How quickly can I get divorced?

Well, that's not easy to say. If you and your spouse are cooperating and you have agreed on how the marital assets/debt are spilt and an agreement is prepared, then I would say you could be divorced in about 4 months. Once you file a divorce complaint, the court requires that you must wait 3 months before you can proceed to the next step. I guess they see this as a cooling off period. After you and your spouse file your affidavits of consent, a Praecipe package is filed. Once signed by the judge, your divorce decree will be forwarded.

If the parties do not agree on how the divorce should be resolved, it could take years. On the average, I estimate it takes about 2 ½ years of litigation.

How do I know if I am legally separated?

Pennsylvania does not recognize the concept of "legal separation". You are either married or divorced. However, the court will need to determine what date you and your spouse consider yourselves to have been separated. This date of separation is used to determine the value of marital assets and debts. The date of separation issue is critical.

Why is the date of separation so important?

During marriage you and your spouse acquired assets. Such assets are pensions, stocks, cash in bank accounts, etc. You may also have a premarital asset, such as a house that you purchased prior to marriage and kept it in your on name. The court needs to determine what your date of separation is because it is generally the date of separation that one of the parties interest in a particular asset and /or debt stops. For example, If you have been separated for 2 years and have continued to contribute to your pension or made deposits in your bank account, should your spouse be entitled to get a portion of these two additional years of contributions, no. The courts will split the asset as to its value as of the date of separation.

If you do not agree on a date of separation, the courts will determine one for you after a hearing.

Can my wife get my pre-marital assets?

Your wife is not entitled to receive or take possession of your pre-marital assets, but she is entitled to its increase in value. All premarital assets which have remained in your name alone and not deeded or titled over to your spouse, will be valued from the date of your marriage to the date of your separation. Ex. You owned a home which had a value of $100,000 at the date if your marriage. At the date of your separation the house is valued at $150,000. The increase in value is $50,000.00. Wife would be entitled to a portion of the $50,000.

If you had a premarital asset and during marriage you added the funds into a joint account with your spouse or title the property in joint names, it is no longer your separate property, but is now "marital property".

My Husband has his own credit cards, is this my debt too?

Yes. If these credit card purchases were made during the marriage, you will be responsible for a share of this debt. It does not matter if your name is not on the card or if you did not know he had the card. There are only limited situations in which you would not be responsible, such as a hotel bill or other expenses which he used towards his mistress. These expenses would have to be explored to determine your liability.

Can I get divorced without going to court?

Yes, many people do. The parties can work out and negotiate a Property Settlement Agreement. Once this agreement is signed and the grounds for divorce are approved, all necessary paperwork can be submitted to the court by mail. After being reviewed for accuracy, a divorce decree will be sent to the parties.

What are Divorce Grounds and why are they important?

To put it in the simplest terms, you need a reason to get divorced. The grounds are your reasons. Without the court approving these reasons, you cannot move to the next level and get a divorce decree. There are 2 type of grounds: Fault and no Fault.

In summary, the fault grounds are:

  • Desertion, without reasonable cause, for a period of at least one year
  • Adultery
  • Extreme mental or physical cruelty
  • Indignities to a souse making living conditions intolerable and life burdensome
  • Bigamy – a former marriage was not dissolved
  • Insanity or a serious mental disorder which the spouse has been confined for 18 months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce complaint
  • Spouse has been convicted of a crime and has been sentenced to 2 years in jail

The two non-fault grounds are:

  • Consent
  • 2 Year Separation

What benefit is there in filing or alleging fault grounds?

If your spouse will not agree / consent to a divorce and if you have not yet been separated for 2 years, you can petition the court for a hearing on fault grounds so you can move the case along towards obtaining a final divorce decree. In order to file for this hearing, you must have alleged that specific fault ground in your complaint.

If my husband committed adultery will I get more money from the divorce?

No. This is TV drama. When you get to the Divorce Master, you have an Equitable Distribution (ED) hearing; a hearing to distribute the marital assets and debts. The court does not care who did what to whom or who is responsible for ending the marriage. It's strictly money, assets and debts.

What happens at an Equitable Distribution Hearing?

Prior to arriving to this hearing, the parties are required to submit a memorandum outlining the financial facts of the case. The lawyers prepare this memo and it is submitted to the Master so he has time to review it prior to the hearing. On the day of the hearing, the Master is knowledgeable about your case and already has a general idea as to how he is going to split the marital estate. The lawyers will address certain issues with the Master and your attorney will argue certain points on your behalf. As this is being done, husband and wife in the waiting room. Once the Master hears the arguments, he comes to a decision. The lawyers then approach their clients and tell them what the Master decided. If certain aspects are not acceptable to you, there is still the option of negotiating with your spouse and/or his attorney.

I have never had a case where both husband and wife agreed with the all of the mater's recommendations. However, in order to resolve the divorce, the lawyers go back and forth with each other, hammering out terms that are acceptable to each of their clients. The lawyers take the new terms back to the Master and the Master incorporates these new terms into a final order.

The Divorce Master's hearing can take hours. If you came to a negotiated settlement, the case is over and a divorce decree will be mailed to you within a few days. If you do not come to an agreement, the Master will prepare a report and upon receiving his order, you must timely request trial by a judge.

What happens at a Divorce Trial?

The judge will schedule a pre-trial conference and ask the lawyers or parties what part of the Master's report that they do not agree with. After presenting your arguments, the judge will give you an idea what she would most likely do if the case went to a full trial. Most times the judge is in agreement with the Master's decision. The parties still have the option of settling at this point and if they do not, a trial date is scheduled.

A trial will consist of the parties presenting documents establishing the value as to each marital assets and debt. Thereafter the lawyers make argument as to how much their client should receive and why their client should or should not receive a particular asset or debt.

Am I entitled to receive alimony?

Maybe. There are 17 factors that the court looks to in determining alimony. The first factor considered is the length of marriage. The longer the marriage, the more likely you will get alimony if there is a decent disparity of income between the parties and if the distribution of the marital estate is inadequate. What is a long term marriage? It's hard to say. I have found that alimony will become an issue after 13/14 years.

There are cases which a wife in a short term marriage will also receive alimony. You could have a short term marriage of 5 years where the wife will not have medical insurance after a divorce. In this situation the Master may award a sum of alimony for a short duration so wife can get on her feet and obtain insurance. There is no hard and fast rule. Each case is fact specific.

Child Custody
Child & Spousal Support
Mediation vs. Litigation
Child Support Calculator
Important Forms
Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Us Now

Home Areas of practice Client log In Profile Contact Child Custody
Child & Spousal Support Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation Child Support Calculator Forms Q&A;