If things aren’t working out with your spouse and you have started to think about filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, you may feel overwhelmed. While you likely want to get the process over and done with as quickly as possible, there are several important things you should know before you commence the legal process. Prior to filing the necessary legal papers with the court — and serving them on your spouse — there are a number of critical considerations to keep in mind. Here’s what you should know before you file for divorce:
Pennsylvania has strict residency requirements that must be met before you can file a divorce action. Specifically, either spouse must have been a bona fide resident of the Commonwealth for a period of at least six months. In order to be considered a resident, an individual must maintain a physical residence in the state and have the intent to remain there indefinitely.
No two divorces are alike, and the amount of time your divorce might take can depend upon whether the case is contested, how many issues must be resolved in the case, and whether spouses are able to settle outside of court. Divorce in Pennsylvania can take as few as three months — or as many as several years to finalize. Notably, a divorce decree will not be issued in less than 90 days after the papers have been filed due to the Commonwealth’s statutory waiting period.
It’s vital to know the precise date when you and your spouse began living separately and apart before you file for divorce. While Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize legal separations as some other states do, the date of separation is essential for the purpose of dividing property. Any property or assets acquired after the date of separation will be considered separate property, rather than marital property. This means that it will not be subject to division during divorce.
Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state. In other words, neither party is required to establish marital fault to obtain a divorce. However, various aspects of a divorce can still be in dispute. If spouses agree on all issues that must be determined before a judge will sign the divorce decree, they may be able to proceed with an uncontested divorce. If there is even one issue the couple cannot agree upon, the divorce will be considered a contested matter.
It’s crucial to organize your finances before you file for divorce. Since one of the main objectives in a divorce proceeding is dividing your property, it’s vital to fully understand your financial situation. First, you should make a list of the property you owned before the marriage, the debts you’ve incurred during the marriage, and any assets acquired by you or your spouse while you were married. You should also begin to gather your financial documents, such as your income tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, pay stubs, mortgage documents, and other financial paperwork — these will be needed for the mandatory financial disclosure statement.
If minor children are involved, you should think about the child custody arrangements that will be in place during the divorce proceedings and after the divorce has been finalized. Custody can be decided at any time and does not have to be determined as part of a Pennsylvania divorce action. However, it may be easier to work out an agreement as soon as possible for the best interests of the children. If you and your spouse have difficulty reaching a settlement regarding custody, mediation can offer a way to help facilitate healthy communication.
One of the last things you need to consider before filing for divorce is what your living arrangements will be. In the event you and your spouse are currently living in two different households, this may not be as much of an issue. But if you still reside with your soon-to-be former spouse, you may want to think about what options might be best for everyone involved. While living under the same roof as your spouse while the divorce is ongoing can be complicated and uncomfortable, you may have to consider whether maintaining two separate households is viable based on your financial situation.
Filing for divorce is a big decision — and it’s important to know what to expect before you file the legal documents required to end your marriage. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can advise you regarding your legal rights and help to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Located in Exeter, Pennsylvania, The Kulick Law Firm is dedicated to guiding clients through the divorce process and providing them with peace of mind. Call (570) 203-2756 to schedule a consultation.