Many clients contemplating divorce contact our office to ask whether it matters where they file for divorce. Our experienced PA Divorce Attorneys always explain that where you divorce matters! Every state has different laws that govern the distribution of assets and debts during the divorce process and these laws can vary greatly. Unlike other areas of the law, such as corporate and transactional law, the divorce laws across states can be very different.
Overall state's divorce laws tend to fall into two categories - Equitable Distribution States and Community Property States. In Equitable Distribution States, like Pennsylvania, the Court divides assets between the couple fairly in light of the couple's circumstances. Judges typically consider a number of different factors such as, the length of the marriage and the ability of each spouse to support themselves after the divorce. In general, Judges in Equitable Distribution states are vested with significant power of influence the distribution of the marital estate.
On the other hand, a minority of states utilize a Community Property scheme. The major difference between Community Property States and Equitable Distribution states is the amount of consideration of different factors that goes into the decision of how to divide the property. Namely, in Community Property States the court simply divides the couple's joint assets in half without any consideration of factors like the length of the marriage, professional opportunities foregone by one spouse to raise the parties' children, etc. Although not considered in the distribution of marital property pursuant to a divorce, factors such as a party's age and future employment prospects are considered in awarding alimony and child support. In fact, some Community Property states have generous alimony laws for spouses who stayed home and cared for the parties' children during the marriage. At present, there are only nine Community Property States: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Where a divorce is litigated is extremely important as the divorce laws across states can be so different. But, those who understand the basics about Equitable Distribution and Community Property states are better equipped to understand how the divorce process works. If you're considering a divorce and aren't sure where you should file, contact our office today to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney to learn more about your rights.