It is possible to complete a Pennsylvania divorce without hiring a family law attorney to guide you through the process. For some spouses, this makes financial sense; if you are able to amicably work together you may end up saving on unnecessary legal fees. Unfortunately, however, this is not usually the case. Even when a Pennsylvania divorce begins amicably, it doesn’t always end that way. More often than not, what we see are spouses with ill feelings and a need to “settle the score.”
Here are a few situations where you should strongly consider hiring an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney:
1.) When You Have Marital Property to Divide
Most spouses accrue at least some marital assets and debts throughout their marriage. In order to equitably divide these assets and debts there are many factors to consider. For example, when was the asset purchased? Was the debt accrued to further your education and your spouse benefitted from a resulting salary increase? A 50/50 division may seem fair at first blush, but you may actually be entitled to an even larger percentage of your marital estate; the key is having a knowledgeable Pennsylvania divorce attorney advocating on your behalf.
2.) When Assets Are in Your Name Only
Think you protected yourself by putting assets in your name only? Think again. It doesn’t matter that the brand new car you bought is titled to you and not jointly with your spouse; if it was purchased during the marriage, it is most likely going to be considered marital property in a Pennsylvania divorce. Your ex is now entitled to ½ the value of the car you worked so hard for. Arguments can be made, however, that your ex is not entitled to the value for a number of reasons . . . the thing is, unless you have an attorney advocating on your behalf, the arguments may be lost. Say buh-bye to that sweet ride.
3.) When You and Your Spouse Do Not Agree on Your Date of Separation
Did you know that your “Date of Separation” can have a huge impact on your Pennsylvania divorce case? A date of separation is the date you and your spouse began living “separate and apart.” This might be the date one of you moved out of the marital residence, or it might be when you began sleeping in separate beds; there is no bright line rule of what constitutes a date of separation. If you are going through a divorce and your ex believes your date of separation is different than the date you think it is, STOP. RIGHT. THERE. Consult with an experienced family law attorney to find out how your date of separation dispute will financially affect your particular case.
4.) When Your Spouse Has an Attorney
Oftentimes, clients come to us when they are already months into their divorce case. They were told by their spouse or their spouse’s attorney that one attorney could complete the process for both parties.
Sometimes, the parties do decide that only one of them will retain an attorney. In this situation, the lawyer prepares any paperwork or agreements on behalf of the client who hired the lawyer and any only gives advice to that client that has retained the attorney’s services. The lawyer’s client is the only party represented in this situation.
The problem arises when you realize your spouse’s attorney is looking out for their client’s best interest, and that client is NOT you. No matter how “fair” your ex is seemingly being, you should know that their attorney is required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Ethics to advocate zealously for THEM, NOT YOU. If your spouse has an attorney, you should consider what you may be losing out on. Waiting too long can negatively impact your case.
Our PA family law firm recommends that each party obtain independent representation so that their legal rights are protected.
5.) When You Think You Can Do It Yourself Because Your Spouse is Being Amicable
The following is a true story that our firm has come across time and time again: H & W are getting divorced. H & W are cordial enough to agree that W will keep the marital residence by “buying out” H for $50,000. W refinances the mortgage to be solely in her name, and the spouses complete all of the necessary paperwork to effectuate the transfer of property.
Everything is fine & dandy until 10 years later when W tries to sell the residence and learns that the title transfer was not properly executed, thus H is still legally joint owner of the property. Now, W not only loses the $50,000 she originally paid to H, but H is still entitled to ½ of the value of the residence today. It doesn’t matter that W invested thousands of dollars in renovations and improvements which increased the value significantly; H can now “cash-in” at W’s expense. Many of these clients never thought their ex could be so malicious until it happens to them.
6.) When You Think You Can’t Afford It
Ever think about completing a “quickie” divorce by hiring an attorney to only complete the necessary documents? Please don’t! A cheap “quickie” divorce may actually end up costing you thousands. Potter County is infamous for offering these quick Pennsylvania no-fault divorces, and all too often our firm sees the negative aftermath that can result. For example, did you know that claims such as alimony must be raised prior to the entry of a divorce decree or such claims are lost? You’d be surprised how many people make the mistake of consulting with an attorney too late, only to learn they lost out on thousands they were entitled to. Oftentimes, legal fees pay for themselves through the additional assets the attorney is able to obtain on their client’s behalf.
These are just a handful of situations where you should strongly consider hiring a knowledgeable Pennsylvania divorce attorney. Call us today at (412) 281-9906 to set up a FREE 15 minute screening appointment with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney, or you can contact us here for more information.