If you are contemplating a divorce or just want to know more about your rights and responsibilities if you do divorce, read this short piece on 5 Things you Must Know about this process. We offer free consultations for people who are ready to begin a divorce process, or those who are at the beginning stage of thinking about the process. Knowledge is Power and Information is King. Let’s go over five of the many important things you should know and discuss with whomever you choose to assist you:
- Pennsylvania is a No-Fault jurisdiction: While proceeding with a fault divorce is still in Pennsylvania statutes, it is unused. Pennsylvania has been proceeding nearly exclusively with no-fault divorces since 1980. What does this mean? It means that who is “at fault” in the downfall of a marriage doesn’t get a person more or less of the assets in a divorce. It simply does not matter who cheated on whom, who was the supportive spouse and who was not, etc. Some clients or potential clients are unhappy to hear that. We understand those feelings, but this is the state of the law we live in.
- Alimony is part of the law in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania is an alimony jurisdiction. This means that in the appropriate case, courts will order alimony, or financial support, for the spouse who is legally entitled to it. There are a number of factors which are examined and analyzed to determine if a party in an individual divorce case is entitled to alimony, as well as how much alimony per month will be paid and for how long. It is awarded in some but not all cases. You and your experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer will analyze the factors together in order to determine if a party qualifies for alimony.
- Separate assets in Pennsylvania: Assets that each party brings into a marriage are that party’s separate assets on the date of marriage. However, and this is a Big however, what most people don’t know is the increase in value of your separate assets, during your marriage, is marital property. What this means is that without a pre-marital agreement saying otherwise, if a party owns a house before the marriage just in their individual name, and it is worth $200,000.00 on date of marriage and $500,000.00 on date of separation, the increase in value of $300,000.00 is marital property. If a person wishes to protect this increase in value, a pre-marital agreement needs to be drafted by a good Pennsylvania family lawyer.
- Division of assets and debts is not automatically 50/50: Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state. In community property states, division of property is automatically equal between divorcing parties; not so in Pennsylvania. In fact, in most cases, unless the parties agree on an equal sharing, it will not be a 50/50 split. As with alimony, there are a number of factors which impact the percentage distribution.
- Be sure, before you sign a Property Agreement, you agree with all of the terms: Once signed by both parties and filed with the Court, the Property Agreement, dividing your assets and debts, becomes a court order. As such, it is generally very difficult to amend. Be sure you agree with all of the terms before you sign. Don’t count on a “do over”.