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Pennsylvania Divorce Recovery

divorce decreeState law requires that you (or your attorney) file for divorce in a specific manner. If you are considering a divorce without a lawyer, your can save yourself some serious money, but it requires that you get knee deep in the legal and emotional mire.

If you are a divorcing parent, the state permits you to put together a Parenting Plan with your spouse, but will step in should you two be unable to agree. If you can't agree, you can always submit your own plan and ask the court to use it as the basis for your parenting plan.


 

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  • Legal Custody
  • Annulment
  • Child Support
  • DIY Divorce
  • Separation
  • Property
  • Alimony
  • Visitation
  • Grounds
  • Residency
  • Mediation
  • Grandparents
  • Waiting Period

Child Custody

unhappy kid"In the consideration and award of child custody, the family court will determine which parent is more likely to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the non custodial parent and the child". Read that line again. Those that do allow close contact are seen as having good parenting skills. The court will also consider each parent and adult household member's present and past violent or abusive conduct in its determination. [You might interpret this as a suggestion that if you make the proceedings too contentious, it could backfire on you].

An order for shared custody may be awarded by the court when it is in the best interest of the child: upon application of one or both parents; when the parties have agreed to an award of shared custody; or in the discretion of the court. 'Upon application' means that you and your spouse are given an opportunity to put together and agree upon a Parenting Plan and Child Custody Schedule. Make every effort to be successful with this effort, as the court's 'plan' may be less favorable to one of you (and you don't want the you to be YOU). custody strategies

Factors the court considers when awarding custody:

  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party
  • The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party's household,
  • The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child,
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life,
  • The availability of extended family,
  • The child's sibling relationships,
  • The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment,
  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent,
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs,
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child,
  • The proximity of the residences of the parties,
  • Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate childcare arrangements,
  • The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another,
  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse,
  • The mental and physical condition of a party,
  • Any other relevant factor.
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You may be asked by the court to attend counseling sessions

PA laws give the court the option to require the parents to attend counseling sessions and may consider the recommendations of the counselors prior to awarding sole or shared custody [If you go to counseling, be aware that if you appear uninvolved or disengaged, that indifference can be reported back to the court]. Parents may be required to submit to the court a Parenting Plan for the implementation of any custody order. A child's desires with regard to custody and partial custody are given more weight as the child gets older. Until age 12 such expressions of interest carry very little weight.

scales of justiceConcerned about custody and visitation battles in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.

Should the court require you to submit a Parenting Plan for the care and custody of your child, you will be required to include in the Parenting Plan the following:

  • The schedule for personal care and control of the child, including parenting time, holidays and vacations
  • The education and religious involvement, if any, of the child
  • The health care of the child
  • Child-care arrangements
  • Transportation arrangements
  • A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches of the custody order may be adjudicated or otherwise resolved through mediation, arbitration or other means
  • Any matter specified by the court
  • Any other matter that serves the best interest of the child

Types of custody that can be awarded

  • Shared physical custody - The right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child. 
  • Primary physical custody - The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.
  • Partial physical custody - The right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
  • Sole physical custody - The right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.
  • Supervised physical custody - Custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
  • Shared legal custody - The right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
  • Sole legal custody - The right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.

Relocation of your child

Any relocation of your child by the primary custodian can only occur if that parent meets specific requirements prior to the relocation. The custodial parent must notify anyone who has been granted custody rights, and they must notify the court no less than 60 days prior to moving. If the party who has been given proper notice fails to file an objection with the court within 30 days of the notice to relocate, that person loses any rights to enter objections about the move. [ยง 5337]

 

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 5328]

justiceMarriage Annulment

Similar to other states, Pennsylvania divorce laws allow for void and voidable marriages to receive marriage annulments in certain circumstances. Marriages are void and qualify for a marital annulment if one of the parties was already married, they were too closely related, some mental incapacity existed, or the parties were below 18 years of age. Marriages are generally voidable if either party was:

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  • under 16 years of age at the time of marriage,
  • either party was intoxicated and one of you initiated the petition within 60 days of the marriage,
  • impotency,
  • fraud,
  • duress, coercion or force were used to secure the marriage. 
  • consanguinity - marrying mother, father, sister, brother, first cousins, etc.
scales of justiceConcerned about custody and visitation battles in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 4322]

sad childChild Support - Who Pays and How Much They Pay

Pennsylvania child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model, and are spelled out in state divorce laws. [What does that mean specifically?] The model is based on the concept that the child of separated or divorced parents should receive the same proportion of parental income that she or he would have received if the parents lived together. [Should you have a need to compute child support payment as it relates to your situation, you may use this link. Be aware that using this link takes you off-site, so you may wish to bookmark this page first].

