In my work as a divorce and family law attorney, I've had the opportunity to counsel many clients going through the divorce process. While each case is different, women tend to face a specific set of considerations during the Pennsylvania divorce process, and I've found that many women want to know what they can do to empower themselves during this difficult time. Below is advice for how best to cope with some of the more common concerns raised by women going through the divorce process in PA.
When you reach the decision to get a divorce, you'll realize that your financial matters are about to change significantly. Too many women, even those who are professionally successful, lack a sound understanding of their family finances. In my experience, some women simply dislike dealing with money, while others have been purposefully kept in the dark by a controlling husband.
If you are unfamiliar with your household finances, you need to learn what's going on - now. Take a detailed inventory of your household expenses to get an idea of where you stand and where you need to make cuts. Map out a budget for yourself, learn how to balance a checkbook, and familiarize yourself with personal finance software of your choice. Armed with a new working knowledge of your finances, not only will you feel more in control and empowered, but you will also fare much better in the divorce process. The more you can organize your own financial documents, the more you'll be able to reduce your attorney fees and improve your chances of success.
If you were the primary breadwinner in your household, your husband may be entitled to spousal support and/or alimony. If your husband brought in a higher salary, then you may be entitled to these payments. An experienced PA divorce attorney can discuss Pennsylvania guidelines with you for support and/or alimony and help you calculate an appropriate amount based on those guidelines to help you prepare for your financial future.
If there is physical, emotional, or verbal abuse in your relationship with your husband, make it your primary priority to protect yourself and your children. Get yourself and your kids out of an abusive situation as soon as possible. Contact a trusted family member or friend, or find a list of local shelters for abused women. Unfortunately, inherent in the cycle of domestic violence is an abused woman's tendency to stay in a dangerous situation. Emotions can cloud your judgment, but you need to get to a place where you and your children are safe. Don't hesitate to call your local police department if you believe that you or your children are in danger of harm. You can and should file a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order with the court immediately. A PFA can be filed with or without the assistance of a knowledgeable PA divorce attorney. A properly filed PFA will prohibit your spouse from contacting you during your divorce proceedings. This option can allow you to safely remain in your home with your children.
Take Care of Yourself
It's imperative that you address your own needs throughout your divorce. Divorce can be very draining, and it can be easy to fall victim to the negative emotions that tend to dominate the process. You may not even realize the effect of the stressful situation you're going through, but stress will take its toll if you're not careful. Allow yourself to heal by letting go of emotional baggage and staying well during this tough time - eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and stay hydrated. Channel your energy into positive activities, and be sure not to isolate yourself from your friends or other loved ones.
Staying organized will help you keep your wits about you during this daunting process. Many divorcing women find that creating a "divorce notebook" can be really useful. Include a calendar to mark important dates such as hearings, custody conferences, and the details of child visitations. The PA divorce process comes with a great deal of paperwork, and you'll need to keep all of this available until your divorce is finalized. You can also use the notebook to determine your divorce priorities. This will be a useful resource for your attorney as well.
Learn Your Legal Rights
Divorcing women need strong support networks and resources such as experienced family law professionals, compassionate therapists, and expert financial advisors. As a party to a Pennsylvania divorce, you will do yourself a tremendous favor by hiring an experienced PA divorce attorney to represent you. If your husband has retained legal counsel, it is vital that you do the same. Retaining a skilled divorce attorney will ensure that you don't get taken advantage of. Don't make the mistake of relying upon your soon-to-be ex-husband to look out for anyone but himself. It is your responsibility to know your rights, and this is the time to assert them. You'll also want a divorce attorney to help you navigate the court system. Every county in PA has a different set of rules, forms, and procedures that must be used in the divorce process.
Be very careful in selecting a local PA divorce attorney to represent you. The wrong divorce lawyer can drain your finances and prolong your divorce. With so much at stake, including your home, your children, and your future, it is critical that you hire the right divorce lawyer. Seek out a local and experienced PA divorce attorney who listens to you and who will be available to you throughout the process. You should find an attorney who you are comfortable with, and you should always be completely honest with your divorce attorney in order to ultimately effectuate the best possible settlement.
Although you are under no legal obligation to do so, it is customary to return the ring to the spouse who purchased it. If your husband purchased your ring, you should return it to him, though he has the option to allow you to keep it. If the ring was an heirloom from your family, you should ask to keep the ring in the family. Returning the ring is a kind gesture that can serve you well as a peace offering during negotiations.
Your Last Name
As a woman, you have the choice to retain your married last name or to revert to your maiden name throughout the divorce process. If you're divorcing in PA, you may go back to your maiden name without a hearing or judge's signature. Pennsylvania state law permits a divorcing woman to take her maiden name back by filing a Notice to Resume Prior Surname with the proper county court. Check with your divorce attorney to determine the specific legal requirements to change your name. Be sure to notify your children's teachers, coaches, or club leaders if there is a change in name for you and/or your children.
