The cost of divorce depends on several factors including whether both spouses consent to the divorce. The more arguments between the spouse, the more attorney involvement there will be, and thus higher attorney fees. As a general rule, fewer court appearances means lower costs of divorce. Settling as much of the financial issues out of court is the ideal way to keep costs low.
You knew this day was coming. Now that you have decided to start the divorce process, there are many short- and long-term issues to work out. Who will get custody of the kids? Should you move out of your house? Will you owe spousal support or child support? Having worked with many clients in your position, our attorneys sympathize with the worry and uncertainty this challenging time of life brings.
Even if you and your spouse have agreed to end the marriage, you may have different ideas about who the children should live with, who gets the car, or who should live in the family home, and many other details of dividing a household and assets. Your assets could make the marriage dissolution process even more complex. Naturally, you want to ensure equitable distribution of property, appropriate spousal support, and if you have kids, that child support payments will be fair.
“We understand the sensitivity of your legal issue, and our goal is that you leave your consultation with an understanding of the law, your best options, and your rights.”
Melinda Previtera, Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers, Partner at Petrelli Previtera, LLC.
Philadelphia Divorce Attorneys
At Petrelli Previtera, our attorneys help clients end their marriages as efficiently and successfully as possible. Every divorce is a different legal matter, which is why we take the time to understand each client’s individual needs and goals and explore all options for the best resolution possible.
In Pennsylvania, divorcing spouses can generally take one of four approaches:
- Mutual consent divorce
- No-fault divorce after one year of separation
- Fault divorce
- Divorce following one spouse’s institutionalization
Each of these types of divorce has different requirements and a timeline.
Some divorcing spouses can reach an agreement outside of court. Others need the help of a judge to resolve their divorce. Some may rely on or need help enforcing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, our firm can identify the right strategy for a great outcome. We will work with you to resolve custody, support, and other issues that may arise.
Your Property and Assets
One initial step in a divorce is to identify and locate all assets and property that belong to the spouses. Anything purchased during the marriage will be marital property, even if only one spouse acquired it. Marital assets include the primary marital residence, rental units, or even vacation homes. For many couples, it involves at least some bank accounts and vehicles. However, additional assets that will need to be divided during divorce can include:
- A family business
- Business executive benefits
- Stock options and restricted stock
- 401k accounts
- Military retirement accounts
- Other retirement accounts
- Motor vehicles
- Real estate
- Intellectual property rights
- Paintings or other expensive collectibles
Pennsylvania law allows some assets to be omitted from the equitable distribution process. These are “non-marital” or separate assets. For example, gifts or inheritances received before or during the marriage that are kept separate might be excluded. Any property excluded in a prenuptial agreement will not be included in the equitable distribution. Whether you have a variety of assets or very few, we are here to ensure your interests are represented within your divorce and that the legal concept of equitable distribution is applied correctly and fairly in your case.
Getting the Right Help with Equitable Distribution
Finding and determining a value for all of these assets can be quite overwhelming. Depending on the types of assets you have, we may recommend using various financial experts such as a forensic accountant. It is vital to your divorce that all assets are found and correctly valued before the division of assets begins. Once the order for asset division is finalized, no amendments can be made. Using financial experts can be especially helpful if you believe your spouse could be hiding assets or devaluing a business or other property.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, adhere to the legal concept of equitable distribution when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. However, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on how to divide your assets, a judge will not need to apply this concept. If you are unable to agree on a particular asset, a judge can make a determination regarding that asset only. No matter if you agree with your spouse or not about how your assets should be split at the end of your marriage, a knowledgeable divorce attorney from our firm can assist you in understanding property division laws.
Equitable distribution only applies to marital property and not separate property. It does not mean that the property is divided equally. Equitable distribution means that the courts divide marital assets in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. However, in many cases, this will become a 50/50 division of assets and only some in which a judge awards one party more than the other.
Factors to Determine Equitable Distribution
The courts will utilize some or all of the following factors to determine what equitable distribution means in each unique divorce situation:
- The financial state and earning power of each party
- The value of each spouse’s separate property, including a spouse’s business, business interests, retirement plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, and bonds
- The degree to which each spouse contributed to the procurement of marital property
- The degree to which each spouse contributed to the education and earning power of the other spouse
- Future financial needs and liabilities of each spouse
- The ages and overall health of each spouse
- The liquidity of their marital property
- If there are any premarital and prenuptial agreements
- Spousal maintenance or alimony obligations
Divorce may end many obligations. However, it might not end them all. You may or may not have alimony obligations when your marriage comes to an end. An attorney from our firm can help you determine if you might owe or receive spousal support once you divorce.
