General Divorce Topics

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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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 Pennsylvania, a simple divorce can be completed in approximately four months. A standard divorce with property and support issues usually takes between one and two years to complete. However, if one party is resisting the divorce for some reasons, then it can take two to three years, or even longer.

A simple Pennsylvania divorce handled by an attorney costs around $1,000. A do-it-yourself divorce with the purchase of a divorce kit costs around $700, including filing fees. A divorce where there are property and support issues, but where the parties are generally in agreement with the division of assets and support obligation, can cost around $3,500 - $5,000. A typical litigated divorce with property, support, and custody issues can cost from $15,000 - $30,000, and possibly substantially more, for each party.

There is no document, other than a divorce complaint, that is filed to obtain “legal” separation in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the date of separation is an important date. It can be established in one of two ways: One, through the filing of a divorce complaint or if the parties stop living together as husband and wife; Two, if one of the parties expresses an intention to divorce.

At Cooley & Handy, our consultations generally take between one to two hours. We explain the law to you in detail and how it impacts your case, and we devise a general plan for you on how you should proceed. We also answer all of your questions. We charge $250 for our consultations because our time is valuable and we provide you a substantial amount of information and advice. Don’t be fooled by attorneys who offer “free” consultations, which are generally just sales pitches disguised as advice.

Yes. Cooley & Handy offers alternative ways to obtain a divorce, including negotiations, mediation, and arbitration. If you select one of these alternative methods, you may never have to appear in court.

Mediation the process by which the parties attempt to resolve their divorce issues with the help of a mediator. The idea of mediation is to make divorce less antagonistic, especially where children are involved.

Arbitration is a process through which your divorce and related family law issues are resolved by a neutral arbitrator, who serves in the role of a judge. Arbitration can be quicker and significantly cheaper than mediation or litigation. It is a good option in cases where mediation is not appropriate or realistic, but the parties do not want to spend significant sums of money fighting in court. Arbitration also has the benefit of being private (no public court appearances), and it can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties. The decision of the arbitrator is final and cannot be appealed except in very rare circumstances.

Here are a few of the steps you should take without delay if you are going to file for divorce, or if you are served a Divorce Complaint:

(1) Cancel all joint credit accounts, including home equity lines of credit; (2) Close joint bank and investment accounts; (3) Arrange for payment of bills that were being automatically paid out of any joint bank accounts; (4) Change your direct deposit of your paycheck if being deposited into a joint account; (5) Secure sentimental and/or valuable personal property; (6) Secure all important financial documentation; (7) Change your mailing address and/or obtain a post office box; (8) Change your passwords on all accounts (electronic banking, e-mail, phone, computer, etc.); (9) Forget what your friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers have told you about divorce; (10) Consult with a divorce attorney; (11) Let your spouse and children know what is going on.

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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.

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