The lawyers at Petrelli Previtera, LLC, have tackled some of the most complex divorces in Norristown and in Pennsylvania as a whole. Although this might be a difficult time emotionally, it is vital that you successfully navigate through the many complex legal requirements in order to successfully divorce.
Our Norristown divorce law attorneys have helped countless men and women plan for and follow through with their divorces. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, give us a call. We are experienced negotiators and skilled litigators who know how to protect our clients’ rights and resolve disputes as favorably as possible. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in Norristown.
Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania
A divorce begins with filing a petition in court. At least one spouse must have been a Pennsylvania resident for at least six months before filing. If not, the couple cannot obtain a divorce in our state and must wait or proceed in another jurisdiction.
The complaint should be filed in the Court of Common Pleas where either spouse resides. There are detailed rules for serving a copy of the complaint to your spouse to give him or her a chance to respond.
A person can file one of three divorces in Pennsylvania:
- No Fault. When both spouses agree the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they can use the grounds of mutual consent to support the divorce. A no-fault divorce can take as little as 90 days if the spouses agree on all issues. If not, then a no-fault divorce will take longer.
- No Mutual Agreement. Sometimes, only one spouse believes that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In this instance, he or she can file for divorce only after living separately and apart for at least one year. This type of divorce often takes quite a bit of planning.
- With a fault divorce, one spouse believes that the other spouse is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. The spouse claiming fault must be able to prove it in court. Pennsylvania has many different statutory grounds for fault, such as desertion or adultery. See 23 Pa. C.S. § 3301 for a full list.
Once your spouse receives a copy of the divorce petition, he or she has a chance to respond. However, there is a deadline that your spouse must meet.
What Issues Need to Be Resolved Before a Divorce Can Be Final?
Before a judge will finalize a divorce, certain issues need to be resolved. Divorcing spouses can either come to an agreement on their own or have a judge decide these issues for them. The issues that have to be resolved prior to a divorce becoming final include:
Child custody. A judge must decide legal custody (which parent makes important decisions for the child) and physical custody (which parent has physical possession of the child). Parents can share custody, or it can be awarded solely to one parent.
Judges make child custody decisions based on what is the best interest of the child. Statutory factors to consider are found at 23 Pa. C.S. § 5328 and include each parent’s ability to provide for the child, the need for a stable home environment, and the child’s preference, depending on your child’s age and maturity.
Child support. Both parents must support their children. The parent who has less time with the children typically ends up paying a monthly amount in child support to the other parent. Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines calculate child support based on the parents’ gross income and the number of children that are to be supported.
The child support guidelines have standardized the process in our state, but sometimes a judge needs to depart. Our Norristown divorce law attorneys will argue for the proper amount to the judge or justify a departure, depending on our client’s needs.
Property division. Marital property and debts must be divided. Couples retain substantial control in deciding how to divide them, but a judge must distribute them equitably if no agreement is reached.
Our lawyers are skilled at identifying and protecting marital property. We will also argue that you deserve the maximum amount possible. Generally, any asset obtained after marriage is marital and can include wages earned, retirement accounts, real estate, vehicles, and other assets.
Property division can become complicated when business interests are at stake. Many of our clients have spent years building their small business or sole proprietorship. Regardless of the form the business takes, some or all of the value could be considered marital and subject to equitable distribution.
Spousal support and alimony. One spouse can be ordered to support the other during the divorce and/or after. Judges look at many factors to decide whether to award support, and the analysis is quite different from child support, where there are clear guidelines. Because so much is left to the judge’s discretion, we can effectively advocate for our client’s interest when seeking or opposing an award for alimony.
In cases in which the couple cannot reach an agreement about how to resolve their issues, a divorce will become contested. This means that each party will have an opportunity to present their arguments before a judge who will decide how to handle things like the division of marital property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. Contested divorces can be very acrimonious, and it’s highly advisable for anyone involved in a contested divorce to retain an attorney as soon as possible.
Contested divorces can cost divorcing couples a substantial amount of time and money. Ideally, a couple can work out a resolution to all issues in dispute before seeking a divorce. This saves the court from having to hold a contested hearing on the matter. Consequently, judges usually order squabbling couples to attend mediation.
In mediation, a third-person neutral listens to the dispute and tries to help each spouse really listen to the other and find common ground. Mediation is often helpful at getting husbands and wives to reach an agreement on at least a few issues. Any agreement gets drafted into a settlement that is signed by both parties.
The mediator is not a judge, and no one can force a resolution on you. Our clients are always free to walk away from mediation if they believe it is not helpful.
Why You Need an Experienced Divorce Law Attorney in Norristown
Any person without an attorney is at a serious disadvantage in the divorce process. Judges expect those people representing themselves to know all the legal rules that lawyers do and they provide very little leeway. It is very easy to make one small mistake that can cost you everything.
Many people who represent themselves describe feeling as if they have been run over by a truck, and it is a fair metaphor. Divorce court can be brutal, and now is the time to get the legal help you need from a seasoned divorce attorney.
Speak with Our Successful Norristown Divorce Law Attorneys
At Petrelli Previtera, we counsel and advocate on behalf of our clients. Divorce does not have to be contentious, but you must stand up for your rights. Please call us directly at (610) 924-2870 or schedule your confidential consultation below.