Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer
Divorce Attorneys in Pennsylvania
According to the best statistics, about 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. Experts argue about the exact percentage, but it is close to 40%, no matter how they count it.
If you are considering divorce, please realize that you are not alone and explore your different options for divorce. The lawyers at Petrelli Previtera, LLC, have helped many people just like you through the divorce process, and we know that this is a difficult time.
Although many people try to handle their divorce on their own, there is no substitute for the experience and knowledge that a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can provide. Please contact us today.
Contested versus Uncontested Divorce
Divorce is complicated, and few divorces go as smoothly as people would hope. In a typical divorce, a couple must reach an agreement on the following:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of marital property and debts
- Spousal support (alimony)
If you can agree on these issues, you can submit a settlement agreement for the court’s approval. This type of uncontested divorce can save many people considerable expense.
However, an uncontested divorce is not feasible for everyone, even if they participate in mediation in good faith. Instead, they will need a court hearing where the judge will decide the details of the divorce decree. And to succeed in a contested hearing, you should hire a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer to represent you.
Custody in Pennsylvania has two parts: legal custody and physical custody. The first involves the right to have a say in important areas regarding the child’s upbringing, including education, extracurricular activities, and medical care. Physical custody involves being able to choose where the child will live.
Pennsylvania judges award custody based on what is in the child’s best interest. There is no simple yardstick judges use. Instead, they look at many factors, including which parent is likely to encourage the child to maintain a relationship with the other parent, and which parent can provide a stable home environment. Other factors include the child’s relationship with siblings and the child’s preference, depending on age and maturity.
Custody can take many forms:
- Joint (or shared) physical custody: each parent has the child with them for at least 35% of the time.
- Primary physical custody: this parent has the majority of the time with the child.
- Partial physical custody: this parent has the minority of time with the child.
- Sole physical custody: the parent has exclusive physical possession of the child.
- Shared legal custody: parents jointly make decisions for the child.
- Sole legal custody: one parent has the sole power to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.
Custody determinations are very difficult. We encourage people to meet with a Pennsylvania divorce attorney for more information.
Related Divorce Law Topics
Pennsylvania has standardized child support determinations by implementing guidelines that look at certain factors, such as the parent’s combined net income and the number of children that need to be supported. Parents contribute a monthly amount based on their amount of physical custody. Often, child custody involves the parent with partial physical custody cutting a check to the parent who has primary physical custody.
The guidelines have removed considerable confusion regarding child support. Nevertheless, some gray areas remain. High-income parents might end up paying more since the guidelines if they earn more than $30,000 a month. Judges can also depart from the guidelines for various reasons, such as extreme expenses. Our Pennsylvania divorce lawyers will make the strongest argument possible for fair child support obligations.
Division of Marital Property and Debts
Pennsylvania is an equitable division state. This means that marital property must be divided fairly by a judge. There are some key exceptions, such as where the couple has signed a valid prenuptial agreement, in which case the agreement can dictate the division of property.
Marital property is distinct from separate property, which each spouse can take with them when they exit the marriage. Property is typically classified as marital if it was acquired after the marriage. It does not matter whose name is on the deed or title.
Marital property can cover a wide variety of assets, including:
- Real estate
- Home furnishings
- Retirement accounts
- Wages earned
- Investment accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Business interests
Many small business owners are surprised to discover that their business can be considered marital. For example, a dentist might start a practice, growing it over the course of several years without any input from her spouse. However, if the business was started after getting married, then it is probably marital, and the spouse is entitled to a share of the value.
Judges make a fair distribution of property by looking at many factors:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Each spouse’s education and income
- The contribution one spouse made to the other’s education and/or career
- Each spouse’s separate assets and debts
- The needs of the spouses
- Other relevant factors
Judges have wide discretion in this area, so hiring a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer who can make a compelling argument on your behalf is key to success.
Spousal Support & Alimony
Alimony and spousal support can be crucial lifelines for a lower-earning spouse, who could see a substantial drop in living standards after separation. Generally, spousal support and alimony are monthly payments one spouse makes to the other. During the pendency of the divorce, these payments are called “spousal support.” Once the judge grants a divorce decree, these payments are called “alimony.”
There is no automatic right to either spousal support or alimony in Pennsylvania, but judges do have the discretion to award it.
Unlike child support, a spouse can bargain away any claim for alimony as part of settlement negotiations. A spouse could also have waived alimony in a prenuptial agreement, which a judge will enforce.
Many factors go into a judicial determination of whether to award alimony and the amount. Many of the factors are the same that go into determining the equitable distribution of marital assets. We have found that some judges are more willing to award alimony or spousal support than others, so we target our strategy to the specific judge.
Contact a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney Today
Petrelli Previtera, LLC, has established itself as a leading divorce firm in Pennsylvania with offices across the state including Philadelphia, Doylestown, West Chester, Abington, Norristown, Voorhees and Allentown. We will gladly meet with you to discuss your options for divorce. It is never too early to consult an attorney, and meeting with us does not commit you to going through with the divorce.
Contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation. You can call us or schedule your own appointment on our website.