Deciding whether to begin divorce proceedings can be challenging and emotional. To make the best choices for you and your family, you need to have the opportunity to ask questions and educate yourself about the process. Here are a few of the frequently asked questions that we often get from clients regarding the divorce process:
Is there such a thing as a legal separation in Pennsylvania?
No, but the “date of separation” is an important date in the context of your divorce case. The date of separation is most often marked by filing a divorce complaint or moving out the martial residence. However, sometimes parties can be separated while still residing in the same household. The date of separation is important in determining when the divorce can be entered and which assets and debts are to be categorized as marital and subjected to equitable distribution.
Does Pennsylvania have a “no fault” divorce? What is the difference between a “no fault” and “fault” divorce?
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state in that divorces can be obtained based on statutory separation periods or the consent of the parties. Proceeding under a no-fault count means that there is no need to establish which party was at fault for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Grounds for a no-fault divorced are based on either: (1) the mutual consent of the parties pursuant to Section 3301(c) of the Divorce Code; or (2) a one year separation period based on Section 3301(d) of the Divorce Code. Fault divorces (i.e., adultery, indignities, etc.) are also available, but usually require a hearing to establish grounds and should be discussed with your attorney to ensure that is the best option for your case.
How long will my divorce take?
It depends. A no-fault divorce based on Section 3301(c) can happen in five (5) or six (6) months. The law requires a ninety (90) day waiting period between filing certain court papers and when the divorce can be obtained from the court, even with both parties’ consent. Absent the mutual consent of the parties, however, generally neither party can begin to force the divorce forward until the parties have been separated for one year. A contested divorce may take two to three years or longer. Every case is unique and different circumstances can affect how quickly issues of division of marital property can be resolved and a divorce decree obtained.
How will our property be divided?
Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that the marital estate (assets and debts) will be divided as the court finds “equitable” or “fair” option. The court must consider several factors in making a determination about distribution of the marital estate. The factors include but are not limited to the length of the marriage, the health of the parties and the economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective. Fault is not a factor for equitable distribution, but may be considered in making an award of alimony. Court intervention is not required in cases where the parties agree on equitable distribution. In these cases, the parties will execute a Property Settlement Agreement resolving all of the marital assets and debts.
Before making the decision to file for divorce, you should ensure that you have all the answers to your questions. Our knowledgeable and experienced family law attorneys can provide the assistance and guidance that you need. Click or call 610-892-3877.