The divorce process is unquestionably trying; however, armed with knowledge, resources, and hindsight, divorcing women in Pennsylvania can emerge having gained wisdom, empowerment and life lessons. With the counsel and guidance of an experienced and compassionate PA divorce attorney, you can work through the process collectively and work out the best possible settlement to meet the needs of your family. Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 to learn how an experienced PA divorce attorney can assist you.
Pennsylvania Divorce Worksheet [Free Download]
Streamline your divorce and save valuable time and money by downloading our free Pennsylvania Divorce Worksheet. Our Divorce Worksheet will help you to organize and prioritize the most important issues in your divorce by developing a comprehensive outline specific to your situation. Download it free by clicking below.
Divorce is adversarial by nature and often involves a great deal of raw emotion. The common issues in a Pennsylvania divorce are intimate, including a client's home, children, material possessions, retirement, income, and savings. For many, divorce is a devastating transition that triggers some of the worst feelings in the spectrum of human emotion. While a volatile state of mind is certainly understandable given the difficulty inherent in the decision to end "happily ever after" with a divorce action, this comes at a time when important legal decisions must be made.
Since many, if not most, individuals in the midst of a divorce will be affected by their emotions at some point, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for them to make rational decisions that are in their own best interest. This is one key reason why the counsel of an experienced PA divorce attorney can be so valuable. Armed with experience, legal insight, and knowledge that the client's behavior is rooted in deeper emotional issues, a skilled divorce attorney can successfully guide the client through the Pennsylvania divorce process to reach the best possible outcome.
The role of a divorce attorney involves aiding clients through the legal system in their transition from being part of a married couple to successfully divorced. As an experienced PA divorce attorney, I often observe and counsel clients who are undergoing such an emotional crisis that their behavior becomes self-sabotaging. Without appropriate legal guidance, this surge in negative emotion can inadvertently interfere with what is already a difficult divorce process.
For example, when a spouse sets out to punish the other spouse via the legal system, this can create an all-out battle without the restraint of an experienced PA divorce attorney. Emotion-based arguments between two unreasonable parties will serve only to run up high legal fees and draw out the divorce process. Clients who are blinded by rage, greed, or other emotion can be stubborn to their own detriment. This is where a good divorce lawyer comes in. A good divorce attorney should lay out the client's options and explain which courses of action are advisable. The attorney should provide the client with reality checks about the likelihood of success and should be transparent about costs from the outset. It's important for the attorney to remind the client that the less emotional people are during a divorce, the more likely they are to keep their costs down. While the client is certainly under no obligation to follow every piece of advice provided by his or her divorce attorney, repeatedly ignoring the advice of a skilled and rational legal professional is most likely not in the best interest of the client or his or her family.
Distance from raw emotion is a critical part of the role of a successful divorce attorney. Sound legal judgment that is uncomplicated by the client's divorce-induced emotions will help to minimize costly conflicts during this process.
A skilled divorce attorney requires not only legal intelligence, but also emotional intelligence in order to effectively represent a client for a Pennsylvania divorce. A divorce attorney must do what he or she can to reduce conflict and foster an environment that helps the client stay focused, goal-oriented, and calm. An empathetic divorce attorney can see through the client's emotional state and not allow these emotions to impede a successful legal resolution.
Divorce is rarely easy. With the help of a skilled PA divorce attorney, however, clients can work to become less reactive and more in control of their emotions. When an experienced and skilled PA divorce attorney has the opportunity to work with a rational family law client, it is far easier to work cooperatively to develop the best possible divorce resolution. At The Martin Law Firm, our experienced PA divorce attorneys have been handling family law matters in Southeast Pennsylvania for over 10 years. We are familiar with the emotional devastation that can accompany divorce, and we work compassionately with our clients to achieve the best possible result in light of unfortunate circumstances. If you are interested in effective legal representation, contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 to discuss your case with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney.
PA Divorce Worksheet [Free Download]
Help simplify your divorce and streamline the legal process by downloading our free Pennsylvania Divorce Worksheet. Our free PA Divorce Worksheet will provide you with a comprehensive outline of the issues involved in your divorce. You will gain valuable insight into your case, and completing the Divorce Worksheet prior to your initial meeting with your PA attorney may save you valuable time and money.
The divorce process in Montgomery County, PA can be confusing and tedious. Men and women who want a divorce often feel a sense of fear and stress when they think about lawyers, judges, and an overwhelming divorce process. This article will help to explain common questions we get from concerned husbands and wives who want a divorce but have no idea how to start the process.
Where to File the Divorce in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Before any legal documents are drafted or anything is filed with the Court, the first step in the divorce process is deciding the proper place for the divorce to be filed. So long as you or your spouse has lived in Pennsylvania for least six (6) consecutive months immediately prior to filing for divorce, a divorce can be filed in PA. Once this initial threshold is met, it must then be determined what county in PA the divorce should be filed in. If either you or your spouse lives in Montgomery County, PA or both of you agree on Montgomery County, PA as a proper place for your divorce, a divorce complaint can be filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown, PA.
