Divorce Law – Frequently Asked Questions
The divorce process in Pennsylvania can be complex and overwhelming for many people. It involves decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. Having a lawyer who is familiar with family law, particularly in your county, will help you recognize and understand the issues in your particular case and help you make informed decisions.
Following are some of the basic questions that are often asked about divorce in PA. For more information about divorce and other family law issues, please visit OWM's Family Law Practice page.
Who can file for divorce in Pennsylvania?
Anyone who is a resident of the state for at least six (6) months can file for divorce in Pennsylvania. The divorce action begins when one of the spouses files a “Divorce Complaint” with the Court of Common Pleas. The action is generally brought in the county where either the Plaintiff (the person starting the action) or the Defendant lives.
What is No-Fault Divorce?
Either spouse can begin the divorce process by stating in the divorce complaint that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This means that there is no reasonable chance of the marriage surviving. Both parties must agree to the divorce or they must be separated at least two (2) years for the divorce to be finalized. When the parties agree to the divorce, there is a waiting period of ninety (90) days from the date the Divorce Complaint is filed and served on the other party. Although fault grounds still exist in Pennsylvania, they are rarely used.
What is the process of legal separation?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal separation in Pennsylvania. However, the court could determine that the marriage ended as of the date the parties physically separated, or if they didn’t physically separate, then as of the date the divorce action was filed.
How long do you have to be married to receive alimony?
Although length of marriage is an important factor in the alimony statute, it is just one of seventeen different factors the court can consider for determining whether alimony is appropriate in a particular case. Alimony is generally not permanent. Some of the factors considered by the court are:
• The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties
• The ages and health of the parties
• Sources of income
• The contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party
• Custody of minor children
• Contributions as a homemaker
• Property brought to the marriage by either party
• The relative needs of the parties
• Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
Can an ex-spouse ask for alimony after the divorce is final?
No claims can be raised after the divorce is final except for child support and custody. All economic claims must be raised or preserved prior to the entry of the divorce decree.
Will our property be divided equally between us?
Not necessarily. Since Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” state, that means the property shall be divided by what is equitable – or fair. There are thirteen (13) factors the court considers when dividing marital property and debt. The first issue is to determine what property is marital. In Pennsylvania, marital property is any property acquired during marriage, with a few exceptions. It doesn’t matter how the property was acquired or in whose name it was acquired. Rather, it matters when the property was acquired. Also included in marital property is any increase in value of non-marital property. In any case, the court encourages the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues. If they are unable to do so, then the court will hold a hearing and enter a property award.
If you have any questions regarding divorce or other family law matters, please call me at 610-323-2800 or email me at email@example.com. Also, please watch OWM's January 2013 Legal Talk program regarding Frequently Asked Divorce Questions on our website here.
OWM Law is very proud to announce that Attorney Ryan A. Costello, who is currently serving a 4-year term as a Chester County Commissioner, has been unanimously elected to serve as the Board’s chair for 2013, at the Board's Weds., 1/9/13 meeting. Please see the press release.
OWM Law is also pleased to announce that Attorney Michael B. Murray, Jr., has joined the Board of Directors of the Phoenixville Regional Chamber of Commerce effective 1/1/13.
David S. Kaplan, Esq., presenting at the National Business Institute course in Philadelphia, “Social Security Disability: From Start to Finish,” on 2/13/13 & 2/14/13 at the Radisson Plaza in Philadelphia (contact NBI at 1-800-930-6182).
David A. Megay, Esq. speaking at SCORE Business Planning Seminars on 4/22/13, 9/9/13 and 11/4/13 (contact SCORE at 610-327-2673).
David A. Megay, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminars at Owen J. Roberts High School, Pottstown, PA, on 4/3/13 - "Ask the Lawyer: Starting Your Own Business: A Legal Standpoint," and on 4/10/13 - "Ask the Lawyer: Legal Tips on How to Buy and Sell Real Estate in Pennsylvania"(contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964).
Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., and James C. Kovaleski, Esq., presenting at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute 14th Annual Estate and Elder Law Symposium on 2/20/13 (contact PBI at 1-800-247-4724).
Kathleen M. Martin, Esq., presenting at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's “Understanding the Basics of Elder Law” on 3/14/13 (contact PBI at 1-800-247-4724).
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