Here are some answers that clients frequently ask me about child custody. These FAQs are provided for general information only and are not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. For a consultation, please contact us.
In Pennsylvania, courts recognize two types of divorce, “fault” and “no-fault.”
A fault-based divorce is where one person is seeking a divorce because their spouse has done something wrong. Grounds for a fault-based divorce in Pennsylvania include:
A no-fault divorce (the most common kind) is where one or both parties state that the their marriage is “irretrievably broken.” If both parties consent to the divorce, it can be granted 90 days after the divorce action is filed. If one party does not consent, then a divorce decree cannot be entered unless the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years.
In general, property accumulated during the marriage is deemed by Pennsylvania law to be marital property. Marital property is divided when the parties divorce. Property obtained prior to marriage is called “separate property” and does not have to be divided. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, inheritances by one spouse or property acquired after separation are considered separate property even though they were acquired during marriage. This can get complicated, particularly when it comes to investments like retirement accounts.
Sometimes, spouses can agree on how marital property is to be divided, and they sign a property settlement agreement. If they cannot agree, the court will make this determination. In Pennsylvania, this process is called “equitable distribution.” The marital property is not always divided 50/50. The court will take into account many factors, including the length of the marriage, the relative earning power of the spouses, the standard of living established during the marriage, and and any custody arrangement.
A court may award alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance) to a lower-earning spouse. Alimony can be ordered while the divorce action is pending (alimony pendente lite) or for a period of time after the divorce is finalized. An order for alimony is relatively rare, and usually for a short amount of time. However, if you will earn significantly less than your spouse, or you are unemployed, you should consider requesting the court to order your spouse to pay alimony.