Preparing the Divorce Complaint
After determining where the divorce is to be filed, the next step is to prepare a divorce complaint. A divorce complaint is a legal document which, upon filing with the Court, commences a legal proceeding. The complaint sets forth causes of actions and allows the drafter to plead facts that, if proven, can result in the Court awarding what is requested by the drafter. In a divorce action, causes of action usually include division of marital assets, spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL), alimony, child custody, and child support.
A divorce complaint must include specific information and must comply with Pennsylvania and local laws. In addition to including a Cover Sheet, Notice to Defend, proper captions, numbered paragraphs, and a signed Verification, a divorce complaint must be drafted to include:
- the names of both spouses;
- your current residence;
- the last known and present whereabouts of your spouse;
- a statement that the either or both spouses have resided in PA for the requisite time period;
- the date and place of the marriage;
- the grounds for the divorce (stated substantially in the language of the PA Divorce Code);
- details of any prior action of divorce or for annulment of marriage between the parties;
- a statement that you were advised that counseling is available and that you may have the right to request that the Court require the parties to participate in counseling;
- specific requested relief.
As stated in the requirements above, in PA, the divorce complaint must set forth the basis for the divorce since a party must establish grounds for divorce. There are two types of divorce in PA: No-Fault and Fault-Based Divorce. A No-Fault Divorce simply means that neither spouse is required to prove "fault" or marital misconduct on the part of the other in order to obtain a divorce. The basis of a No-Fault Divorce can be by mutual consent (also known as an “uncontested divorce”), a two-year separation of the spouses, or, in some cases, the institutionalization of a spouse. A Fault-Based Divorce is quite different, as the filing spouse must prove that he or she is innocent of wrongdoing and that the other spouse is at fault for adultery, endangerment, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years, or indignities to the other spouse. It is important to know the differences between the grounds for divorce in PA and have your divorce complaint set up appropriately.
If information is omitted, incorrectly stated, or the divorce complaint is in the improper format, not only may it be rejected by the Court, but your rights may be negatively affected, as well. Montgomery County, PA divorce attorneys make sure the required information is properly included in the divorce complaint, and can advise you on what additional claims should be included, whether to file a Fault-Based or No-Fault divorce, and what your rights are as the filing spouse. As such, a party filing for divorce in Pennsylvania should do so with the help of a skilled PA divorce attorney.
Filing the Divorce Complaint in Montgomery County, PA
Once the divorce complaint is complete, the divorce complaint is filed with the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown, PA. There is a fee for filing a divorce complaint and the fees in Montgomery County, PA are posted at http://www.montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/276.
Service of the Divorce Complaint
Within thirty (30) days after filing the divorce complaint with the Court, you must also serve the divorce complaint upon your spouse, in accordance with Pa. R.C.P. § 1930.4. Your spouse can be served by either the sheriff or a competent adult (18 or older and not a party to the case) either by hand, by leaving a copy with an adult at your spouse’s residence, by giving a copy to a clerk or manager of the hotel, inn, apartment, boarding house or other place of lodging at which your spouse resides, or to a person in charge at your spouse’s office or place of business. Alternatively, service may be completed by sending the divorce complaint to your spouse’s last known address by U.S. mail. However, serving the complaint by regular mail is not enough. The divorce complaint must be sent by both regular and certified mail with return receipt requested.
This above procedure is only the beginning of the Montgomery County, PA divorce process. Simply getting started can seem like a difficult and daunting task, but with the help of experienced Montgomery County, Pennsylvania divorce attorneys, you can not only ensure that your divorce complaint is properly prepared, filed, and served on your spouse, but that your legal rights for issues involving the division of marital assets, spousal support, alimony pendente lite (APL), alimony, custody, and child support are protected, as well.
A Pennsylvania divorce can be a relatively simple process or a costly one. It is not uncommon for a PA divorce to include issues involving child custody or child support, alimony, and equitable division of marital property. The more issues that cannot be agreed upon by both parties, the longer and more expensive the divorce process will be, as the court cannot grant a final divorce decree until these issues are settled. Pennsylvania and local laws establish procedures for resolving these issues which may include mandated mediation, hearings, conferences, and trials. It takes time for attorneys to prepare for and attend these hearings, as each hearing serves to address a specific issue of the divorce and must be prepared for accordingly. Courts have busy dockets, so the parties to a PA divorce usually have to wait weeks or even months for a hearing or conference to be scheduled. These delays cause angst and frustration for all parties involved in the process.
In order to avoid the cost and delays of court involvement, the parties to a PA divorce can amicably resolve these issues among themselves. When the parties settle their differences, they should memorialize the agreement in writing. This written agreement is known as a marital settlement agreement, or sometimes referred to as a property settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is legally binding upon both parties and spells out the terms of the divorce and the future relationship between the two spouses after the divorce. These agreements usually cover marital property division, child custody and support, child planning, debt division, alimony and any other relevant issues related to the divorce. A marital settlement agreement can be entered into at any time before the final divorce decree and once it is agreed upon and signed by both parties, it is sent to the court and usually included as part of the court’s final divorce decree.
