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Do you want your divorce in Pennsylvania to go as smoothly as possible? While this can be a complicated process, you'll find that learning as much as possible about how everything works before the case begins is often what helps you get through all of the legal proceedings without any trouble. Below are some of the key things to know about divorce in your state; make sure that you look it over prior to filing for the divorce.
If you'd like, you can use a no-fault divorce, meaning that you are not blaming your spouse and he or she is not blaming you; the marriage is simply dissolving due to irreconcilable differences. However, if you believe that the split is your spouse's fault because of something that he or she did, you are free to file for a fault-based divorce, as well. The ramifications of doing this mostly show up when seeking things like child custody or alimony, as the court may rule in your favor if you were not at fault.
Perhaps you and your spouse have already split up, but you have simply not made it official. If you have been apart for 24 months or more, you can use that separation as the grounds for your official, legal divorce.
Residency does have to be established in the state, by either you or your spouse, or you will not be allowed to file for divorce. It is not necessary that both of you have been living in the state for the same amount of time, but at least one or the other must have been there for six months. Only after that can you file the paperwork.
Of course, if you have children, much of the divorce process will center around them. If you and your spouse cannot agree beforehand on a child custody arrangement, the judge will find one for you and make a ruling. Both parents will be involved if possible. However, you have the right to seek sole custody -— as does your spouse -— if you would like. This includes sole physical custody and sole legal custody; legal custody is essentially the ability to make decisions regarding the child's future.
Child support is also important, and the judge will attempt to split the support between you and your spouse. Custody will need to be established first, and the judge will also look at your individual income levels, assets and other such financial information. If you get custody, for instance, but your spouse earns more money, he or she will have to pay more in child support due to both your lower income level and your taking on of financial responsibilities, such as providing food and housing. The goal is to give the child the same level of care and support that he or she received while your marriage was intact.
In some states, property division is meant to be equal, but that is not the case in Pennsylvania. Here, the division is meant to be equitable, which is simply another word for “fair.” If the judge determines that it is fair for you to get more of the money from your shared bank account, for example, because your spouse is going to be given the house to help raise the children, then such an arrangement may be reached. Everything is divided only after the judge looks at factors like child custody, child support, income levels, sources of income, options for employment, responsibilities, and much more.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified divorce lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local divorce attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.