Pennsylvania has adopted the Divorce Code of 1980, which allowed a no-fault divorce, as well as a fault divorce, equitable distribution of marital property and alimony following divorce. It is relatively easy to obtain a simple, no-fault divorce. The Court may grant a divorce where the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date the action has been commenced and both parties file consents to the divorce. If one spouse does not consent to the divorce, the divorce cannot be finalized until the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least 2 years. It is not always simple to resolve economic claims. The parties must either agree on how to divide their marital property and debts and reduce their agreement to writing, frequently called a Postnuptial Agreement, or the economic issues must be determined by the Court. All property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be marital property. The equitable distribution provisions of the Divorce Code are title blind so it does not matter whether property is held individually or by the parties jointly. Inter-spousal gifts are also considered marital property.
When the value of a significant marital asset is in dispute, it is often necessary to obtain the opinion of the value of the asset by a qualified expert. Frequently, real estate appraisals must be performed and retirement benefits must be valued by a qualified actuary.
In equitably dividing marital property, the Court considers many factors, including but not limited to:
• The length of the marriage;
• The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party;
• The sources of income of both parties;
• The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage; and
• Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children. Marital misconduct is not a factor in the equitable distribution award.
At Devine Law Offices located in Lancaster, PA, we can advocate on your behalf during these stressful times. We focus on providing quality legal representation to protect your rights in family matters.
The duty of inter-spousal support arises upon marriage and continues as long as the marriage exists. It terminates upon divorce or when the recipient commits a marital fault that rises to a level of grounds for divorce. Alimony Pendente Lite (APL) means alimony pending litigation and is not payable unless a divorce action or annulment action is pending. The purpose of APL is to permit the dependent spouse to prosecute or defend the action and is awarded without regard to marital fault. A payee may receive APL or spousal support, but not both.
The amount of child support, spousal support or APL is determined by the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The amount of support is driven by the monthly net incomes of the parties. There may be adjustments for excessive child care expenses, health insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical expenses, private school tuition, or an excessive mortgage payment on the marital home until a final resolution of all outstanding economic claims in the divorce action.
A party seeking support files a complaint for support in the local Domestic Relations Office. A conference is scheduled before a support conference officer. If an agreement for support is reached, the support conference officer prepares a written order to be signed by the parties and submitted to the Court together with the support conference officer’s recommendation. If no agreement is reached at the conference, an interim support order is entered and each party has 20 days from the mailing of the interim order to file a written demand for a hearing de novo before the Court.
There are consequences for failure to pay a support obligation. Remedies include, but are not limited to: withholding or seizing certain government benefits; imposing liens on real estate; attaching and seizing assets of the obligator in financial institutions; executing on judgments, initiating contempt proceedings; reporting the amount of overdue support to consumer reporting agencies; and, in certain situations, suspending licenses.
At Devine Law Offices in Lancaster, PA, we can assist you in preparing for and advocating on behalf of you at support conferences, de novo appeal hearings before the Court, and contempt proceedings to ensure the Domestic Relations Office and/or the Court receives accurate information on which to base its support decisions.
Call us today to discuss your divorce needs with one of our divorce attorneys at (717) 390-3020