Any PA divorce lawyer will tell you that the marital settlement agreement should include very specific provisions regarding the above issues, such as a custody schedule for the days and times a child will be with each spouse, which spouse is to have legal custody of a child (the spouse which is to make decisions about a child's upbringing), which spouse is to have physical custody (the right to have a child live with him or her), or provisions that spell out what happens if one spouse was to relocate after the divorce. A marital settlement agreement may also include specific details on the equitable distribution of marital property, such as distribution amounts from a 401K or whether one spouse will keep the marital home or whether the home will be sold. A marital settlement agreement allows both spouses to amicably resolve issues related to the divorce, instead of having a Judge decide these issues.
It is important to have an experienced PA divorce lawyer prepare the marital settlement agreement. A PA divorce lawyer can help a spouse negotiate the terms of the marital settlement agreement, incorporate proper legal language into the agreement, ensure that the spouse’s legal rights are protected, and make sure the settlement agreement is comprehensive and accurately captures the agreed upon terms.
Contact an experienced PA divorce lawyer at The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980.
When you go through a divorce, you’ll have to go through the process of determining how your property will be divided with your spouse. Each state has different rules regarding what property is divided in divorce and how the property is split.
The biggest factor that determines how your property is divided is whether your state follows community property or equitable distribution rules. In a community property state, marital property is typically split 50/50. A court will add up the total value of your marital estate and will grant each spouse an equal percentage.
By contrast, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state with regard to property division in divorce. Equitable distribution is the equitable, or fair, division of all marital property between the parties by the court in such percentages and in such manner as the court deems just. This means that in PA, a judge will look at all of the marital property and will decide on what the judge feels is a fair distribution.
Equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean that the property is evenly divided. Relevant factors considered by a court in PA include, among other things, the earning capacity of each spouse, who earned the property, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. It is very important to have quality legal representation by an experienced PA divorce lawyer when negotiating your property division for a Pennsylvania divorce.
Marital Property in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, not all property is subject to division at divorce. Rather, only a couple’s “marital property” is split. Marital property generally includes:
All property acquired by either party during the marriage to the date of separation;
The increase in value, until the date of final separation, of non-marital property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent; and
The increase in value of property owned prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property owned prior to marriage, until the date of final separation.
It is important to note that marital property in PA also may include retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and pension plans held by either spouse.
Many issues are considered when determining equitable division of property in Pennsylvania. Equitable distribution of marital property can be complicated, so it is always advisable to consult an experienced PA divorce attorney to ensure that your property rights remain fully protected.
Marital Settlement Agreements
A married couple can either reach an agreement between themselves over what property each will receive or a Pennsylvania court may step in and make the decision for them. Even if you are trying to reach an informal agreement with your spouse, it’s probably a good idea to have an experienced PA divorce lawyer on your side to make sure that you get a fair share and that your legal rights remain protected. An experienced PA divorce lawyer can help you determine what is marital property and can help facilitate an equitable distribution.
Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 if you wish to hire an experienced PA divorce attorney and to learn more about property rights in a Pennsylvania divorce action.
Before commencing a Pennsylvania divorce action, there are certain aspects of the divorce process that you should consider. As discussed below, prior to filing for divorce in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, an experienced PA divorce lawyer would advise you to gather specific information and documents, make certain preparations, and consider certain issues. You can make the PA divorce process easier on yourself, your children, and your spouse by being proactive and prepared. The following are four important topics to consider prior to filing a Montgomery County divorce action in Norristown, PA:
1. Understanding Your Legal Rights
Commencing a divorce action in PA can be overwhelming. The emotions, the consequences, and the legal process may simply be too much to consider. However, doing your homework and having a basic knowledge and understanding of the Montgomery County, PA divorce process, Pennsylvania child custody laws, and other legal alternatives (such as a marital settlement agreement) can substantially ease your anxiety about filing for divorce. Equally as important is consulting with an experienced Norristown, PA divorce lawyer. Many divorce cases include separate issues such as division of marital property, child custody, child support, and alimony. Having an experienced divorce attorney at your side will ensure not only that these important matters are addressed and handled properly, but also that you are receiving the best advice possible.
2. Understanding Marital Property
Your family may have assets such as a jointly owned house, a car, a pension or retirement plan, and a little bit of savings. When it comes time to file for divorce, the division and distribution of these assets and other marital property is an important subject. It is important to understand that certain assets can be treated differently by the Norristown Court, depending on when the assets were acquired, by whom, and in whose name they are in. Prior to filing for divorce in Norristown, you should make a list and gather financial documents regarding what assets are in your name, your spouse's name, what you own together, and any debt you or your spouse may have. Be sure to consider your home, cars, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and retirement accounts as well as noting any canceled checks, bank statements, tax returns, and life insurance policies. Once a list of assets is complete, your Norristown, PA divorce attorney can help you understand the laws regarding equitably dividing marital property among the parties to the divorce.
3. Timing of Your PA Divorce
While you may be eager to move forward with your life, it may also be a wise decision to keep in mind the timing of a PA divorce. For example, you may want to consider whether you should avoid filing around holidays or an important event involving a family member. This may put unnecessary stress on your family and few people want to think about custody, alimony, and property division during this time, so it is advisable to simply wait. There are many divorce filings in Norristown, PA after the New Year for this reason.