What are the liabilities for child support? Pennsylvania laws specify the following:

  • Married persons are liable for the support of each other according to their respective abilities to provide support as provided by law,

     

  • Parents are liable for the support of their children who are not emancipated and 18 years of age or younger,
  • Parents may be liable for the support of their children who are 18 years of age or older,
  • Provide health insurance for the child.

PA child support guidelines permit the court to deviate from the guidelines for unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors, and may order selling some of the parties' assets, as warrants special attention. An order to pay the costs of health care or any other cost not covered under the general guidelines for child support can be put in place. Payment of support in the form of temporary or permanent alimony can be ordered alongside a child support order.

Don't take actions that can be viewed as punitive

A word of caution: Don't let anger cause you to cancel insurance or any other benefit to your spouse or child prior to any rulings. Such action can have a rather negative impact on your efforts to achieve a fair settlement. Family court judges have been known to penalize parents who cancel policies out of spite. A fair amount of PA child support should be paid until the court directs how much specifically should be paid. PA child support ends when the child turns 18, or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 4322]

Smart Legal FormsHow to file for a no fault divorce in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania allows two ways to divorce by no-fault. A mutual consent divorce can be granted 90 days after you filing for it if you both file an Affidavit consenting to the divorce. You can opt to include a Divorce Settlement Agreement with the Affidavit, and it will expedite the process. The second no-fault method is after a two year separation. Once you and your spouse have filed, and have signed an affidavit that you two have lived separately for 2 years, a divorce can be granted.

Do-It-Yourself divorce isn't difficult. Just follow the steps

The Complaint form, or petition, asks the court for a divorce, provides the reason for divorce, and requests the court decide on any particular issues you may have. One of you must have resided in Pennsylvania for at least 6 months prior to the filing.

You’ll also file a Writ of Summons with the Complaint. The Writ notifies your spouse of the divorce request and requires an answer from your spouse to avoid a default judgment. At the time of filing, you’ll have to pay a filing fee. Call the County Clerk’s office for the current amount.

If you and your spouse are in agreement, you will file a Divorce Settlement Agreement, which will include a proposed parenting plan (e.g. custody, child support and visitation) if there are children from the marriage, and any spousal support (alimony), as well as how you plan to divide your assets and debt.

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Your divorce specifics will likely require different additional documents from the next couple may require. The state does not make available divorce forms on-line. Your local County Clerk’s office may have divorce forms for you to pick up. If traveling to the court, parking and standing in lines isn’t your thing, you can download a packet of divorce forms and begin your divorce right away. See our divorce papers for specifics.

If your spouse isn’t in agreement, you’ll need to have him/her served with a copy of the Complaint and allow enough time to respond to the petition. A hearing would then be scheduled to resolve your differences, and if that can’t happen, a trial will be scheduled.

Divorce Settlement Agreement

great ideaDon’t overlook the importance of this document when it comes to a parenting plan. If you use a template found on the internet, you may omit important details. We suggest you download free parenting plan worksheets (they are free) from About.com. Complete those forms and then ask yourself: Will there likely be disagreements over co-parenting with my ex in the coming years? If the answer is yes, we suggest you create a detailed parenting plan by signing up with an on-line parenting plan software provider. Begin by reviewing a Parenting Plan Template.

scales of justiceConcerned about custody and visitation battles in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.

A parenting plan solely on paper will likely force you, when there are inevitable changes to yours and your children schedules, to repeatedly reprint the plan, make copies for yourself and the ex, and be at the mercy of you both keeping your copy safe and available to consult. You’ll have to redo the calendar as activities change.

A parenting plan on-line makes for easy schedule changing, tracks time spent with each parent, tracks expenses you each incur, permits both parents to view a forward calendar and permits the owner of the online plan to make changes to it and advise the other parent of those changes. The online parenting plan removes excuses that the "paper-copy plan" has been lost, and eliminates claims that a discussion to change an activity took place when it didn’t.

