Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers
The prospect of divorce can be expected or unexpected, but either way there are bound to be challenges during the process. Just as every separating couple has different needs, every state has rules for the proceedings. Understanding Pennsylvania state laws can help 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 things. Emotions can run high, and snap decisions can lead to long-term, unpleasant consequences.
At Freedman & Lorry, P.C., we ensure that everyone knows how to achieve their goals. A divorce can occur for several reasons, and we want to make the process as simple as possible for everyone. We will step in to ensure that the couple makes wise decisions because it can be difficult for everyone to come to an agreement when emotions are raw.
When children are involved, we want to offer a caring hand so that parents understand how to go on when the family splits up. We know that these cases can take a toll on everyone, and we do not want the children to feel left out of the process. We will work with the entire family to make the divorce easy to file. We can mediate a divorce, take it to trial, and help with modifications when needed.
What Steps Should be Taken by Both Parties?
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, including 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 the couple is 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.
When both sides have retained a lawyer, we will communicate with the other lawyer to make the process as seamless as possible.
If the two sides want to work out the divorce on their own, we recommend that they follow steps to manage child custody, child support, and alimony. Some clients may have hired a lawyer to help with their divorce, but that lawyer may not provide the services that are needed. Anyone who is seeking a divorce in Pennsylvania has the right to fire their lawyer and hire one of our Philadelphia divorce lawyers today.
Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are two types of 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 experienced a two-year separation.
To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, one spouse must 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 the 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.
The grounds for divorce that are cited could be compounded because there are instances in which a spouse may feel the need to abandon the marriage or seek companionship elsewhere. We will help our clients show that they were the victims of abuse or abandonment and build a case that explains the circumstances of the divorce.
When a couple wishes to file for a mutual divorce, they can easily submit all the paperwork through our office. We can guide the couples through a speedy divorce to end a marriage that is irretrievably broken. In each case, we ask that spouses come forward as soon as possible to ensure that they receive the services they need.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Child support in Pennsylvania can be calculated online using a simple calculator, but that figure should be examined by one of our attorneys during the divorce filing. The state uses a specific set of rules to help parents come to an agreement. The amount of support rises with a parent’s income and the number of children. There are certain instances in which child support might rise based on the special needs of a child, and we will help calculate that figure. We can also help a couple in mediation when they cannot agree on the amount of child support that is required.
As part of the child support order, parents may also dictate the expenses for which they will be responsible. For example, one parent might agree to pay for the summer camp the child attends, while the custodial parent agrees to pay for food and clothing. This order can be changed at any time as a result of major changes in a parent’s income. Expenses such as day care and afterschool care might also be included.
We also recommend a modification to the divorce decree if the agreement between parents has changed drastically. This might also be necessary if one parent moves and/or travel costs rise. A parent might agree to pay for a family vacation every year, or they might pay for special school services, lessons, or tutoring. All these items need to be included in the final divorce decree so that there is no confusion about how money will be managed and transferred after the divorce.
How are Parenting Plans Created?
Parenting plans include visitation and a range of other items that must be discussed when the parents live in two different homes. A parenting plan includes when the child will visit each parent, how they will be picked up, and how they will communicate with their parents.
There is often a pickup location for the child when they go from one home to another, and there is a specific schedule that the parents must follow. Putting this schedule in the divorce decree is important because it ensures that everyone will follow that decree. If one parent is not abiding by the decree, it is simple to prove that they have not acted appropriately.
The parenting plans may also include school pickups, holidays, vacations, and travel to meet extended family. It is important for parents to discuss how they will handle these trips because they may have taken these trips as a family in the past. Travel expenses may also need to be discussed because it can be difficult for the family to plan a major trip at the last minute. When the child travels, there should be an agreement about who will accompany the child, any pickups along the way, and how long the trip will last.
Finally, a parenting plan should include a basic set of rules that will help parents understand how the child should be managed. These rules include everything from basic behavior to screen time and homework. Parents should discuss how sleepovers and overnight trips should be handled. Writing these details into the divorce decree ensures that everyone understands the expectations of life after divorce.
How are Assets Divided?
Assets can be divided during a divorce, and ex-spouses must consider a wide range of items when completing this task. It can be difficult to determine how to divide assets, and we can help mediate these situations so that the matter does not go to court. When assets are divided, ex-spouses must decide on everything from their joint bank accounts to credit cards, car payments, and homes. We also must make special provisions for items such as retirement accounts.
In a mutual divorce, ex-spouses can easily come to an agreement that we can submit to the court. We want this to be as simple as possible, but we understand that it can be difficult to determine how to divide the assets. Spouses should decide which credit cards they want to keep, if they need to split up or refinance their vehicles, if they want to sell their home, and how to divide the proceeds.
Remember that judges will make a determination based on the information they have if the case goes to court. This means that the asset division may not seem fair to either party. Therefore, a divorce lawyer will urge their client to come to an amicable agreement as quickly as possible.