In addition to postponing a divorce until after the holidays, it may also be advisable to wait if your spouse is due a bonus or raise. The timing of a divorce filing could affect your legal rights to this property. Again, an experienced PA divorce lawyer can help you prepare an effective strategy in this regard.
4. Consider the Behavior and Lifestyle of You and Your Spouse
Prior to divorce, you may be inclined to blow off certain responsibilities, become spiteful towards your spouse, or otherwise act inappropriately. However, behaviors such as this are perceived as negative or harmful and can be used against you during your divorce and especially during any child custody proceedings. Conduct yourself in a reasonable manner and consider how others perceive you during the time prior to and during a divorce proceeding. Likewise, if you plan on filing for divorce and your spouse is the one acting inappropriately or irresponsibly, you should document everything, save records (i.e., screenshots of Facebook posts, emails, text messages, phone call logs, etc.), and give everything to your divorce lawyer. An experienced Norristown, PA divorce lawyer will be able to use this to your benefit during your divorce proceedings.
The best advice that can be given prior to filing a divorce in Norristown, PA is to stay calm, collected, and vigilant. The divorce process itself can be quite stressful and by considering these 4 topics prior to filing for divorce, you will not only have a head start on the process itself, but you will have a mental head start, which is just as helpful.
PA Divorce Worksheet [Free Download]
Download our useful Pennsylvania Divorce Worksheet to help yourself get organized prior to filing for divorce in PA. Our PA Divorce Worksheet will help you to identify and prioritize the most important issues involved in your divorce. Additionally, completing the Divorce Worksheet prior to your first meeting with an experienced PA divorce attorney can save you valuable time and money.
#1 – Neglecting to Seek Professional Advice
The best way to protect your interests in a divorce is to meet with a divorce attorney. Although an attorney isn’t necessary to file a divorce in Pennsylvania, it is unwise to proceed with a divorce without at least consulting a lawyer. Divorce has serious legal consequences, both immediately and in the long-run. An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand your legal rights and avoid common pitfalls. You may be overlooking important factors or failing to take advantage of opportunities that are available to you.
There are many advantages to retaining a skilled PA divorce attorney for legal counsel. A good divorce lawyer can conduct a legal and financial analysis early in the process to save you time and money. If you have minor children, a divorce attorney can help make sure you work out the best possible arrangement for your kids and your family. A divorce lawyer can make sure you get everything you’re entitled to when your marriage ends. Your attorney can also let you know whether any agreement you reach is enforceable and realistic and can help you confirm the details of your divorce agreement in writing.
Most importantly, retaining an experienced PA divorce attorney can reduce the amount of apprehension and misunderstanding about the legal aspects of the divorce process. When it comes to your divorce, time with an experienced attorney is well worth it.
#2 – Rushing to Court
Rushing to court is a good way to run up your divorce costs quickly. Unless you have a very complicated divorce, the vast majority of couples are better off reaching a settlement. Going to trial is generally very expensive and involves a certain degree of risk since all decisions will be left up to a judge who knows neither you nor your family.
Sometimes people want to get out of their marriage so badly that they just rush to court before giving their divorce careful thought. Divorce is a serious life event that calls for significant consideration. Rushing to court not only adds to your stress, but it can strain your finances. Getting a divorce, especially if it is mishandled, can be very costly, and litigation will run up your costs rapidly. Since your assets must be divided, now is not the time to make rash and expensive decisions. A skilled divorce attorney can help you to negotiate a fair settlement agreement that is satisfactory to both parties involved.
#3 – Being Unprepared
When you make the decision to get a divorce in PA, you should begin gathering all of your available financial records. Having all of this information together will help your divorce attorney to be organized from the outset, creating an advantage. Gather all documents that pertain to your assets and liabilities that are readily available. Through the discovery process, your divorce attorney will be able to obtain any documents that are not easily accessible.
Make copies of your financial records and leave the copies with your parents or a trusted friend. Give the original documents to your lawyer. Don’t leave them in your home where your spouse can access them. By rounding up relevant documents in advance, you can save yourself a great deal in legal fees.
There are additional steps you can take in preparation of divorce in PA that should help facilitate the process: open credit cards or bank accounts in your name individually; obtain your credit report to get an idea of where you stand financially; open a P.O. Box; create a new email address that your spouse doesn’t know about; and determine your most important divorce goals.
#4 – Involving Your Children
It’s very important to let your kids be kids and to not involve them in the details or frustrations of your divorce. As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your children from harm of any kind, but children involved in divorce are sometimes subject to emotional harm. Whatever the age of your children, they can be negatively affected by your arguments. Don’t force your children to choose sides, and don’t make them messengers between angry ex-spouses. Instead, try to deliver your own messages to the other parent. If you can’t handle this in person, then communicate by phone, email, or text. Communication is vital to successful co-parenting, and both parties will need to learn and develop their co-parenting skills post-divorce.