One Mom told us that if they (she and the ex) have agreed to a change in their child’s schedule, it will appear on the calendar and if it ain’t on the calendar, it ain't happening. smile

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fightingLegal Separation - Marital Separation

Some people want to get a legal separation. However, with Pennsylvania divorce laws, there is no such legal status as being "legally separated" or receiving a marital separation. Attorneys will often prepare a settlement agreement, which after both parties sign it and the court approves, becomes a legally binding document. In this document, the parties will settle the issues division of property, child and spousal support, and custody of the children.

You can maintain health insurance and life insurance while separated

Legal separation is frequently pursued when one of the parties wants to stay married for religious reasons, wants the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax reasons, wants to maintain various insurance coverage's, or do not want to wait the state statutory waiting period for termination of marital status.

 

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Section: 3104]

marital assetsDivorce Settlement - Dividing Property

Pennsylvania is an "equitable distribution" state. When parties are not able to come to an agreement or a divorce settlement regarding property, the court will intervene, first in identifying and separating pre-marital assets to the individual parties, and then dividing the marital assets equitably but not necessarily evenly. Relevant factors in determining the division of assets can include:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • Any prior marriage,
  • The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each,
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party,
  • The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of assets and income,
  • The sources of income of both parties,
  • The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker,
  • The value of the property set apart to each party,
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage,
  • The economic circumstances of each party and 
  • Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children. [Effectively, you two can reach your own settlement, or the court has one for you]  

Taking inventory of property and liabilities

You and your spouse will need to compile a list of assets and debts early on.

Property owned or possessed by either or both of you as of:

  • the date of separation, and
  • thirty days prior to the date of hearing on equitable distribution

A list of the value of the property owned or possessed by either or both of you as of:

  • the date acquired,
  • the date of separation, and
  • thirty days prior to the date of hearing on equitable distribution.

A list of the liabilities of either or both of you as of 30 days prior to the date of hearing on equitable distribution

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Lock up the assets

If you think your spouse might try to hide assets, or spend them, we suggest you file a petition for a financial temporary restraining order. This order prevents liquidating assets or spending money beyond the basic necessities of daily living. You might first consider allocating enough funds to see yourself through, because the restraining order will apply to you too. good idea

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3501, 3502, 3505]

alimonyAlimony - Spousal Support - Maintenance

Alimony is quite the hot potato issue in Pennsylvania and is detailed in state divorce laws. In an action for separation or divorce, the court may allow alimony (sometimes referred to as spousal support or maintenance) to either party only if it finds that alimony is necessary. In determining whether alimony is necessary and under what conditions, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:

  • The relative earnings and capacities of the parties,
  • The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties,
  • The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits,
  • The expectancies and inheritances of the parties,
  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning capacity of the other party,
  • The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child,
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  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage,
  • The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment,
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the parties,
  • The property brought to the marriage by either party,
  • The contribution of a spouse as homemaker,
  • The relative needs of the parties,
  • The marital misconduct of either or the parties,
  • Tax ramifications of the alimony award,
  • Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, to provide for the party's reasonable needs,
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.

Collecting on overdue alimony

When there is an arrearage, the offended party can request a court hearing, and the judge can do any of the following to recover what is in arrears:

  • Enter judgment,
  • Authorize the taking and seizure of the goods and chattels,
  • Attach no more than 50% of the wages of the party,
  • Award interest on unpaid installments,
  • Require security to insure future payments,
  • Issue attachment proceedings,
  • Award counsel fees and costs,
  • issue contempt rulings with possible imprisonment

§3706 Prohibits alimony if the petitioner has entered into cohabitation with anyone of the opposite sex who is not a member of the family of the petitioner within the degrees of consanguinity.

The court in ordering alimony will determine the duration of the order, which may be for a definite or indefinite period of time which is reasonable under the circumstances. Remarriage of the party receiving alimony will terminate the award of alimony.  

