We provide compassionate representation in matters of separation, divorce, property settlement agreements, support, and alimony. Our firm also represents parents in stepparent adoptions.
What is needed for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?
The marriage must be irretrievably broken, and there must be a waiting period. One type of no-fault divorce has a 90-day waiting period and the other a two-year waiting period. There are reasons for choosing one or the other or both in the complaint. Your attorney will explain.
Does every divorce in Pennsylvania have to go to court?
No. Many divorces are settled without court involvement. The attorneys can draft a Property Settlement Agreement. After it is signed, it acts as a contract between the parties, spelling out property rights and resolving other issues. Divorces that require the use of the courts often are much more expensive.
When can I file for divorce in Pennsylvania?
You must have been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months (or your spouse must be present for at least six months) before you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania.
How soon can I get divorced in Pennsylvania?
In an uncontested divorce, you can get divorced in as soon as 90 days from the time the Complaint is filed and served. This time can be longer, depending on the willingness of the other party to cooperate, return the signed papers, and complete any other related matters. It also depends upon how long other matters take, such as property division, custody of children, and support.
If my spouse is served with my divorce complaint, does that mean I will be automatically divorced in 90 days?
No. Both parties must sign the final papers, and then the paperwork must be submitted to court to obtain the final decree. In addition, your lawyer will want all the issues of the divorce to be settled before you sign the final papers, so it may take longer than 90 days. The 90 days is a minimum.
What are some grounds for a "fault" divorce?
Some grounds for the granting of a fault divorce are adultery, abuse, and abandonment.
Can my spouse contest the divorce?
Usually the actual divorce is not contested, but sometimes the property division and related issues such as custody are contested.
Will my spouse get half of everything I own?
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court may divide the property in a marriage as it sees is fair to both parties. Fifty percent is a starting point, but it may not be the ending point. Only marital property is divided this way. Marital property is that property which was acquired after marriage but before separation (or the increase in value during marriage for property obtained before marriage). If the parties don't go to court, they and their lawyers must divide the property in a way that is fair to both, under the law.
Can my spouse get part of my pension?
Yes. Pensions are assets that are divided during equitable distribution. A spouse may get the part of a pension that was acquired during the marriage. However, pensions fall under federal ERISA laws and cannot be transferred without a court order. Your lawyer may have to draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO (pronounced "quadro"), that accomplishes division of a pension. Even if a pension is not divided, it is added into the list of property to be divided. The spouse without the pension may get other property with an equivalent value, for example.
Can I be in the process of a divorce but still live in the same house as my spouse?
Yes. Generally, the date of separation refers to the date one spouse left the marital residence, but this isn't the only way to separate. If economic circumstances do not permit one party to leave, the date of separation can be the date when the couple ceased living as man and wife.
I've lived with my boyfriend/girlfriend for more than 7 years. Does that mean we're automatically married under common law?
No. Although Pennsylvania does recognize common law marriage, a common misconception is that after 7 years you are automatically married. There are generally three elements to having a common law marriage: cohabitation, plus words of present intent to marry, plus holding out as husband and wife. Your lawyer can better explain this, because the matter can be quite complicated. Sometimes a couple can be common-law-married with only two of the elements, under very specific circumstances. Moreover, there is no such thing as common law divorce. If you are truly married under the common law and want to get a divorce, you will need a legal divorce.
When must a parent pay child support?
In Pennsylvania, both parents must contribute to the financial support of minor children. When parents separate, the court may order child support be paid to the person who has custody. Support continues until the children graduate from high school or turn 18, whichever happens last. Pennsylvania law does not allow court orders to support a child in college unless both parents agree. This is usually done in the Property Settlement Agreement.
Where and how do I obtain child support if my child's other parent won't pay it to me voluntarily?
To receive child support through the Domestic Relations system, a parent must have a complaint filed and served. Parents (or other persons with whom the children are living) can have their lawyer do this, or may contact the County Domestic Relations Office directly. Within a few months of the filing and serving of a complaint, a conference will be held to determine what support is due. This will be entered as a court order, effective when the complaint is filed. Either party can appeal, but the support order will be enforced until the appeal hearing.
How much support will I receive or have to pay?
The amount of support is usually determined by the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines, based on studies of the amount of money parents who are living under one roof spend on their children. To apply the guidelines, court officials will calculate the gross and net income of both parents. Your lawyer can also help you estimate what will be owed or received. For support purposes, gross income can include wages, overtime pay, bonuses, rental and retirement income, Social Security, workers' compensation, unemployment compensation, and other income. Net income is determined by subtracting all income taxes, Social Security and Medicare payments, mandatory retirement contributions, and union dues from gross income. If you have no income but are able to work, the court will estimate what you could earn and apply the guidelines using that figure. The court may also order a parent to help with daycare costs, health insurance premiums, and mortgage payments.
Can a support order be changed after it is entered?
If a significant change occurs in either party's income, or if other circumstances change, the court may modify the amount of support. To request a change, you must file a petition to modify. In addition, parties under a support order are obligated to inform Domestic Relations if there has been a change in address or job.
What happens if support is not paid?
Support orders are routinely paid by voluntary and involuntary wage attachments. If the support cannot be collected by attaching wages, the person may be jailed or fined after a contempt of court hearing. Also, he or she can face suspension of state-issued licenses, reports to credit bureaus, real estate liens, and interception of federal income tax refunds.
Will the court require receipts or other proof showing that the support is being spent for the children?
Can I receive a credit against the support order if I buy my child shoes, gifts, etc.?
If I paid support directly since the complaint was filed but before we had the hearing, will I get credit for that?
Possibly - you must mention this at the hearing, and provide proof such as canceled checks.