Badmouthing the other parent is harmful to children, no matter what their age. When you criticize the other parent, children may inherently feel like you’re criticizing them. This can be extremely hurtful at an already difficult time for your family. Children just want to be loved by both parents. Remember, the children love both of you and are entitled to have a good relationship with both of you.
#5 – Failing to Pick Your Battles
Divorce is an adversarial process. Once their marriage has come to an end, many people have difficulty “picking their battles”. Too often, angry spouses let their emotions get the best of them and want to argue over trivial matters. Battles over insignificant issues are expensive and largely unnecessary. Instead, try to identify and prioritize your divorce goals from the beginning. While thinking about division of your property, try to identify what you need and why you need it. It’s better to be reasonable and to fight only over truly necessary issues. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of endless argument over subjects that don’t matter much at the end of the day.
Some people get so caught up in anger that they end up spending thousands of dollars fighting over something that is ultimately worth only a few hundred. It’s only after things have calmed down that they realize they’ve wasted valuable resources on something that doesn’t matter in the long-run. When a Pennsylvania divorce becomes contentious, turn to your divorce attorney to keep you level-headed. An experienced PA divorce attorney will help you make the right decisions about what’s most important.
Download our Free Divorce Worksheet
Thoughtful preparation can be the key to a smooth divorce in Pennsylvania. Help streamline the divorce process by downloading our free Divorce Worksheet. Our Divorce Worksheet will help organize and simplify the legal issues involved in your divorce, helping you to highlight the most important issues in your case. In addition, completing the Divorce Worksheet prior to your first meeting with an experienced PA divorce attorney can save you time and money.
There is a fair amount of anxiety and anticipation surrounding the first meeting with a prospective divorce attorney. In fact, it’s rare for anyone to truly want to consult with an attorney with regard to divorce. Many people don’t know what to expect during their initial attorney contact and consultation.
Contacting a local divorce attorney
When you make your first call to a prospective divorce attorney’s office, it may be comforting to know that everything you say over the phone will be kept strictly confidential. If the attorney is not available when you call, the person answering the phone will likely ask you for your name and a phone number where you can be reached. When leaving a message for the attorney, it’s best to provide a phone number where you can actually be reached. Attorneys spend the majority of their day on the phone, so it can be easy to wind up in a game of phone tag.
Once you get a divorce attorney on the phone, you can expect an introductory conversation at no cost in order to discuss the general facts involved and to determine whether any legal emergencies exist. The majority of advice that you will be seeking from a divorce attorney cannot be provided over the phone. In almost all situations, it will be necessary for you to schedule an appointment to meet face-to-face with the prospective attorney. Meeting with an attorney does not obligate you to retain the attorney, nor does it mean you must get divorced.
What to expect when you arrive
For most people, when they contact a PA divorce attorney, it will be the first time they hire a lawyer of any kind. Many people have no idea what to expect when they arrive for their meeting. A divorce attorney’s office is not like a doctor’s office. You will not have to sign in, sit in a waiting room, or come face-to-face with other clients. Experienced divorce attorneys understand that your visit to their office is strictly confidential, so clients will rarely be kept waiting for more than a few minutes. Divorce attorneys make an effort to schedule appointments in such a way that prevents two clients from being in the office simultaneously.
What to expect when you meet the attorney
Your first meeting with a PA divorce attorney is a learning opportunity for both of you. During your meeting, you can expect the attorney to provide you with an overview of what to expect relative to the following issues (if applicable):
- The divorce process in PA
- Custody and other issues related to the minor children of the marriage
- Alimony, spousal support, and child support
- Equitable division of marital property (and debts)
- Attorney’s fees and costs
The attorney will ask you some questions in order to gain a better understanding of your situation and to provide you with a plan for proceeding. No two divorces are ever the same, and it is important for your lawyer to ascertain certain information concerning your marriage, your home, your employment, your finances, your children, and other personal matters.
When answering the attorney’s questions, remember the attorney-client privilege is in effect, meaning that anything you tell your attorney cannot be repeated to anyone without your permission. As such, it is imperative that you be honest with your attorney. The quality of the legal advice you receive is dependent upon how honestly you answer the attorney’s questions.
Presentation of a Plan
Once your prospective divorce attorney has gathered enough information to assess your situation, the attorney can provide you with advice on the primary legal issues involved. This will be the most informative part of the meeting for you, so you should listen very carefully.
Your attorney’s advice will focus on two main components: (1) representation of your interests during negotiations or in court; and (2) what you should reasonably expect based on the attorney’s professional experience. Now that the attorney has learned the details of your situation, the attorney can get an idea of what would be a fair and appropriate divorce settlement. While it is important for you to understand your available options, it’s even more important for you to have a realistic picture of what you can actually expect.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
Once you and the attorney have had a meaningful discussion about the divorce process and what to expect with regard to major issues, only then can the divorce attorney insightfully discuss the attorney fees and costs associated with your case.
