Pennsylvania Family Law
U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Pennsylvania have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.
Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.
As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.
SAME-SEX DIVORCE –UPDATE
On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges. (For more information visit ProCon.org).
To file for a divorce or annulment, at least one of the parties must be a bona fide resident of the state for at least six months prior to the commencement of the action. You cannot file until you have met the six (6) month residency requirement.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE – BOTH NO-FAULT AND FAULT
Pennsylvania recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Important to note however that while Pennsylvania courts will not consider a spouse’s fault when making judicial decisions concerning property division, the court may consider a parties past conduct in deciding whether to award alimony. No-Fault divorce d referred to as divorce by “Mutual Consent”.
NO-FAULT DIVORCE BY MUTUAL CONSENT
A divorce based on the law of Mutual Consent will be granted where it is alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date of the commencement the action. A declaration of Mutual Consent must be executed by both parties and filed with the court.
NO FAULT DIVORCE – MARRIAGE IS IRRETRIEVABLY BROKEN
Similarly, the court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed by one just one of the parties, alleging that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and an affidavit to that effect has been filed stating that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years.
Related Divorce Services And Resources
Pennsylvania uses the date of separation in calculating the two-year time period that must pass before one party can obtain a “no-fault” divorce without the consent of the other party.
DIVORCE BASED ON FAULT
The court may grant a divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has:
(1) Committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.
(2) Committed adultery.
(3) By cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.
(4) Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.
(6) Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.
MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS:
The court may notify both parties of the availability of counseling and, upon request, provide a list of qualified professionals who provide such services. The court may require parents to attend counseling sessions and may consider the recommendations of the counselors prior to awarding sole or shared custody.
In an action for divorce or annulment, the court shall, upon request of either party, equitably divide, distribute or assign the marital property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such proportions and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors, including:
- The length of the marriage.
- Any prior marriage of either party
- The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
- The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
- The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
- The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
- The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker.
- The value of the property set apart to each party.
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
- The economic circumstances of each party, including Federal, State and local tax ramifications, at the time the division of property is to become effective.
- Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.
Alimony may be awarded to either spouse, as deemed reasonable and necessary. In determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment of alimony, the court will consider, but will not be not limited to the following factors:
(1) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
(2) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties.
(3) The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
(4) The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
(5) The duration of the marriage.
(6) The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
(7) The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
(8) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
(9) The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
(10) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
SPOUSES LEGAL NAME:
Any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce. [
CHILD CUSTODY – BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD
In making an order for custody, partial custody or visitation to either parent, the court shall consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the non-custodial parent and the child.
Pennsylvania uses the “Income Shares” model to determine child support. Child and spousal support shall be awarded pursuant to the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines, so that persons similarly situated shall be treated similarly. The guideline shall be based upon the reasonable needs of the child or spouse seeking support and the ability of the obligor to provide support. The guideline shall place primary emphasis on the net incomes and earning capacities of the parties, with allowable deviations for unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors, such as the parties’ assets, as warrant special attention. The court shall ascertain the ability of each parent to provide health care coverage for the children of the parties, and the order shall provide health care coverage for each child as appropriate.
Where applicable under this section, a court may order either or both parents who are separated, divorced, unmarried or otherwise subject to an existing support obligation to provide equitably for educational costs of their child whether an application for this support is made before or after the child has reached 18 years of age. The responsibility to provide for postsecondary educational expenses is a shared responsibility between both parents. If you need assistance enforcing and collecting child support.
ENFORCING PENNSYLVANIA CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS – FEDERAL OPTION
FIND LOCAL FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCY NEAR YOU