The longer two people have spent together as husband and wife, the more complicated a divorce can become. This is because more property has accumulated and there are often child-related matters to resolve. During a longer marriage, property has a greater chance of becoming commingled and, as a result, items can be more difficult to divide in divorce.
One of the most challenging parts of a divorce is perhaps in the task of spouses learning how to share parenting time. Both parents typically want close contact with their children, and constructing a parenting plan to address all child-related matters can be complex. When parents can agree with one another on the issues of child support and visitation, power over the outcome has a greater chance to remain with them, rather than a judge.
The Pennsylvania courts consider many aspects in determining the ideal custody arrangement for children. The past behaviors of each parent are weighed when a judge has to decide upon child custody as well as other factors, including:
- The willingness of each parent to share custody
- The fitness of each parent
- The preferences of the children (when at an appropriate age)
- Employment considerations of each parent (long hours or extensive travel)
There are three custody outcomes in Pennsylvania divorce cases: sole, joint and split. Sole and joint custody can be either legal or physical. In legal custody, a parent can make important decisions for the children, such as religious practice and education. Physical custody usually refers to where children live. For example, in joint physical custody, each parent has the children on a set schedule, requiring children to live in two different homes.
When a marriage ends, each parent assumes a portion of the child-related expenses. A basic formula is used by the Pennsylvania court system to determine the appropriate amount. Some of the criteria involved in assigning child support payments include:
- The amount of parenting time
- The net monthly income of each parent
- The expenses of each parent
- The number of children
The court will deduct certain expenses of each parent from the net monthly income amount, such as taxes, union dues and mandatory retirement contributions.
Property division can be a laborious process and create tension between spouses. In Pennsylvania, any asset or debt acquired in the marriage will belong to both parties. In working to divide property, the court will first place the items within two categories – separate or marital.
Division Of Property
Separate property is typically defined as any item that was acquired before the marriage. Some examples of separate property include an inheritance, a gift that was given to one person in the marriage, but not to the couple as a whole, or assets protected under a prenuptial agreement. Separate property is not divided upon the dissolution of marriage.
Because Pennsylvania is an equitable property distribution state, items are dispersed in a fair and reasonable manner – rather than divided in two equal halves between spouses. The court takes into consideration many factors, such as the financial needs of each spouse, when assigning property and debt. Some of the commonly divided items are:
- Mortgages, loans and credit card balances
- Tax obligations and judgments
- Real estate
- Household items, clothing and furnishings
- Bank accounts, stocks and bonds
- Retirement accounts, pensions and 401(k) plans
In Pennsylvania, couples that want to end a partnership can do so under fault or no-fault laws. There are only two grounds for a no-fault divorce – irreconcilable differences or mutual consent. Fault divorces can be filed under certain grounds, such as cruel treatment or spousal desertion. Whatever approach a couple uses to end a marriage, it’s important to understand the process.
Getting a Pittsburgh court to grant an annulment can be challenging. The outcome rests on proving that a specific condition existed. In an annulment, the marriage is treated as though it never legally occurred. Some instances that meet the criteria of an invalid marriage include:
- If a spouse was already legally married
- If a spouse was mentally incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol
- If a spouse was forced into marriage
- If a spouse was underage
- If a spouse was impotent
- If spouses were close family relatives
In proving some of the conditions, sufficient investigative methods are essential to have a favorable outcome. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on what type of proof you will need to get a marriage annulled.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a process of resolving divorce issues by involving a neutral third party. The benefits to this approach include avoiding costly trial expenses, saving time and preserving spousal relationships. ADR is not recommended for situations that involve:
- A spouse that is unwilling to cooperate or compromise
- A history of emotional or physical abuse
- A person with significant financial power over the other spouse
Going through a divorce is a complex process. There are many options to consider, and it’s important to know what choices will be right for you and your family. An experienced attorney can help you protect your interests during this difficult time, serving as a source of reliable legal information. Furthermore, a lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes, such as signing a contract that isn’t in your best interests.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
The dissolution of marriage is a hard time in a person’s life that affects the whole family. When children are involved, making the right legal choices can become especially important.
When selecting a lawyer to represent your interests, hire one with a strong focus in helping Pittsburgh families’ transition through divorce. Each situation is different, and the attorney you choose can make a difference. It’s wise to reach out to a knowledgeable attorney who has experience with your particular circumstances. To begin the divorce process or learn more about what to expect, fill out the free case review form and we will put you in contact with an experienced local lawyer.