Whether you have decided you are now ready to file for divorce or whether your spouse has served you with divorce papers, you probably have a lot of questions. The content of this particular post is based on some of the most common questions we are asked as experienced family law attorneys.
To be able to file for a divorce here in Pennsylvania, one of the spouses must have been living in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. The divorce complaint itself can be filed in the county in which either spouse has been living.
It does cost money to file a divorce complaint but this fee varies from county to county.
Once the divorce complaint is filed, it has to be served on the non-filing spouse. Basically, the other spouse has to get a copy of the complaint and this is usually done by mail. It’s important that if you are not living with your soon to be former spouse that you know where they are residing.
In reading a divorce complaint you may see that it includes different “counts”. Think of counts as being the issues that need to be resolved before you can be divorced. For example, a divorce complaint will always contain a count for divorce, because divorce is obviously an issue. There can also be a count for alimony- one of the issues could be that your spouse wants alimony. There are a number of possible counts that can listed in a divorce complaint.
Where both spouses are in agreement as to how to settle all their financial issues (including property and alimony) this is what’s known as an uncontested divorce. It is the quickest and least expensive option for ending a marriage.
However, if one of the spouses is not in agreement as to any financial issues (alimony, who gets the house, how to divide bank accounts, etc.) this is known as a contested divorce. The greater the number of issues the spouses cannot agree upon the longer it will take to become divorced and the more expensive the process becomes.
In the case of an uncontested divorce you’ll want an attorney to draft a marriage settlement agreement (specifically stating the terms that you and your spouse are agreeing to end your marriage on). This is signed by both spouses and filed with the court. In the case of a contested divorce you will need some help; you will have court hearings, possibly a trial, and you will have to submit various motions and documents to the court. You should not go through this complicated process alone. It will always cost you more money to fix something that was done incorrectly than it will cost to have it done right the first time!