Spousal Support vs. Alimony
Spousal support is awarded for the purpose of assisting the less well-off spouse get a fresh start after the divorce. It is a form of financial assistance that partners can negotiate on their own, or, if they choose not to, that a judge could award to one spouse.
Alimony recognizes the receiving partner’s contributions to the marriage. Perhaps they were a stay-at-home parent raising the kids while the other partner focused on their career. It can help one spouse achieve financial independence after the divorce. To determine if spousal maintenance payments should be awarded, the court will look at the following factors:
- Length of the couple’s legal marriage
- Each partner’s earning capacity
- Each partner’s contribution to household or career
- The physical health of the recipient
- The recipient’s ability to find gainful employment
Alimony payments can be made in one lump sum or in installments. When determining how much spousal support and how long it may be needed, the court will examine the circumstances of each spouse.
One of the biggest concerns of parents in a pending divorce is who will get custody of the kids or how the custody will be split. At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we know how these issues can keep you up at night. It is our goal to get you the custody arrangement you believe is best for your family. After all, no one knows your family better than you do. We can help you negotiate a fair child custody agreement with your spouse. Or, if necessary, we can show a judge how your children need the custody arrangement you are proposing.
Many types of legal cases are important to your future. However, there are few that are as fundamentally important as divorce actions. In a divorce case, the judge will make decisions that will affect your financial future and family relationships. Everything from how much support you need to pay your ex-spouse to how much time you get to spend with your kids will be part of your divorce case.
The process by which these decisions are made may seem confusing and difficult to understand. Pleadings must be filed in the exact formats required by the courts with the required information and by the established deadlines. If your pleading is not filed in the correct manner and with all of the required information, then you may inadvertently compromise your rights. It is not worth it, especially when a Pennsylvania family attorney can help you avoid problems and protect your rights.
Family lawyers know how and when to file pleadings. We know what evidence needs to be presented to the court and how to make effective arguments. We know how to comply with all applicable rules and laws. It can be difficult to do this for yourself without legal training. Thus, when your children, property, and future income are at stake, it is important to protect your rights by hiring a Pennsylvania family lawyer.
No. Pennsylvania law does not recognize legal separation. That is not to say that you cannot live in a separate residence from your spouse. In fact, living “separate and apart” from your spouse for two years is one way to establish grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, you need to only live in separate residences for 18 months to establish grounds.
In order to get a divorce, you must show the court that there is a legitimate reason for divorce. The law refers to this reason as “grounds for divorce.” The most common grounds for divorce are “irreconcilable differences” and living separate and apart for at least one year. These are the two “no fault” grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. Alternatively, you can seek to establish “fault” grounds for divorce. This is available, for example, when one spouse committed adultery or has been imprisoned for a term of two or more years. It is preferable to seek divorce on no fault grounds, because this is less expensive than filing on fault grounds.
If you and your spouse live in the same county, you can file in that county. If you live in separate counties, you can file in either county. However, if you are also pursuing child custody, you must file in the county where the child resides or resided in the previous six months if a parent still resides there.
This depends on whether you and your spouse consent to divorce. If you both consent to resolving the financial issues of your divorce expediently, you can be divorced in about a year. Sometimes, the timeline can be shorter if the finances are minimal. On the flip side, if you and your spouse do not agree, the divorce can go on longer, sometimes for years. Read More >
To get the legal divorce assistance you need, you can reach Petrelli Previtera at (215) 523-6900. You can also chat with one of our live agents or schedule your consultation online with one of the firm’s top divorce attorneys in Philadelphia. Our lawyers are available for same-day consultations.
During our first meeting, we will define your goals and any issues you may face, such as parental rights and division of property. We will answer your questions and give you the best advice on how to protect your assets. If you decide to retain us as your counsel, we can begin the process right away.
Petrelli Previtera ensures property is fairly distributed and that all income is disclosed and reflected in support agreements. We also help ensure that child custody is fair and in the best interest of yours and your children’s needs. Our divorce lawyers in Philadelphia are with you at every step and will put your needs and desires first. You have been through enough to get where you are today, so we’ll ensure our legal services make the process as easy and expedient as possible.
Contact Our Family Law Lawyers & Divorce Attorneys for Assistance
Our divorce lawyers in Philadelphia & New Jersey have years of experience representing clients and can help you move on to the next phase of your life quickly, efficiently and professionally. If you’re ready to discuss your legal options, let’s get started by scheduling an initial consultation. For your convenience, we have offices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Contact Petrelli Previtera at (215) 523-6900.
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