I wanted to try something new today.
I wanted to put together a list of questions I receive most regularly about divorcing in Pennsylvania.
So… without any further ado, I present to you: 10 Common Questions Asked About Divorcing in Pennsylvania.
Question 1: How long does it take to divorce [in Pennsylvania]?
A typical Pennsylvania divorce takes around, on average, 120 days (about 4 months) to finalize. In the simplest of divorces, those that are no-fault and mutually agreed to by the parties, meaning both you and your spouse agree to sign what is necessary to complete the process as soon as possible, 4 months tends to be the average time frame.
It is important to understand though that every divorce is different and that your divorce may take longer or shorter than someone else’s. In theory, a divorce can go on for years. At the end of the day what will have the biggest impact on the length of your divorce will be how you and your spouse decide to handle it. If you and your spouse are fighting over “the dog and kitchen sink in the backyard” your divorce will likely take longer to complete compared to a divorce where there are no disputes needing to be resolved by the court.
Question 2: How many types of divorce are there [in Pennsylvania]?
Pennsylvania has two main types of divorce actions: At-Fault Divorces and No-Fault Divorces. No-fault Divorces are the most common type of divorce action I handle. Compared to an At-Fault Divorce, a No-Fault Divorce tends to be significantly easier to obtain requiring only that a certain period of time has elapsed since separation and that your marriage be irreconcilable broken.
Question 3: Do we have to go to court at all?
Typically, no. Most of the divorce matters I handle never need to appear in court. The only time a divorce may require us, “you”, the client, and “I”, your attorney, to appear in front of a judge is if there was an issue or claim made by either you or your spouse that would require us to.
An example of this would be if you and your spouse could not agree on how to handle the distribution of your joint retirement accounts or if one of you filed for a PFA (protection from abuse order).
Question 4: What if my “spouse” [husband or wife] does not sign “the paperwork”?
If you and your spouse are in agreement with obtaining a divorce and working amicably towards completing the process as quickly as possible, there are certain legal documents that can be signed by both parties and filed with the court to obtain a “quick” divorce. However, if your spouse decides not to make things easy on you, then in most divorces a decree can be pursued without your spouse “signing the paperwork” after being separated for longer than a year.
Question 5: What are marital assets?
Marital assets are the assets and property you and your spouse obtained during your marriage. Marital assets can be your house, car, 401k, that weird leather chair in the “mancave” of your basement… In the simplest of divorce matters, you and your spouse can outline how you would like to handle the “what you want to do with your “stuff”” question by entering into a marriage settlement agreement or postnuptial agreement. You can think of these documents as a contract (because it is) between you and your spouse on how you would like to manage the division of your joint property.
Question 6: Do we deal with child custody in the marriage settlement agreement?
Typically, no. Divorce. Child Custody. Child Support. Each of these legal matters are different in themselves despite being able to be handled all at the same time in tandem with your divorce. Now with that said, there are times where these areas of law can overlap. For example, while child custody matters are resolved by either a child custody agreement or a child custody order, a marriage settlement agreement can contemplate how much one spouse may agree to pay the other in either alimony, spousal support, or child support.
Question 7: What is a divorce master?
A Divorce Master is a court appointed official whose job is to decide issues of property distribution and alimony. If your case needs to move toward litigation in order for us to protect your rights or obtain your desired outcome, one of your options is for us to motion the court for the appointment of a divorce master and a divorce master will be appointed.
Question 8: Can you represent both of us in the divorce?
I have always found this question interesting. In short, I can, but I prefer not to. In certain situations, an attorney can represent both parties in a divorce, but it can be tricky. One of the biggest issues with duly representation usually leads to conflicts of interest.
For example, if a disagreement were to occur between you and your spouse, the attorney representing you both would be faced with a conflict of interest. Long story short. While it is possible to represent both parties involved in a divorce it is normally encouraged that each party seek out their own counsel to represent them. This way everyone knows they have private counsel on their own side.
Question 9: How much will this cost?
This is one of the most important questions anyone looking to hire a divorce attorney should ask. How much will this cost? My answer... It will depend...
As alluded to in one of my earlier answers, I like to tell my prospective clients your divorce can be quick, easy, and affordable, or it can be long, challenging, and expensive. If you and your spouse argue over everything there is to argue over, or if we need to go to bat in court to enforce your legal rights or obtain your desired outcome then things will typically become more expensive with cost ranging from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Question 10: What is the next step?
Let us say you and I just met to discuss your specific situation and your desire to obtain a divorce. My usual process goes like this: We would enter into an agreement of representation outlining our attorney-client relationship along with the services that will be provided to you along with the cost of those services. Once that step is done, I get to work on your matter as outlined in our strategic plan.
The Law Office of Nikolas D. Capitano, Esquire., The Leges Group LLC is a business and family law practice based out of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania servicing the counties of: Berks County; Lehigh County; Lancaster County; Lebanon County; Montgomery County; and Schuylkill County.
To contact Attorney Capitano please visit our website at www.thelegesgroup.com or call our office at (610) 200-6665 Monday – Friday anytime between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. We offer case evaluations over the phone as well as formal consultations byway of contactless video conference or appointment.