At Rosen Family Law Group, we understand that going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotional process. We are here to guide you through the process and help you understand the basics of family law divorce in Pennsylvania.
Types of Divorce
There are two common types of divorce in Pennsylvania: divorce based on the consent of the parties and divorce based upon separation for at least one year.
- Consent-based Divorce: In this type of divorce, both parties agree to end the marriage.
- Separation-based Divorce: If the parties do not agree, a spouse can initiate the divorce process after one year of separation.
Please note that the parties do not automatically get divorced after one year's separation. The separation period simply allows them to start the divorce process, without requiring the consent of the other party.
It's important to mention that parties can be considered separated even if they continue to live in the same household. For example, if a Complaint in Divorce has been filed, the parties are presumed to be separated even if they live together.
In Pennsylvania, dividing up the marital assets and debts is known as equitable distribution. It may involve a 50/50 split, but it can also be skewed in favor of one party, although it is rare for one party to obtain more than 60% of the marital estate.
Only marital assets and debts are subject to equitable distribution. Generally, an asset or debt is considered marital if it was acquired between the date of marriage and the date of separation, with many exceptions.
Some of the factors that the Court considers in equitable distribution include:
- The length of the marriage
- The incomes of the parties
- The health of the parties
- 10 other statutory factors under 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3502
Simple and High-Net-Worth Divorces
A simple divorce is the quickest and cheapest way to get divorced. It may not require court appearances, a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), or litigation. However, the following criteria are necessary or advisable for a simple divorce:
- The parties have no joint assets or debts
- The parties will cooperate with the divorce process and sign all required documents
- The parties are happy to walk away with only the assets and debts already in their name and possession
On the other hand, a high-net worth divorce may involve complex issues such as business valuations, stock options, commercial real estate, tax consequences, economic confidentiality, and discovery of assets and debts. For high-income cases, support calculations may also be different. It is crucial to have an experienced attorney to handle a high-net worth divorce.
Pennsylvania recognizes two forms of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make important life decisions on behalf of the child(ren), while physical custody refers to having the child(ren) in your physical possession.Legal custody is often shared, but certain elements may be granted to one party, such as school choice or medical care. Physical custody can be shared, partial, or primary, and it is counted by overnights.
The specific custody schedule can be tailored to the parties' schedules and the best interests of the child. Common arrangements include a 5-2-2-5 schedule where weekdays are shared, and weekends are alternated. However, other schedules can also be used.
The best interest of the child is the primary consideration in custody cases. Factors that may be taken into account include the relationship between the child and each parent, the child's preferences (if appropriate), and other relevant factors.
Pennsylvania provides for both child support and spousal support. Child support is based on the parties' net monthly incomes, the number of children, childcare costs, the physical custody arrangement and other factors. Spousal support is also primarily based on the parties' net monthly incomes, but other factors are involved.
Spousal support, similar to alimony pendente lite, refers to support given during the marriage and is often based on a formula. Alimony is support after the marriage and is based on 17 different factors. These factors determine the length, amount, and denial of alimony. Alimony is not based on a formula and also requires that special documents be provided to the Court.
Protection from Abuse Orders (PFAs)
A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil order issued to protect a party who reasonably fears for their safety or the safety of their child(ren). PFAs can be obtained against current or former spouses, partners, or family members.
Emergency and Temporary PFAs can be obtained ex parte, meaning that only the requesting party is present. Final PFAs can only be awarded or denied based on a trial, agreement of the parties, or failure to appear.
A PFA is a civil matter. However, violating a PFA is a criminal matter, and it is important to seek help from the police or your local magistrate if you are in immediate danger.
Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements
If you want to define certain economic elements of your marriage in case of divorce, you can consider a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. These agreements can exclude assets from the marital estate and determine the division of property and debts, spousal support, alimony, and other economic issues. However, custody and child support cannot be permanently settled by any type of agreement.
To ensure the enforceability of pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, it is crucial to have properly documented full and fair disclosure of the parties' economic circumstances prior to signing.
At Rosen Family Law Group, we have the experience and knowledge to assist you in all aspects of family law, including divorce, custody, support, and more. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate the complexities of family law in Pennsylvania.