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Divorce FAQs

The difference can be night and day. By definition, the term “uncontested divorce” means that there are no financial claims (i.e. child support, spousal support, alimony or property division) or child custody issues to be addressed in or out of court. The attorney’s fee is very modest in this situation. But if there is any financial or child custody claim, the attorneys fees will be higher and can be quite substantial, depending on the complexity of the issues.Few cases involve a party seeking an annulment because the circumstances when an annulment would be appropriate is limited. The statutory sections which set forth the grounds for annulment are Sections 3304 and 3305 of the Divorce Code (23 Purdons Statutes Sects. 3304 and 3305). The most common instance is “bigamy,” which of course is where one of the parties was still married at the time he or she married someone else.It can, but usually not the the extent to which lay people might think. Adultery is a form of marital misconduct. Marital misconduct is a factor which the court may consider in deciding a spousal support or alimony claim but it is NOT a factor in an alimony pendente lite (APL) claim. Therefore, when a spouse is seeking pre-divorce decree support, that spouse usually also seeks APL. As a practical matter because the Support Guidelines apply, the Spousal Support amount computed under the Guidelines, and the APL amount computed under the Guidelines are the same amount. The party will not receive both.
Marital Misconduct is NOT a factor in deciding division of property (called “Equitable Distribution” in the Divorce Code). It is rarely a factor in a custody dispute, though depending on the facts of a particular case it could be.
Adultery can also be a factor in a case in which a party is seeking divorce based on a fault ground. That said, the vast majority of cases do not proceed on the basis of a fault ground. This is in part because proceeding on the basis of fault will result in additional attorney’s fees. Also, with the recent amendment to the Divorce Code, if one party refuses to sign an Affidavit of Consent (both parties need to sign and file this document for a case to proceed on the no-fault ground of “Mutual Consent”) the other party only has to wait one year from the date of separation to be allowed to proceed on the no-fault ground of Separation. Until December 2016 the period of Separation had to be at least 2 years. That reduction in the waiting time has reduced the incentive to seek a divorce on the basis of fault.
Once a fault ground or no-fault ground for divorce has been established on the Court docket, a Divorce Decree is only a matter of a few more weeks in an uncontested case. But in a contested case involving Alimony, and/or Equitable Distribution of marital property, the Divorce Decree is still at least months away if not longer because additional proceedings will be needed.
Yes. If the primary custodian wishes to relocate with the child to a location far enough away to impact the non-custodial parent’s custodial schedule, the parent who wishes to relocate must give the other parent notice of the intent to relocate. The non-custodial parent has a limited time period (30) days to object in writing. If objection is raised, the parent who wants to relocate will need an Order of Court permitting the relocation with the child. These types of cases can be emotionally draining on the parties and the child(ren) and expensive to litigate. If both parties are in agreement but have are not yet separated, or only recently became separated, and if the case is an “uncontested” case as defined above, the matter will likely proceed as a no-fault, mutual consent divorce. From the time the Complaint is served, it will take about 3.5 to 4 months before the Divorce Decree is entered. A divorce case is a lawsuit, and must be commenced by paying the filing fee and filing a Complaint in Divorce.Yes, most definitely. An unwedded parent’s custody rights are no different than a married person’s custodial rights.The answer depends on whether there are financial issues involving Alimony and/or Equitable Distribution of Marital Property. If there aren’t any, then once a year of separation exists, a Divorce Decree based on the separation ground can be obtained within weeks without the other party signing any documents. If there are financial claims, a “Grounds Order” is necessary before the case moves forward to resolution of those financial claims. In these cases involving a financial claim, if one party refuses to sign an Affidavit of Consent, once the one-year of separation has been established (in order to proceed on the No Fault Ground of Separation) or once a Fault Grounds Order has been entered, the case can move forward for resolution of the financial issues. But as I wrote above, “in a contested case involving Alimony, and/or Equitable Distribution of marital property, the Divorce Decree is still at least months away if not longer because additional proceedings will be needed.”Unlike other states, in Pennsylvania a “default” divorce decree will not be entered for failure to Answer a divorce decree. But if the defendant does not participate in the case, at some point a Divorce Decree will be entered. If there are financial issues, the court will decide them, probably in favor of the party who filed for the divorce and participated in the proceedings. This is covered above.In Pennsylvania, Section 3701of the Divorce Code (23 Purdon’s Statutes, Sect. 3107) lists 17 factors which the court is to consider in deciding the appropriateness, amount and duration of alimony. The Divorce Code does NOT contain a formula nor state the weight to be given to one factor vs. another. In contrast, the Support Guidelines which address support/APL claims, pre-Divorce Decree, is formula-based. In cases where the parties’ combined monthly net income is not more than $30,000.00, the Guidelines are relatively mechanical and uniform in application from one case to another. The percentage of cases where the combined monthly net income does exceed $30,000.00 is very small. Thus, the Support Guidelines apply to the vast majority of Support cases. Though the Support Guidelines are NOT one of the Divorce Code factors to consider in Alimony cases, in reality, the courts are of course aware of the Support Guidelines. I believe that in Alimony cases where the parties’ combined monthly net income is not more than $30,000.00, the Courts are “guided”, at least in part, by the Support numbers the Guidelines would generate based on the relative incomes of the parties.No
In Pennsylvania, Section 3502 of the Divorce Code (23 Purdon’s Statutes, Sect. 3502 lists 11 factors which the court will consider in deciding the division of marital assets. The Divorce Code does NOT contain a formula for property division and does not give any particular weight to one factor vs. another. The case law says that Equitable Distribution does not necessarily mean a 50/50 division of marital property. In practice, many cases do involve an equal division, but 50/50 is not a statutory presumption. Most cases involving marital assets are eventually resolved by a Property Settlement Agreement (also called a Marital Settlement Agreement) but some cases do go to a hearing. Most of these are resolved at the Master’s level but the ones that are not resolved at that level, eventually go before a Judge, usually months after the Master’s Hearing.
Obviously, a Complaint has to be filed. This involves filing fees and, if an attorney is hired, there will be an initial retainer. Depending on the complexity of the case and the litigiousness of the other side, there may well be additional attorney’s fees.The term “legal separation,” if taken literally, implies that there could be an “illegal separation” (i.e. one not recognized by the law). This is not accurate–people may “legally” separate without there being an Order, a signed Agreement, some other signed document or consent by the other spouse.

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