Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney
When a couple has made the difficult decision to part ways, it can have an impact on the entire family, particularly if you have shared children. When you want to do what’s best for your family, work with a highly trained Pittsburgh family lawyer to resolve the issues surrounding your separation.
Whether you were married and are preparing to divorce, or if you are a couple who never married but have children together, choosing to live your lives separately can involve sorting out a number of details, including alimony, the division of your property and assets, child support, child custody, and visitation, to name a few.
Oftentimes when a couple parts ways, it isn’t amicable, and these areas can become points of contention—which is when having a qualified family law attorney on your side will make a difference.
At Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C., we are passionate about helping families work through unresolved circumstances of their separation. A Pittsburgh family law attorney from our firm will do whatever it takes to ensure that every decision made is in the best interest of both you and your children.
Filing for Divorce in PA
Married couples who have decided that they’d be better off divorced will need to determine which type of divorce they’ll be pursuing: a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce. There are pros and cons to both of these options. A fault divorce could be the right choice if your partner cheated, was already married, was sentenced to more than two years in prison, or otherwise wronged you in some way.
If you’ll require spousal support, it may be beneficial to demonstrate the ways your marriage dissolved at the hands of your spouse. However, it’s also much more expensive and lengthy to do so, and we can typically secure the financial support you’ll need even if we move forward with a no-fault divorce.
In a no-fault divorce, neither party is admitting fault for the demise of your marriage. You’re just agreeing that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. These types of divorce are less expensive and allow your divorce to be finalized much more quickly than if you were to move forward with a fault divorce.
As part of your divorce, in either case, we will also need to review your equitable distribution plan and discuss the need for alimony before your divorce can be finalized.
The Division of Your Marital Property and Assets
One of the most important aspects of your divorce will be the division of your property and assets. In Pennsylvania, this is referred to as equitable distribution, and if you didn’t already have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, you are probably concerned with what you’re entitled to.
Generally speaking, anything you came into the marriage with as yours, whether that be property, belongings, or debts, will remain yours, and anything you purchased together will need to be distributed between you. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your debts and assets will be divided equally. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration in equitable distribution include:
- Both individuals’ standard of living, pre-divorce
- Income of both couples
- How long you were married
- Tax consequences
- Child custody of shared children
- Whether one spouse contributed to the financial success of the other
These are just a few of the items that will be considered in your case. Working with your attorneys to come to a decision about the division of your property and assets can be a better route to take when you want to avoid having these choices made by a family law judge.
What You Need to Know About Spousal Support
In cases where one spouse earns less than the other and/or has been financially dependent on their partner, they may require alimony to continue supporting themselves. There are a few different types of alimony:
- Spousal Support – This financial support is paid after you’ve officially separated but have yet to file your divorce complaint.
- Alimony pendente lite (APL) – APL is paid throughout the divorce process to allow both spouses to continue to maintain their standard of living, as well as to hire an attorney to represent their best interests.
- Alimony – Alimony is awarded after the divorce has been finalized and all aspects of the equitable distribution process has been resolved.
The purpose of these forms of spousal support is to enable both spouses to continue supporting themselves without ending up in dire financial straits. The ultimate goal is for the spouse receiving alimony to be able to eventually support themselves.
Alimony can be awarded for a short period of time while the receiving spouse obtains necessary job training or education or can be awarded permanently in specific circumstances. If you are in need of spousal support, or if you need to ensure you aren’t made to pay more than is necessary, reach out to your attorney.
Establishing Child Custody
The issue of child custody can turn an amicable divorce or separation into a downright difficult one. Parents can often be quick to try to keep the child’s other parent away from them as much as possible, whether they are fit parents or not. This is why having a lawyer represent you is of utmost importance.
No matter what is going on between the parents, you must always consider the best interests of the children, especially because that’s exactly how the courts are going to handle your case if the decisions become theirs to make.
You’ll need to work with your former partner to determine if one parent will retain physical custody of the children, meaning the children will primarily reside with that parent, or if you’ll share physical custody.
There is also the decision of who will make major decisions for the children: where they’ll go to school, their religious upbringing (if any), what activities they’ll participate in, any medical decisions, and the like. If you’ll be sharing these decisions, you’ll enter into a joint legal custody arrangement, but if one parent will be making these choices, they’ll be awarded sole legal custody.
Formulate Your Parenting Plan
After you’ve determined your custody arrangement, you’ll need to formulate a visitation plan. If you can resolve this on your own, you can come up with any visitation schedule you see fit, though most parents stick with an every-other-weekend and alternating-holidays schedule.
You should do your best to come up with a parenting plan that works for the whole family so that the courts don’t have to step in and make these critical decisions on your behalf.
All About Child Support
Both parents are required to provide financial support for their children. More often than not, the custodial parent will be receiving child support from the noncustodial parent. The amount of child support you’ll be paying or receiving will be based upon the income and expenses of both parents, how many children you share or are caring for, and a number of other factors.
In addition to the actual child support payment each month, a child support order will often contain information regarding who will be responsible for covering childcare expenses; the costs of extracurricular activities and sports, school supplies and clothing, and health insurance; and any other relevant expenses that both parents should be jointly responsible for.
You can work out the details of child support based on the PA child support guidelines with your attorney to ensure that your partner is doing their part to financially support your shared children.
Pittsburgh Family Law FAQ
Few people are prepared for what’s to come when they make the decision to separate from their partner for good. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of some of our client’s most frequently asked questions for you to review so that you can find some of the answers you need now, rather than having to wait for the date of your consultation.
Will I have to go to court?
That depends on how amicably you and your former partner are able to work together to resolve your issues. If you are having difficulty, you can always go through mediation to come to an agreement that is in the best interests of your shared children.
If you are able to agree, the order will be sent to the judge for review and then become a formal order. Points of contention that cannot be resolved on your own will need to be handled in court.
Can I have a legal separation in PA?
No, you cannot. Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation. However, you are free to separate from your spouse and obtain a private civil separation agreement that can address interim spousal support and the division of your property and assets.
Make sure to make note of the official date of your separation: that is, the date on which you officially stopped acting as a married couple. This date will become important if you are seeking a no-fault divorce that has been contested. It’ll also be needed in the equitable distribution process, as any assets or property you obtain after this date will be yours and yours alone.
Do grandparents have the right to visitation with their grandchildren?
That will depend on the circumstances of your case. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court does recognize that grandparents should have a relationship with their grandchildren, but issues can arise when the biological parents of the children are found to be fit to care for and make decisions regarding their children.
For this reason, you will need to review the details of your case with your attorney to receive a more realistic answer in regard to grandparents’ visitation rights.
Speak with a Family Law Attorney in Pittsburgh
If you are afraid that you’ll be taken advantage of during your separation, or if you just want to make sure you do what’s best for your children, seeking help from a seasoned Pittsburgh family law attorney at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C. can be your best option.
When you’re ready to schedule your initial case review, simply fill out the brief contact form we’ve provided below or give our office a call at 1-844-VARI-LAW (827-4529).