The prospect of divorce can be expected or unexpected, but either way there are bound to be twists and turns along the way. Just as every separating couple has different needs, every state has rules that guide how things plays out. Understanding your state’s laws can build a framework to provide reassurance during the process. With property settlements, alimony, child support, and child custody at stake, this is not a time to rush through. Emotions can run high, and snap decisions can lead to long-term, unpleasant consequences.
Breaking Down the Steps
Once the decision to divorce is made, one spouse will engage a lawyer’s services. Next, a divorce complaint will explain why the plaintiff is requesting the divorce, and what they want in terms of child custody, finances, and property. The lawyer then serves it to the other spouse with a summons to respond. If the defendant does not respond, the court will assume that they are in agreement. Then, the couple will exchange information about income and property. Some couples finish the divorce through settlement or mediation, which requires approval from a judge. Otherwise, the case heads to trial.
During a trial, evidence and arguments are presented from each side. The judge decides on unsettled issues, such as spousal support and child visitations, then the divorce is granted. Plaintiffs and defendants may both appeal to a higher court if they choose to, as well as opportunities to modify divorce decrees later on.
Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are two types divorce: fault and no-fault. In fault divorces, a plaintiff alleges that the defendant holds the fault for the divorce and must show proof of misconduct. Common examples are adultery, cruelty, and abandonment for over one year. No-fault divorces are based on a marriage’s irretrievable breakdown. Reasons may include that the couple simply could not get along, they provide mutual consent for the divorce, or they entered into a two-year separation.
In order to file for divorce in Pennsylvania, one spouse has to meet state residency requirements. This means that he or she must have lived in Pennsylvania for six months before filing. Each party must write a statement indicating that their marriage cannot be saved. Once the complaint is properly filed, the couple must wait 90 days to finalize. Fault divorces can influence how much property or alimony a spouse is awarded, especially if adultery was involved. In situations where only one spouse wants a divorce, it is possible to carry it out without the other’s consent, but only if the couple was living apart for more than two years before filing.
How to File and Serve
Depending on where the couple resides, the process for filing a divorce varies. Each county in Pennsylvania has a Court of Common Pleas where divorce complaints are filed. The defendant is served the divorce papers formally through a hired process server or sheriff. Upon receiving a complaint, the defendant must act quickly or run the risk of the plaintiff getting a default divorce. The complaints have a series of questions, and the responses should be well thought-out. The answers will apply to property division, alimony, child support and custody, and other pertinent items.
Judges must consider many factors when making these decisions, such as income, the children’s ages, unusual financial needs or medical costs, and what is in the best interests of the children. Other factors include length of the marriage, contributions to education costs, assets, liabilities, and any marital misconduct. These factors can also influence the division of marital property. In Pennsylvania, assets are divided on an equitable basis, which is not necessarily a 50/50 split. If you have any concerns pertaining to equitable distribution or the divorce process, contact a local divorce lawyer right away.
Bucks County Divorce Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Offer Trusted Legal Guidance for Divorcing Clients
Divorce can be highly emotional and challenging, but it does not have to ruin your life. For a free consultation, contact the experienced Bucks County divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania. Call us at 888-999-1962 or complete our online form today for a free consultation.