sending the Divorce Complaint to your spouse’s last known address by both regular and certified U.S. mail. The rules permit other methods of service.
SHOULD I HIRE A DIVORCE LAWYER?
Divorce lawyers know the process and the law better than anyone. Divorce is a life altering event and people have one chance to do it right. Hiring a divorce lawyer will help ensure that you are making the right decisions about divorce related matters such as child custody, division of property, and other financial matters such as child support, spousal support and alimony. Divorce lawyers can help you with other common questions that may arise such as:
- Can I force my spouse to leave the marital residence?
- Should I leave the marital residence?
- What if I want to relocate with my children?
- How much spousal support am I entitled to?
- How do we decide on how to divide the marital property?
- What is physical custody and legal custody?
Getting started with the divorce process is only the beginning. A Montgomery County divorce lawyer can assist you from the beginning to the end. A divorce lawyer can advise you on decisions and help you negotiate an amicable resolution to all matters. If necessary, the lawyer can present your case to a Court appointed Master or Judge, in the event of an unresolved dispute. The Martin Law Firm, P.C., located in Blue Bell, PA routinely handles divorce and related matters. Contact us today for a free case evaluation at (215) 646-3980.