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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3701, 3702, 3704, 3706]

frustrationChild Visitation - Co-Parenting

State laws refer to overnight custody as "partial custody". Family law statutes use the term "reasonable visitation". Parents have the opportunity to fashion a Visitation Schedule and a Parenting Plan without the courts involvement, and if they fail to agree, the court will impose its own judgment. The parent with physical custody has more control over the dates, times and duration of visits. He or she isn't legally obligated to agree to any particular schedule. For this reason courts find themselves imposing judgment in the absence of an agreement.

scales of justiceConcerned about custody and visitation battles in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.

A well thought out on-line Parenting Plan will reduce friction and provide continuity to the kids

In all but the most amicable divorces, a fixed schedule of visitation is recommended, in order to reduce the potential for conflict in front of the children. A court, if asked to determine visitation, will typically give to the non-custodial parent every other weekend with the child (or 1st and 3rd, 2nd and 4th weekends), one non-overnight weeknight visit, alternating holidays, shared birthdays, and a liberal amount of time in the summer. 

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Pennsylvania divorce laws allow parents to complete a Visitation Schedule and a Parenting Plan. Get these documents done before the court gives you its own generic cookie-cutter version. In order to develop a good parenting game plan, you'll need to gather all of your information and resources in one location. If you are using a lawyer, he or she will do that for you at the going rate ($) per hour. Another way to go would be for you to do the things you can to mitigate costs.

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Fortunately you can do much or all of this on-line. Are you looking for a cohesive 'sticky' place to keep all your information? Want a Parenting Plan you can hold your ex accountable to, and resources that can give you a BIG advantage? Go here 

[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 1915.4-2]

cheatingGrounds For Divorce

State law requires that marriages be dissolved either through fault grounds or irreconcilable differences. The court may grant a divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has:

  • Desertion of the home and/or family without reasonable cause after a period of one year or more,
  • Committed adultery,
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  • By cruel treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse,
  • Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting,
  • Been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime,
  • Cruelty toward the innocent and injured spouse.
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[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3301]

 

residencyResidency - You Must Be A Resident Of Alabama

How long does one need to live in Pennsylvania to file for divorce in in this state? State laws spell out an action for divorce or annulment may be brought in the county: where the defendant resides; if the defendant resides outside of this Commonwealth, where the plaintiff resides; the marital domicile, if the plaintiff has continuously resided in the county; prior to six months after the date of final separation and with agreement of the defendant, where the plaintiff resides or, if neither party continues to reside in the county of matrimonial domicile, where either party resides; or after six months after the date of final separation, where either party resides.

If you have any questions about residency, you can ask the Clerk's Office connected to the Family Law or Domestic Relations divisions in to your county court system, or refer to state statutes.

 

Concerned about the prospect of custody battles in your future? Want to know how to win a child custody battle?  Don't be blind sided by your ex. Learn the facts by owning a complete Child Custody Library on the best strategies for winning or keeping child custody.

 

[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3104]

mediationUsing A Mediator To Help Settle Disagreements With Your Spouse

A court may establish a mediation program for the parties. A variety of conditions can cause the court to order mediation or marriage counseling. The parties can also be requested to attend one or more counseling sessions. 

 

scales of justiceConcerned about custody and visitation battles in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.

 

[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3302 and 5303]

grandmother

Grandparents - Visitation With The Grand kids

If a parent of an unmarried child is deceased, or if the parents of the grandchild have been separated for at least 6 months, the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both. [Filing a motion during the divorce

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proceeding rather than later in a separate docket item may make the process easier and less costly]. In all proceedings for dissolution, the court may grant to grandparents reasonable partial visitation rights if it finds that visitation rights or partial custody, or both, would be in the best interest of the child.

The court will consider the amount of personal contact prior to the filing. If the child lived with the grandparents for 12 months or more, and the child was removed from the grandparents home by the parent(s), the court may grant visitation.

Adoption terminates visitation rights unless the adopting party is a stepparent or grandparent.

 

 

 

[Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Part VI, Chapter 53, Subchapter A, Section 5311]

tetheredWaiting Period For Filing Or Remarriage

Other than residency requirements, no waiting periods apply. Either party must be a resident of Pennsylvania for a minimum of 6 months prior to the filing.

There are no restrictions against remarriage following a final divorce decree.

 

 

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A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...

At some point in the process, you may discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.

Arm yourself with Child Custody Strategies, begin an on-line Parenting Plan and download Divorce Forms. Begin TODAY.