Divorce

There are two types of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania.  

(1)  A consent divorce 

This type of Divorce can be utilized when both parties agree to the divorce.  Under this type of divorce, the parties must wait a ninety (90) day period from the date of service of the complaint before a Divorce Decree will be issued. 

(2) A unilateral divorce, which occurs when one party wishes to proceed with a divorce while the other party does not. Under this type of divorce, the parties must live separate and apart for a period of time exceeding one (1) year before a Divorce Decree will be issued. 

During the waiting period, the parties usually attempt to work out any economic claims that they may have.  What normally happens during this time is that a Marriage Settlement Agreement, which outlines the settlement the parties have reached on the economic issues, is also filed at this time.  If the divorce and economic issues are resolved between the parties, there is no need for Court appearances or extensive legal fees on the part of either party.  

At the end of the waiting period, the divorce can be finalized by each party filing an Affidavit with the Court indicating that each of the parties consent to the divorce. 

If the parties do not reach an agreement within the one year waiting period, a party can file a request for the case to be reviewed by a Divorce Master (an attorney who is appointed to act as a decision maker in a Divorce Matter). The Divorce Master will hear the case, much like a judge would hear a case, and make a decision on the financial affairs of the parties. A Divorce Master will NOT decide issues of Custody or Child Support.


Fault Divorce 

While a Fault Divorce is rare due to the cost associated with bringing an action under fault grounds, it is possible to bring a divorce action through the fault provision of the Divorce Code.


The fault grounds in Pennsylvania include:

(a) adultery

(b) abandonment without cause for at least one (1) year

(b) cruelty, including domestic violence, which endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse

(c) bigamy

(d) conviction of a crime and imprisonment for two or more years, and

(e) humiliating the innocent spouse in such a way that makes the marriage intolerable.

Custody

 

There are two types of Custody in PA:

(1) Legal Custody - This type of custody includes decision making regarding the child and is usually shared in PA, meaning that the parents must work together to make decisions concerning their child such as, religion, schooling, etc.

(2) Physical Custody - This type of custody is the living arrangement of the child. There is a wide variety of options that can be agreed upon by the parties.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement on their own, a party can file a Custody Complaint with the Court. The Court will then schedule a Custody Conciliation for the parties and their attorneys, if any. At this Conciliation, the parties will work to come to an agreement with the help of their attorneys and a conciliator. A Conciliator is a Court appointed Attorney who works to help the parties come to an agreement without the need to go to court.

Bankruptcy

My office handles Chapter 7 Bankruptcy only.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, gets rid of all of a person's debt that is legally able to be erased. 


Qualification:

In order to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you must be eligible. In order to determine if you are eligible, my office will apply the means test. If you are eligible, we would then discuss your assets and debts and begin work on filing for Bankruptcy. If you are not eligible for a Chapter 7 I would refer you to a firm that does the other types of Bankruptcy.


Debts that CANNOT be discharged by Bankruptcy:

(a) Student Loans

(b) Alimony

(c) Child Support

(d) Fines, Penalties, and restitution that you owe for breaking the law

(e) Certain Tax Debts

(f) debts arising out of someone's death or injury as a result of your intoxicated driving.

Support

 

Support can include the following:


(1) Child Support - Child Support is calculated using standard guidelines and is based on both parties incomes.

If a party is awarded child support, it will remain in effect until the child graduates from high school, or turns 18, whichever comes last. However, child support is always modifiable.

(2) Alimony - Alimony is a monthly payment  or a lump sum payment (usually a monthly payment) made to a spouse in order to allow the dependent spouse to get back on their feet after the divorce.

There are 17 factors that a Court will look at to determine whether Alimony should be awarded and if so, how much. These factors are found in Title 23, Section 3701 of the Divorce Code.

Cohabitation is a bar to Alimony. Cohabitation occurs when a party lives with someone they are not related to and their living arrangement resembles that of a marriage.

(3) Spousal Support - During a divorce or legal separation proceeding, a court may impose a financial obligation on one spouse to continue supporting the other spouse after the divorce or separation.

This form of Support, if awarded, ends once the Divorce is finalized. It can however, continue in the form of Alimony

(4) Alimony Pendente Lite - a court ordered temporary alimony. The court can order this any time before the Divorce is finalized This type of Alimony is much like spousal support and is designed to provide support during the divorce process so that each spouse can maintain his/her standard of living.

Social Security Disability

 

This is a program that allows for monthly payments from the government, based on the amount of money you have paid in through taxes over the years. You can be entitled to these payments if you become disabled and are unable to work prior to retirement age.

Guardianship

 

Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity or disability. 

You can request to become a guardian of a Minor or a disabled adult. In order to become a Guardian of a Person you must ask the court for permission to do so. 

If you are awarded guardianship you have the legal authority to make decisions for that person. This is why it is so important for the Court to ensure that the responsibility is given to the proper person.

Guardianship of a Minor can be given to a person who is not the parent of a child. 

Types of Guardianship: (it is possible to have both)

(1) Guardianship of the Estate - This gives the guardian the ability to make all decision s regarding the finances and assets of the incapacitated person or minor

(2) Guardianship of the person - Gives the Guardian the ability to make decision about the person, such as medical decisions, schooling, etc. 

There is also a type of Guardianship that can be utilized in  some Child Custody cases, Probate matters, or cases where there has been abuse or neglect of the child. This occurs when the court appoints a guardian, known as a Guardian Ad Litem, to represent the child's interest in a legal matter. That appointed person then acts in the best interests of the child regarding the legal matter.

Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will

When you come in do have a Will prepared in my office I will prepare three documents for you: (if you do not want all three, I will prepare only the documents you choose)


(1) Last Will and Testament - This document allows you put together a few things while you are alive that you would not after your death. (1) it allows you to  appoint someone to be in charge of your estate and to make sure that your assets are distributed as you wish. (2) it allows you to outline how you want your property to be distributed (either to children, charities, or friends) (3) it allows you to appoint a guardian of a minor child, if you have one, in order to assure they are taken care of in the event of your untimely death.


(2) Power of Attorney - This legal document gives a person who you appoint, the power to make decisions on your behalf, regarding aspects of your life, such as finances, etc.  This appointment can be revoked at any time during your life. A power of Attorney does not survive the death of the person, and only applies during the life of the person who executed the document, and therefore it is important to also have a Will, which appoints a person to handle your estate after your death.


(3) Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney (Living Will) - This gives the person you designate as your Power of Attorney the ability, if you were to become incapacitated to make any necessary medical decisions on your behalf.