There are few things more disruptive in your life then facing separation or divorce. It affects every aspect of your life. It goes without saying, therefore, that it is not something that should be taken lightly. If you have not done so already I encourage you to pursue every option available including counseling, to avoid ending your marriage, particularly if you have children.
Whether you are thinking about separation and divorce or you have exhausted every option are want to talk to an attorney as a last resort I am glad to meet with you to talk about how the process works, discuss divorce, property division, and alimony among other things; discuss strategies for obtained a successful resolution and answer any questions that you have.
Below are five things that you should know or do if you are separated or thinking about getting divorced. Please contact Ted Hope, the experienced family lawyer in PA, if you would like to get some additional information or answers to your questions.
- Legal Separation – There is no legal separation in Pennsylvania. Rather, separation occurs when you stop living as husband and wife. Often this is obvious – one spouse moves out of the house. However, you can be separated and living in the same house. Under most circumstances, we are able to reach an agreement as to when the separation occurred.
No Fault Divorce – While PA still has fault divorce, most people pursue a No Fault Divorce. A divorce case is started by filing a Complaint for Divorce with the Court. There are two ways to get a divorce:
- By consent – If both parties consent to the divorce, you wait 90 days after the divorce complaint is served, both spouses sign Affidavits of Consent and you have grounds for divorce.
- One year separation – If one spouse will not consent to the divorce, then the spouse who wants the divorce must wait 1 year from the date of separation if the separation occurred on or after December 5, 2016. If the separation occurred before December 5, 2016, then you must wait 2 years. At that point you can get a divorce without the consent of the other spouse.
- “Simple” Divorce – Often a client will call me and tell me that they want a “simple” divorce which usually means that they believe the divorce will be uncontested and there are no property issues that have to be resolved. To be clear, divorce is rarely, if ever, simple; there is too much at stake. If you contact me about your divorce, I will meet with you and do a complete review of your situation to ensure that your rights are protected. We will then discuss your options and come up with a plan that puts you in the best position as you get ready to pursue your new life.
- Should you move out of the house? – One question I often get when meeting with a new client is should they move out of the house. The answer is – it depends. If the house is in both names, then you have a legal right to stay in the house, even if you are the one who wants the divorce. Obviously, though, things are rarely that simple. There may be reasons to leave (maintaining peace for the children), but there are usually reasons to stay (not losing control of a significant asset). It is important that we sit down and review your entire situation and come up with a strategy to make sure that your rights are protected both now and down the road if a divorce action is actually filed.
It is important to get copies of all important documents. If you are separated or thinking about getting separated, one of the most important things that you can do is to make sure that you have copies of all documents related to your assets and financial situation. These include things like:
- Bank account statements.
- Documents regarding debts
- Retirement account statements
- Loan statements
- Deeds, titles to vehicles and the like
This list is not exhaustive; err on the side of being overly thorough. You will need this information and it is easier getting it before you leave then trying to get it from your spouse later on.