An attorney’s fees for divorce are based on several factors, including the time and work required, the complexity and novelty of the issues involved, and the experience and ability of your attorney. In most situations, any estimate that you’re given with regard to the ultimate cost of attorney fees and costs will be a rough guideline. It’s not often possible to make a final prediction with any high degree of accuracy. The reason a divorce attorney cannot provide a precise estimate is because it’s impossible to predict how cooperative (or uncooperative) your spouse, opposing counsel, or necessary third parties (the judge, courthouse personnel, your or your spouse’s employer, etc.) may be. The time and labor required to represent you may increase if any of these third parties are uncooperative or unreasonable.
When you make the decision to proceed with hiring a particular PA divorce attorney, you should be presented with a fee agreement for legal services that explains the billing structure. When you sign the fee agreement, it is common practice that you will be asked to provide an initial retainer payment. The retainer is necessary, in part, for the attorney to pay for any filing fees or other necessary costs on your behalf.
Divorce can be a stressful and overwhelming process for anyone. Although you may feel you’re facing problems that lack solutions, the skill and expertise of an experienced PA divorce attorney makes it possible for the attorney to understand what you’re going through and to develop workable solutions to your problems. Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 to speak with an experienced PA divorce attorney today.
Free Download: Divorce Worksheet
Download our free Divorce Worksheet to help simplify your divorce and streamline the legal process. Completing our comprehensive Divorce Worksheet will provide you with a thorough outline of issues involved in your Pennsylvania divorce. You'll gain valuable insight into your case, and completing the Divorce Worksheet prior to your first meeting with a divorce attorney can save you time and money. Download your free Divorce Worksheet by clicking below.
If you have decided to proceed with a divorce in PA, you may be asking, what is the next step? In PA, marriages are not simply dissolved by filing for divorce. The parties to a divorce must establish grounds for divorce, resolve any custody or child support issues, and resolve all economic issues including alimony and division of property. Then the court can grant a divorce decree. Divorce can often be an exhausting and frustrating process for everyone involved. If you are living in or near Lansdale, PA, it is important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. A Lansdale, PA divorce lawyer will help with each stage of a PA divorce and will handle the procedural requirements and deadlines. The following is a brief overview of the process for beginning the divorce process in PA.
Pennsylvania Divorce Requirements | Lansdale, PA Divorce Lawyer
Assuming that you or your spouse have resided in Pennsylvania for least six months, the legal divorce process begins when one spouse files a "Divorce Complaint" with the Court of Common Pleas. The Complaint is then served on the other spouse. After a PA Divorce Complaint has been filed, either party can request temporary assistance from the court in the form of temporary custody and child support orders and orders to determine who pays community debts on a temporary basis. At the time of filing, the grounds for the divorce must be declared in the Divorce Complaint. This will determine whether you or your spouse will be seeking a No-Fault or Fault-based divorce.
Types of Divorces in PA
In Pennsylvania, a No-Fault divorce does not always mean an agreeable split of the parties; it simply means that neither spouse is required to prove "fault" or marital misconduct on the part of the other in order to obtain a divorce. A No-Fault divorce can be filed on three grounds:
1) Mutual Consent – Also known as an “uncontested divorce”, a mutual consent divorce occurs when both spouses agree on the divorce. Both spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the commencement of the action. There are still issues of custody, property division, and support, but both parties will likely save time, money, and heartache, as uncontested divorces do not have to wait for trial and spouses are able to work out their own settlement agreement.
2) Two-Year Separation – Even when one spouse refuses to consent to a divorce, the court may still grant a divorce if the parties have lived separate and apart for two years. When one spouse refuses to consent to a divorce, it is known as a “contested” divorce. A contested divorce is a more complicated and prolonged proceeding then an uncontested divorce and often involves a great amount of stress, conflict, and expense. As with any divorce proceeding in PA, there are issues of custody, property division, and support which must be resolved, but when a divorce is contested, the court will often have to resolve these issues.
3) Institutionalization - In special circumstances, where one spouse suffers from insanity or serious mental disorder which results in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months, the court may also grant a divorce.
While many couples file under a No-Fault divorce, Fault-based divorce still remains a legal option in PA and in certain circumstances, where grounds for a Fault-based divorce exist and where one spouse contests a No-Fault divorce, it may be beneficial for the party seeking the divorce to pursue a Fault-Based divorce.
If filing for divorce on fault grounds, the filing spouse must prove at a hearing that he or she is innocent of wrongdoing and that the other spouse is at fault. Fault grounds include adultery, endangerment, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years and indignities.
Answering the Divorce Complaint
It is important to understand that if a divorce is contested, the contesting spouse has the opportunity to file a Counter-claim against the filing spouse or raise defenses to the divorce action after the Divorce Complaint has been filed. Common defenses raised by the Defendant spouse include but are not limited to collusion, connivance, recrimination, condonation, provocation, mental illness and consent. It is important to consult with an experienced Lansdale, PA divorce lawyer if deciding to proceed with either a Fault-based or No-Fault divorce in PA.
