Divorce in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. The most common no-fault grounds are the consensual divorce and the divorce based on the parties having lived separate and apart for 2 years. In most circumstances, divorces are granted under the no-fault provisions even if there ends up being a hearing on related issues such as property, alimony, etc.
A divorce is started by filing a complaint with the court. It is then served on the opposing party which usually occurs by certified mail but in some cases personal service is necessary. Any number of related issues can be raised in the complaint but there are some, such as alimony, property division and counsel fees, that must be raised and resolved prior to the entry of the divorce decree or they are waived.
There is a mandatory 90-day waiting period following the complaint’s service before the divorce can be finalized, even if there is agreement on the open issues. I like to use this time to see if we can resolve outstanding issues or whether a hearing will be necessary. More often than not, we are able to achieve a negotiated resolution and the parties enter a written marital settlement agreement addressing the remaining issues. Upon the expiration of the 90 day period, we are then able to finalize the divorce.
If you find yourself in need of advice and counsel on divorce, property, equitable distribution, custody, support, alimony or abuse issues, I’d love to talk with you.
I’m often asked how child support works in Pennsylvania. Here’s what you need to know.
Pennsylvania has established child support guidelines. The amount of support for a child or children is to receive is a function of the number of children and the combined income of the parents. Even if a parent is not working, under most circumstances they will be assessed an income for purposes of calculating child support. The amount each parent is responsible for is determined based on the ratio of their own income to the total income. For example, Mother earns $60,000 and Father earns $40,000. The combined income of the parents is $100,000. Mother will be responsible for 60% of the support required; Father will be responsible for 40% of the support required.
Pennsylvania has a great on-line support estimator. You can find it at www.childsupport.state.pa.us.
You can obtain the forms necessary to file for support from the domestic relations office at your county courthouse. There are online forms available but I’ve found that some counties have particular requirements so it’s best to check there. After you’ve filed, a support conference will be scheduled and the amount of support determined. If you are the one required to pay, you will make your payments through the Pennsylvania Support Collections and Disbursement Unit. You may have the support directly deducted from your paycheck. If you receive the support, you can have the amount directly deposited to your bank or receive the payments an eppi card which is issued to you and is similar to a debit card.