Divorce is complicated, emotional and unnerving, and we will meet your needs during this challenging time. Our top priority in these matters is being available to you when you need us. Whether an unexpected issue arises, you receive a communication from your spouse that you need to discuss, you want a case status, or you just need reassurance regarding a particular course of action, we are always a phone call or email away.
PENNSYLVANIA POLICY FOR DIVORCE
Pennsylvania recognizes that the family is the basic unit in society and the protection and preservation of the family is of paramount public concern. As a result, the Pennsylvania legislature established the following policies regarding divorce:
- Make laws that relate to the realities of marriage and divorce.
- Encourage reconciliation and settlement of differences.
- Give primary consideration to the welfare of the family.
- Mitigate the harm to the family by the divorce.
- Utilize any resources that are available to deal with family problems.
- Bring about economic justice between parties who are divorced or separated.
- Ensure a fair and just determination and settlement of their property rights.
REQUIREMENTS FOR DIVORCE
In order to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania, three basic requirements must be met:
1. Residency. One or both of the divorcing parties must be a Pennsylvania resident for at least 6 months immediately previous to the filing of a divorce complaint.
2. Divorce Grounds. A party must allege and prove grounds upon which the divorce is sought. (See below).
3. Counseling. A party may request counseling or the Court may order counseling, depending on the situation.
DIVORCE PROCEDURE – COMMENCEMENT OF ACTION
Once the residency requirement is established, the spouse who is filing for divorce (the plaintiff) must file a divorce complaint to start the process. The divorce complaint can only be filed in the county where:
- The defendant resides.
- The plaintiff resides, if the defendant resides outside of Pennsylvania.
- The couple made their matrimonial home if the plaintiff continuously lived in that county.
- The plaintiff resides, if than 6 months since final separation and the defendant agrees.
- Either party resides if, after six months, neither party continues to reside in the county of
PENNSYLVANIA GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
A person who files for divorce must allege and prove sufficient grounds for divorce in order for the Court to consider and ultimately issue a divorce decree. The following are the various grounds for divorce:
- Mutual Consent. (Most Common). The court may grant a divorce where it is alleged that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, 90 days have elapsed from the date of the commencement of an action and an affidavit has been filed by each of the parties confirming that each of them consents to the divorce.
- Irretrievable Breakdown. The court may grant a divorce when a determination is made that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year.
- Fault. The court may grant a divorce when one spouse has committed willful and malicious desertion; adultery; cruel and barbarous treatment or endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse; knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting; been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime; or offered such indignities to the innocent or injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.
- Institutionalization. The court may grant a divorce upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months immediately before the commencement of the action and where there is no reasonable prospect that the spouse will be discharged from inpatient care during the 18 months subsequent to the commencement of the action.
CONTESTED DIVORCE V. UNCONTESTED DIVORCE
- Uncontested Divorce. For most couples seeking divorce, an uncontested divorce is the preferred option. When the parties are able to settle their differences by agreement, the divorce process is usually quicker and less costly to both parties. The couple does not have to be amicable towards one another in order to negotiate and agree on the various matters. They just have to be practical. If both parties approach divorce analytically not emotionally, they can make calculated decisions that are in the best interests of their children, their finances, and themselves.
- Contested Divorce. If the parties cannot resolve the issues by agreement, then the legal system will be used to determine the unresolved matters. The legal system is usually the less desirable because the process can take time and cost more money. The divorcing couple will each need a divorce lawyer to help them navigate through the process and to help them make important decisions along the way. It is common for amicable parties to a divorce to have a contested divorce because they have a genuine disagreement about a very important issue. For example, in high net worth divorces, the parties may have a different opinion as to whether a party is entitled to alimony or a higher percentage of the assets.
COMPLEX DOES NOT MEAN ADVERSARIAL
Not all divorces are adversarial. Even though divorce may involve complex decisions and determinations involving property rights, it does not mean that the parties to the divorce must fight with each other every step through the process. Complex property issues can be resolved by agreement of the parties just like any other divorce case. Good faith disputes as to the value of an asset or how the assets should be divided are common, and these cases can sometimes be resolved through mediation. If all else fails, then these matters are decided by a court after presentation of evidence and testimony. Whether a case is resolved by agreement, mediation or court intervention, high net worth cases must be diligently prepared by an experienced divorce lawyer.
OTHER DIVORCE RELATED MATTERS
- Equitable Distribution of Marital Property
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite
HIRING A DIVORCE LAWYER
Parties to a divorce should always hire a divorce lawyer for representation throughout the process, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. If the divorce is uncontested, it is extremely important for the parties to sign a property settlement agreement, custody agreement, or support agreement. As with any contract, the settlement between the parties should be comprehensive and detailed enough to avoid future misunderstandings or conflict. A divorce lawyer can draft the necessary agreements to make sure that the agreements are legal. For contested divorces, a divorce lawyer can not only help the client navigate through the process and make decisions, but the divorce lawyer can prepare a case for trial to increase the likelihood of success. Divorce lawyers know what evidence needs to be submitted to prove their side of the case.
Many firms offer a “free consultation.” A free consultation sounds good, but a free consultation will not include a detailed, substantive discussion on your particular situation. Over the years, we have found that individuals contemplating divorce or who have been served with a divorce complaint want two things: 1) an honest discussion with an experienced attorney who can provide initial guidance and information that relates specifically to the individual’s situation and 2) an opportunity to meet with and evaluate a divorce lawyer before hiring him or her for representation.
We believe that a reasonable and affordable initial consultation in our office with one of our attorneys is best suited to accomplish your goals. When you call, we will arrange an immediate appointment for you. During this initial consultation, we will:
- Obtain information from you regarding your marriage, separation, and children.
- Discuss your financial situation including income, assets, debts, and living expenses.
- Discuss your goals and objectives.
- Listen to your questions and provide you with answers.
- Discuss Pennsylvania law and how the law impacts your situation.
- Help you develop an initial strategy.
- Determine how to achieve your goals effectively and efficiently.
- Discuss our fees and estimates for handling your case.
There is no further obligation unless you want to retain us to assist you. Either way, you will receive valuable information that will help you decide what is best for you. Arrange an appointment today by calling 215-687-4053.