Divorce is a complex, often heartbreaking experience. Whether your divorce is contentious or not, one of the most important things you can do is speak with the seasoned divorce lawyers at Berman Voss for guidance.
No one thinks they’re going to get divorced at the time of marriage, but unfortunately, roughly fifty percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. That said, if you’re about to get divorced, the Pennsylvania family lawyers from Berman Voss are here to represent you.
The first thing to understand is that in Pennsylvania, divorcing couples have two options: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. Essentially, an uncontested divorce is when both spouses can agree on all divorce-related terms. This includes child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and more. As you may have guessed, uncontested divorces are rarer than contested divorces. If a divorcing couple can’t agree on even one divorce-related term, they are in what is known as a contested divorce.
Pennsylvania observes the no-fault doctrine in terms of divorce, meaning couples getting divorced don’t have to cite specific fault grounds as to why they wish to divorce. If you file a no-fault divorce, it simply means that you and your spouse consent to the divorce, and you will likely cite “irreconcilable differences.” Put simply, this means neither spouse is blaming the other for the divorce.
To get a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, you and your spouse must either both consent to the divorce or you must have been separated for two years before filing. Additionally, once you file for your divorce, you will have to wait 90 days before your divorce will be finalized.
Although Pennsylvania observes the no-fault doctrine, you can still choose to cite specific fault grounds in your divorce, though in many cases, it is advisable not to do so. That said, some examples of fault grounds that you may cite include adultery, extreme cruelty, abandonment for at least one year, imprisonment for more than two years, and more. Typically, when someone cites fault grounds, it is because they’re hoping to get an advantage when it comes to alimony or child custody.
However, when you cite fault grounds, your spouse will have a chance to respond. Likely, they will deny these grounds, and you will have to prove them. Often (but not always) citing specific fault grounds is a far more contentious, time-consuming, and costly option. For this reason, hiring a team of competent divorce lawyers who can inform you of your options and help you pursue the right strategy is imperative. Notably, certain fault grounds, such as adultery, can potentially have an impact on alimony, so depending on the specifics of your case, it may be worth it to cite fault grounds. An attorney can help you make this decision.
To get a divorce in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you must first meet the residency requirement. This means either you and/or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. You will also have to file your divorce in the county where you or your spouse resides.
If you and your spouse don’t have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place and can’t agree on how you will divide your property, a judge will do so on your behalf. Courts in Pennsylvania distribute marital property through a process known as equitable distribution.
Essentially, in the equitable distribution process, a judge will assess the marital property you own, as well as other factors, such as how much each spouse makes yearly, the alimony and child custody agreements in place, and more.
From here, a judge will determine what he or she considers to be a fair and just distribution of assets. Equitable distribution is seldom a 50/50 split, so it’s important you have a team of competent divorce lawyers in your corner.
Property typically subject to equitable distribution can include your house, vehicles, personal possessions such as jewelry, assets held in bank accounts, and more. The only property generally not subject to equitable distribution is called separate property, which includes assets acquired prior to or outside of a marriage, such as a gift from a friend.
Many spouses find that mediation is a far superior route to litigation. Essentially, if you cannot agree on all divorce terms with your spouse but think it may be possible to work out a compromise, hiring a divorce mediator may be worth considering. Essentially, a divorce mediator is an unbiased third party who will listen to you and your spouse outside of a courtroom setting and work to facilitate a productive conversation, with the hope that it will end in a compromise.
Sometimes, spouses can resolve disputed issues in one mediation session, and in other cases, it may take several sessions. Many spouses prefer mediation, as it gives them far more control over the outcome of their divorce than they would have if their divorce was litigated. Though you can’t expect to get everything you want, the goal is to reach a fair, even, compromise that both parties can walk away from feeling content and ready to move on with their lives. Mediation also offers a level of privacy that litigated divorce does not; litigated divorce takes place in a courtroom in front of a judge or jury, and mediation takes place in a private area and not in court. Further, mediation often is far less contentious and ultimately can save you time, money, and headaches. If you think mediation may be right for you, Berman Voss is here to help.