Getting a Divorce in PA
When you’ve decided to end your marriage, you’ll need to be as prepared for the divorce process in Pennsylvania as possible. Below, we discuss the different types of divorce, spousal support guidelines, and equitable distribution of your debts and assets. Continue reading to learn more about getting a divorce in PA.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
There are two main types of divorce in Pennsylvania: fault and no-fault. The majority of couples file for divorce on a no-fault basis. In a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to prove who is responsible for the demise of your relationship during an already trying time; the divorce process relies simply on timing and the filing of paperwork.
Grounds for a Fault Divorce
Although it is more common for spouses to divorce on a no-fault basis, a fault-based divorce can be beneficial when the other spouse may seek alimony and they have committed adultery. Adultery may be a defense to the payment of alimony in Pennsylvania. However, adultery or other grounds for a fault-based divorce will have no effect on the division of your marital property and assets. Grounds for a fault divorce can include domestic violence, adultery, a prison sentence of more than two years, bigamy, or one spouse deserting the marriage for a minimum of one year. It can be quite costly to proceed with a fault divorce in PA, so your attorney will likely only recommend this path if it becomes necessary to the success of your case.
PA No-Fault Divorces
A no-fault divorce means that neither party is admitting responsibility for the failure of the marriage. If both spouses consent to a no-fault divorce, it can be processed in as little as ninety days after the filing and service of the divorce complaint if the spouses have signed an agreement on the division of marital assets and marital debts. In cases where one spouse will not sign the consent form for a no-fault divorce to be processed in 90 days, a no-fault divorce can be processed without the other spouse’s consent once you and your spouse have been separated for at least one year. There are no legal separations in Pennsylvania, so it’s important that you take note of the date you made the decision to separate. Otherwise, the courts will likely consider the filing of your divorce complaint to be the first day of your separation.
Types of Spousal Support
Spousal support is often a point of contention in Pennsylvania divorce proceedings. There are three different categories of financial support awarded to financially dependent spouses. These include spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL), and alimony.
Spousal support refers to money paid to the spouse who is financially dependent on the other spouse from the date of separation to the date of the filing of a divorce complaint. There may be a defense to the payment or receipt of spousal support if the spouse seeking spousal support has committed adultery or one of the other fault based grounds for divorce.
Alimony Pendente Lite
Alimony pendente lite (also known as APL) is support paid to a spouse during the divorce proceedings. That way, both spouses are able to maintain their lifestyle and hire attorneys to represent their best interests. There are no entitlement defenses to APL; payments are based solely on the differences of income between the spouses after taking into consideration any payment of child support.
Alimony is the financial support paid to the dependent spouse once the Pennsylvania divorce decree has been issued and issues of equitable distribution have been resolved. The courts will take into consideration both spouses’ assets, debts, and income when calculating the necessity for or amount of financial support. As stated above, alimony may be denied if the spouse requesting it has committed adultery or one of the other fault based grounds for divorce. Whether you’ll be on the paying or receiving end, if you believe any of these forms of spousal support will need to be addressed during your divorce, a qualified attorney can help ensure that you aren’t taken advantage of.
Division of Debts and Assets
One of the most important aspects of a divorce is the division of your property, assets, and debts. In Pennsylvania, this is known as equitable distribution. If you and your spouse are able to divide your marital assets and debts amicably, you won’t have to go to court. If one spouse brought property, debts, or assets into the marriage, this will be considered nonmarital property and will remain with the spouse who brought it into the marriage.Assets acquired during the marriage are deemed marital assets and include such items such as a shared home, vehicles, furniture, retirement accounts, and investments and will be divided equitably between the spouses. It’s worth noting that “equitable” means fair—not necessarily equal. Courts will consider many aspects of the marriage during equitable distribution, including the length of the marriage, whether one spouse helped the other become financially stable, the couple’s standard of living, child custody arrangements, and tax consequences. Fault for causing the marriage to end is irrelevant in equitable distribution.
Schedule Your Consultation with a Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer
To prepare yourself for your impending divorce and ensure that you are protected during this challenging time, reach out to an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates. Schedule your case assessment today by filling out the convenient contact form below or calling our office at 1-844-VARI-LAW (1-844-827-4529).