Important Notification: There are many factors taken into consideration in all family law matters that cannot be adequately represented in these brief FAQs. Accordingly, this site and any information contained herein is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice relevant or applicable to your situation. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
1. How long is divorce process?
Each case is different. In Pennsylvania, where the divorce is uncontested and the parties have already reached agreement on all peripheral issues, there is a generally a waiting period of a minimum of ninety days from the date of filing until the court is able to issue a decree of divorce.However, many cases take much longer depending on the cooperation between the parties and the complexity of the case. Such complexities include whether the divorce becomes contested and whether there arise any disputes involving custody, property, support, pensions, etc. Overall, it depends upon the circumstances of the parties, the nature and extent of the issues involved, amount and duration of child and spousal support, complexity of property issues, property characterization and valuation, property division and the level of conflict between the parties. 2. What is an uncontested divorce?
This is a divorce where both parties are able to make a mutually agreed upon arrangement regarding the terms of the divorce (property settlement, child custody and support, etc.). 3. What are the grounds for divorce?What is a no-fault" divorce?
Under Pennsylvania law, when the parties mutually consent to the divorce, they may obtain a "no-fault" divorce.A no-fault divorce is one in which neither the husband nor wife officially blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Generally, no-fault marriages are dissolved based on the marriage being "irretrievably broken."
Many times a party may wish to assert "fault" grounds for a divorce, alleging that conduct by the other party created circumstances that lead to the divorce.Such grounds for divorce include (1) desertion, (2) adultery, (3) cruel and barbarous treatment, (4) bigamy, (5) incarceration and (6) indignities that make the party's condition intolerable and life burdensome. 4. What is a divorce agreement?
This is an agreement entered into between the spouses that specifically outlines the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the two spouses after the divorce. The agreement usually covers property division, child custody and visitation, debt division, spousal support, etc.
5. What is a legal separation?
Pennsylvania does not recognize the legal concept of a "legal separation." In Pennsylvania, you are either single, married or a widow(er). That said, the realities of living apart, whether with or without the intention of pursuing a divorce, are ones that often trigger the need of obtaining the legal protections a Separation Agreement can provide. A Separation Agreement is a document containing the terms of the separation agreed to by both parties. It is legally binding, and is frequently used to specify the parties' agreement as to such issues as property division, child and spousal support, and child visitation and custody. 6. What is an annulment?
An annulment is the legal dissolution of the marriage whereby the marriage is treated as though it never existed.In Pennsylvania, an annulment may be granted when, at the time of the marriage, one of the parties:(1) was already married to another person, (2) is too closely biologically related to the other party, (3) was incapable of legal consent due to insanity or mental disorder, (4) did not meet certain age and/or parental consent requirements, (5) was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, (6) was incurably impotent, and failed to disclose that to the other party, and (7) did not voluntarily consent to the marriage due to the fraud, duress or coercion of the other party. 7. What is mediation?
Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which a neutral third party acts to encourage and help disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. 8. How is property divided?
In Pennsylvania, how property is divided depends on whether it is marital property or non-marital property. Marital Property - Absent some specific agreement to the contrary, marital property, that is, property acquired by either party during the course of the marriage, is generally divided according to the principles of equitable distribution.Equitable distribution simply means that a court will divide the property in a manner that is as fair as possible, considering many factors.While this may result in the property being equally divided between the parties, that is certainly not always the case. Non-marital Property - Non-marital property is property that belonged to one of the parties prior to the marriage, and that has never been brought into the marriage as a marital property.Frequently, determination of whether such property has remained non-marital property, or, through the actions of its owner became marital property, is in dispute.Assuming the court finds such property to be non-marital, it is generally retained, undivided, by its original owner. 9. Do I have a right to any of my spouse's retirement after the divorce?
Generally, if your spouse earned a portion of the retirement during the marriage, it will be considered marital property, subject to equitable distribution. 10. What happens to children following divorce or separation?
The parents can reach an agreement on how they will share their children's time. A parenting plan can become a Court order whereby the judge approves the plan agreed upon by both parents. If the parents are unable to agree on custody or visitation, a judge will make the decision. 11. What is joint custody?
Joint custody has two parts: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the major decisions affecting the child, such as school, health care, and religious training. Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible, and can range from a moderate period of time for one parent, such as every other weekend, to a child dividing the time equally between the two parents' homes. 12. What is supervised visitation?
This is a form of visitation in which an adult supervisor must be present when the child is visiting with the non-custodial parent. 13. What is child support?
Child support is the amount of money under a Court order that is due and owed by the non-custodial parent for the support of the parents' child(ren). Child support amounts are generally determined by statewide guidelines. Guideline support takes into account the incomes of each parent and the percentage of time that the parents spend with the children. 14. How long do I have to pay child support?
In Pennsylvania, child support typically is terminated when the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age or graduates high school, whichever comes first.Child support also terminates upon the death of the child. 15. What is spousal support?
Often referred to as alimony, spousal support is the money one spouse pays to help support the other after the dissolution of the marriage. The purpose of spousal support is to assure that a spouse who was financially dependant on the other spouse maintains a reasonable living allowance.Many factors are taken into consideration in determining the amount of support, such as the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, earning capacity and job histories of both individuals, etc.
In addition to spousal support, a dependant spouse may also be awarded alimony pendente lite - that is, temporary support granted during divorce or alimony proceedings.The purpose of alimony pendent lite is to equalize the dependant spouse's ability to pursue or defend a divorce action on equal footing with the supporting spouse. 16. What is a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA)? A Protection from Abuse Order (usually referred to as a "PFA") is a judicial order aimed at protecting a victim of abuse from continuing to be victimized by the abuser.Those eligible for the protections of a PFA include intimate partners (doesn't have to be married) of an abuser, as well as the family, household members and siblings of an abuser.Protections offered are not just for women.Abused men are also eligible for the protections of a PFA. Courts have broad discretion as to what restrictions a PFA may impose on an abuser.Most commonly, the abuser is ordered to stay away from the victim, as well as the victim's home, workplace, and, in general, maintain distance from the victim.Other restrictions may include, but are not limited to: granting possession of the home to the victim, even if jointly owned or leased by both the victim and the abuser, awarding temporary custody of children solely to the victim, and ordering the abuser to turn in any firearms in his or her possession.