How is Alimony Calculated or Justified?
Alimony in the state of Pennsylvania can be provided in three basic ways. A spouse might receive the following:
- Spousal support
- Alimony pendente lite
Spousal support is provided to the lower-earning spouse while they are separated. Spousal support is paid from one spouse to another when a divorce has not been filed, but the couple is living separately. This support can assist the lower-earning spouse so that they can decide if they would like to be divorced. This is why a trial separation is important; the lower-earning spouse needs to try being separated with the support they receive.
Alimony pendente lite is offered to the lower-earning spouse while the divorce is pending. This is important because some divorce filings can be a surprise. The lower-earning spouse may need money to help them get back on their feet, and they will use this money to that end. The alimony may not continue, or the level of alimony might change after the divorce is finalized. Traditional alimony is provided to the lower-earning spouse based on a range of criteria. The judge takes many factors into consideration, including the following:
- Earnings for both parties
- Relative education of both parties
- The age of both parties
- The health status of both parties
- Contributions to the marriage of both parties
- Misconduct during the marriage that may have caused the divorce
- The impact of child custody on the earnings of the custodial parent
- Assets held after the divorce
- Marital status of the party receiving the alimony
Alimony can be discontinued when the spouse receiving alimony remarries. However, the other considerations on this list often do not change. The spouse will have custody of the minor children for some time before alimony can be discontinued, and the earning of both parties likely will not change overnight.
The contributions to the marriage are often important because one spouse might have stayed home to raise the children or worked odd jobs while the other advanced their education or career. Combining these factors with any misconduct during the marriage will give the courts an accurate view of how alimony should be awarded.
If there is an issue with a spouse’s health, we should be alerted as soon as possible. It costs more to remain healthy when someone has chronic conditions or has recently fallen ill. Someone who is older may have few job prospects, and someone who is disabled may need more income than government disability can provide. If the two parties can come to an agreement on alimony before going to court, we can submit an alimony plan to the court for review. Our divorce lawyers would prefer to work something out before going to court because we know that the judge will make the decisions for everyone when they cannot come to an agreement.
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 given thoughtful consideration. The answers will apply to property division, alimony, child support and custody, and other pertinent items.
We ask that our clients work out as many of these aspects of the filing as possible. If the couple can reach an agreement before going to court, the judge is more than likely to accept that agreement. We will act as a scribe to ensure that everything has been recorded properly and present this document to the court so that there is no confusion. We also keep a record of the final divorce decree to protect both parties.
When ex-spouses cannot come to an agreement, judges must consider many factors when making these decisions, such as income, the children’s ages, unusual financial needs or medical costs, and the best interests of the children. All factors mentioned 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.
Do Couples Need Divorce Mediation?
At Freedman & Lorry, P.C., we offer divorce mediation services for ex-spouses who need to work through many issues to get divorced. Some simply cannot come to an agreement without arguing, and there are others that will have a difficult time talking about certain issues.
Our lawyers are experts in the field of family law, and we can help clients make the right decisions for everyone involved. We make sure each conversation remains civil to prevent arguments, and we will record any agreements that have been made. After we have mediated these agreements, we will add those agreements to the divorce filing.
Are the Parties Willing to Go to Trial?
At Freedman & Lorry, P.C., we are willing to go to trial when we believe that our clients must have their cases heard before a judge. Some divorce cases can be so contentious that we simply cannot avoid going to court. Our divorce lawyers ensure that they are ready to go to court, and we explain to our clients what a court case will entail. The children may need to testify, and we may need to bring forward anyone who has been involved in the case.
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 do so, and there will be opportunities to modify divorce decrees at a later time.
Although a trial is not the best decision for children who must go through the process, we understand that some clients believe they have no choice. We will help these divorcing spouses and their children navigate the legal process so that we can come to an agreement that allows everyone to move on with their lives.
Can Divorce Decrees be Modified?
Divorce decrees can be modified at any time with the approval of the court. There are several instances in which a divorce decree can be modified, and it is important that our clients understand how if they feel stuck with their original decree. These basic situations may require a modification to an existing divorce decree:
- A remarriage by either party; child custody, child support, and alimony can be modified in these cases.
- A major move that one or more parties must undertake.
- A change in custody when a child wants to move in with the other parent.
- A major change in income that impacts child support or alimony payments.
Clients should approach us as soon as possible so that they can learn how to modify their divorce decrees. We can petition the court for changes to the document and communicate with the ex-spouse to ensure that they agree to the changes. In extreme cases, we can go back to mediation to help both parties understand why the divorce decree must be modified.
Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Offer Trusted Legal Guidance for Divorcing Clients
Reach out to the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. when you need help with your divorce or divorce decree modification. Divorce can be highly emotional and challenging, but it does not have to ruin your life. Call us today at 888-999-1962 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.