Finalizing a Divorce in PA
Whether pursuing a Fault or No-Fault divorce in PA, a divorce is finalized upon receipt of a divorce decree from the Court and after all issues involving equitable distribution of property, alimony, custody, and support are resolved. If the parties are in agreement about property and debt division, as well as child custody and support matters, a divorce can be finalized without much court intervention. It is important to consult with a local and experienced divorce lawyer when considering a divorce in PA.
Avoid these five common mistakes if you're getting a divorce in Norristown, PA, the location of all Montgomery County, PA divorce proceedings. The mistakes that follow are some of the more common behavior patterns our Norristown, PA divorce lawyers see from both men and women.
1. Showcase your life on Facebook
Sometimes, when people are stressed out, they turn to the internet to vent their feelings. While it can be easy to feel a false sense of anonymity from behind a computer screen, if you’re getting a divorce in Norristown, PA, our lawyers strongly advise that you do NOT showcase details of your life on Facebook or through other social media. Divorce lawyers in Norristown, PA and elsewhere regularly use Facebook as evidence in divorce, child custody, and other family law proceedings. Some statistics indicate that Facebook is cited in one out of every three divorces! Your spouse’s divorce lawyer can get the right to access your Facebook page. A divorce lawyer can use Facebook evidence to try to demonstrate that you’re an irresponsible parent, that you’re earning more money than you claim, or that you have lied to the court.
2. Leave the marital residence
One of the most common mistakes our Norristown, PA divorce lawyers see on a regular basis is the error of leaving the marital residence too early in the divorce process. In general, you should not leave the marital residence without first consulting an experienced divorce lawyer for advice. Although leaving the marital home won’t always necessarily impact the ultimate outcome of a divorce in Norristown, PA, it is rarely advisable to do so. The party who leaves the marital home in Norristown tends to find him or herself at a disadvantage, particularly when child custody is an issue to be resolved. If you have items of personal property or furniture in the house that are subject to equitable distribution, you run the risk that these items will be removed from the marital home or destroyed.
Even when both parties wish to remain in the house, the tremendous expense of a house in Norristown, PA often becomes prohibitive over time, eventually forcing both spouses to sell it and split the proceeds. If you are able to recognize this scenario early on, the earlier you initiate this process the less likely you are to lose money on your investment. Consult an experienced divorce lawyer regarding sale of the marital home.
3. Fail to hire a divorce lawyer
Representing yourself for a divorce or other family law matter in Norristown, PA is extremely ill-advised. If your spouse has hired a divorce lawyer, you need to hire your own divorce lawyer quickly. If you don’t retain a well-qualified divorce lawyer to represent you, you’re putting yourself at a great disadvantage, as you will be an amateur playing against a professional. The legal and financial consequences of divorce are serious and long-lasting, and you should not proceed with this process without the counsel of an experienced divorce lawyer. Don’t rely on your friends and family for advice - you need a qualified professional to make sure that your rights are adequately represented throughout the divorce process. The only person who can and should tell you what is in your best interest during your divorce is your divorce lawyer.
4. Try to punish your spouse through the legal system
It can be easy for parties to a divorce in Norristown, PA to allow their emotions to get the best of them. Parties to a divorce are often filled with anger and resentment, and these emotions can cloud your better judgment. Don’t attempt to use your divorce lawyer and the legal system to try to “punish” your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Ultimately, you’re likely to find yourself spending more money fighting about the case than the case is actually worth.
At the end of the process, when the divorce has been finalized for some time, parties often realize that the thousands of dollars they spent on lawyers’ fees to punish their spouse did not buy them emotional satisfaction. Though it may be challenging to set aside your feelings, you should try to be realistic about your goals and consider the cost when you opt to argue over certain issues. Trivial arguments and irrational reasoning can be an expensive combination.
5. Threaten your spouse
This should go without saying, but our Norristown, PA divorce lawyers encounter this mistake on a regular basis. Divorce is very tough – your divorce lawyer will understand that. Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances of your divorce, however, you should refrain from threatening your spouse under any circumstances. Here’s why – your spouse can immediately contact the Domestic Relations Office in Norristown and apply for an emergency Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order. Your spouse will be able to obtain a PFA if there is evidence that you threatened him or her. If your spouse has a PFA in place, your situation is almost certain to become more stressful. You will not be permitted to be within a certain physical distance of your spouse, nor will you be able to contact him or her at all. This is likely to increase your legal bills, since all communication will have to take place through your divorce lawyers. It can also mean that you find yourself banned from retrieving your personal belongings from the marital home, from your son’s soccer game, etc. When the issue of child custody is eventually discussed, you can be sure that your spouse’s PFA against you will be brought to the Court’s attention. It’s not worth it.
Threatening to limit or deny visitation of your children is a strong threat, and it can be used to manipulate and terrify any parent who loves his or her children. Unfortunately, children are often the hardest-hit victims of divorce in Norristown, PA. Don’t try to use your children as pawns in a game against your ex. Let your divorce lawyer handle the legal issues and keep what is in the best interest of your children at heart.
Contact The Martin Law Firm at 215-646-3980 for a free case evaluation with an experienced Norristown, PA divorce lawyer.