Divorce is the process of ending your marriage. There are usually also other issues or “claims” that need to be resolved along with your divorce. Those claims may include Equitable Distribution (the process of splitting up your marital property and debts), Support (including child support and spousal support/alimony), and Child Custody. Some of these issues must be resolved before you can be divorced, (e.g., equitable distribution). Other issues can either be resolved separately or in connection with your divorce (e.g., support and custody). Any claim that you want the court to resolve must be raised through a Complaint. These claims can also be resolved through mediation or arbitration.
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Equitable Distribution is the process by which marital property is divided by the court or an arbitrator in Pennsylvania. “Equitable” essentially means “what is fair based on the circumstances.” Factors that can influence equitable distribution include the relative ages and earning abilities of the parties, who has custody of the children, and any separate property owned by the parties, among other things.
In general, Spousal Support is support paid to a spouse while separated but before a divorce has been filed. Alimony Pendente Lite is support paid to a spouse while a divorce is pending. Alimony is support paid to an ex-spouse after the divorce decree is entered. All three are calculated in the same manner.
As a parent in Pennsylvania, you can generally have one of the following types of physical custody (actual time with the children): primary physical custody, partial physical custody or equally shared custody. Primary physical custody means you have more than 50% of the overnights with the children. Partial physical custody means you have less than 50% of the overnights with the children. Equally shared custody means that the parents have the same amount of overnights with the children.
Divorce and custody matters don’t have to be expensive if both parties work together to resolve the case. Even if you don’t get along with the other party, you should still try to resolve your issues so that you can both move on with your lives. Taking aggressive positions while litigating a divorce or contentious custody case can easily ruin you financially. Divorce can cost anywhere from $1,000 for a simple case to $100,000 or more per side for a complex and highly litigated case. The same is true for a custody case.
No. However, you also don’t need a neurosurgeon for brain surgery, but it probably won’t go so well without one. In all seriousness, you could probably process your own simple divorce (a divorce without property or support issues) using one of those on-line, do-it-yourself divorce kits. However, it’s probably not worth the time and aggravation to save a hundred few dollars. It is like installing a new water heater in your house – you can do it to save a few bucks, but it’s much better to let the pros do it.
If you have any other issues associated with your divorce, such as marital property that needs to be divided, support/alimony issues, jointly titled assets, etc., you should not try to handle your divorce yourself. You will most likely forfeit rights and create more problems that will be more expensive to unravel in the long run.
In general, marital property is any property or asset a married couple acquires during the marriage. It also includes increases in value on separate property or properties accrued before the marriage. For example, money contributed during the marriage to a pre-marital, separately titled retirement account, such as a 401(k), is marital property.
If there are no children involved, spousal support/alimony pendente lite/alimony is generally calculated in Pennsylvania by multiplying the difference in net incomes between the parties by .4 (40%). If children are involved then the formula is generally (the payor’s net income - the payee’s net income - child support) x .3 (30%). The amount of support, however, can be greatly affected by other relevant expenses, the custody situation, and other pertinent factors.
Physical custody is the right to spend time with the children. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for the children, such as decisions involving schooling, medical care, etc. In the vast majority of cases the parents of a child share legal custody.
Before you file for divorce, you need to figure out how you will support yourself and any children you may have, and how you will pay for the divorce. If your spouse is the primary breadwinner, then you will want to get an idea of how much support you will be able to receive and be prepared to file for support as soon as possible. If you are moving out of the marital residence, or if your spouse will move out, then you will need to make sure you have enough income to pay for your expenses. It is also important to try to set aside a financial reserve to pay for litigation costs and attorney’s fees, as well as unexpected expenses. To do so, you may need to take money out of a marital account. It is best to meet with a financial planner or divorce attorney early in the process to discuss how you can best meet your financial needs during and after the divorce process.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.