Q. I want a divorce from my spouse. Should I leave the home?
A. Generally speaking, the answer is no, unless you have a specific financial and legal strategy in place. Leaving a home may also set a status quo for custody and exclusive possession of the home. As such, it is important to consult with an attorney before making any move to leave the home.
Q. How long does it take to get a divorce?
A. In Pennsylvania, the earliest a divorce decree can be requested is following the expiration of 90 days from the date a complaint in divorce was served to the other spouse. This is assuming both persons involved have reached an agreement as to the terms of the divorce during those 90 days. If a settlement cannot be reached, or one of the parties does not wish to consent to the divorce, the moving party must wait at least one-year from the date of separation, in order to request a court appearance in relation to the divorce. Procedures for obtaining a court appearance differ from county to county.
Q. Does it matter who files for the divorce?
A. Usually not. Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state, and as such, it usually does not matter which party is the plaintiff or the defendant. However, there can be an overlap as to whether the lower-earning spouse is entitled to spousal support if a complaint has not been filed, or whether a divorce case can be pushed through the system sooner. You should consult with an attorney regarding these matters to develop an effective strategy for the divorce.
Q. Do I have to prove fault to get a divorce?
A. No. Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state, and as such, a court can grant a divorce without establishing fault by either party. If there is a fault, and if that fault is proven, it can be a factor for the court to consider. However, even if fault is proven, it generally does not have an effect on how quickly your case can proceed. You should consult with your attorney regarding fault grounds, including infidelity, to determine how it can affect your case.
Q. How do I prepare for a divorce?
A. Divorce in Pennsylvania involves the equitable distribution of all marital assets and liabilities. As such, to prepare for a divorce, you should collect any and all financial documents regarding your income, assets and debts to provide to your attorney. Any knowledge or information you have regarding your spouse’s financial accounts and income will also be helpful in forming an initial legal strategy for your case.
Q. How is property divided in a divorce?
A. The court applies 13 factors in equitably dividing the marital assets and debts in a divorce case. These factors can also be used in negotiating settlement of the divorce case. You should consult with an attorney to determine which factors apply to your particular case and how they can affect the outcome.
Q. What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?
A. Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, so only one party must convince the court that there are irreconcilable differences and that there is no chance of a reconciliation. As such, one party can eventually force another party to proceed with the divorce, regardless of whether or not there is consent to do so.
Q. I had an affair. What is the impact of that affair on my divorce?
A. While Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state, infidelity may have an impact if it can be proven, in relation to other claims filed under a divorce action, including alimony. You should consult with an attorney regarding the impact of an affair on your divorce and support cases.
Q. Do I have to live separately from my spouse in order to get a divorce?
A. Not necessarily. Some persons elect to live together during the pendency of the divorce action. Some parties even reach an agreement as to the settlement of the divorce action while living together, and set a specific date in the future for when the other spouse will vacate the residence. There is no requirement that the parties must live separately in order for a divorce decree to be entered. However, a date of separation can be important for establishing the values of assets and debts in a marriage. You should consult with an attorney regarding how to determine a date of separation, and how that date affects your divorce matter.
Legal disclaimer: The information provided in these FAQs is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for personal legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Further, legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual’s specific situation. No attorney-client relationship is formed, nor should any such relationship be implied.