What should you consider when you get separated?
So, you have decided that you want a divorce – now what? This post provides a quick overview five things that you need to know and consider when beginning the divorce process.
- Legal Separation: Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Pennsylvania. If you want to be considered “separated” from your spouse, then one of you should move out of the marital residence, or one of you should file for divorce. Even though there is no legal separation in Pennsylvania, it is important to establish a date of separation since this is the date that will be used to value your assets. In some cases, couples remain in the same home but still are considered to be living separate and apart. If you and your spouse are still living together, you should consult with an attorney to discuss separation and the impact that the established date of separation could have on your case.
- Where to File: You can file for divorce in Pennsylvania if either you or your spouse has lived here for at least 6 months. Venue is proper either in the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives. Before filing, it is smart to consult an attorney about which forum may be best-suited for your individual case.
- Fault vs. No-Fault: Pennsylvania offers the option of a no-fault divorce, and the vast majority of divorces in Pennsylvania are no-fault. However, when a divorce can be granted on fault-based grounds (such as adultery, indignities, or desertion, to name a few), Pennsylvania allows spouses to proceed on these grounds. The advantage of fault-based divorces is that it allows the aggrieved spouse to fast-track the divorce process when he has been wronged but his spouse refuses to consent to a no-fault divorce. An attorney can help you decide whether to proceed on fault or no-fault grounds, or both.
- Divorce Complaint: Once you decide where and how to file for divorce, you need to file a divorce Complaint with the appropriate county’s Prothonotary. You should consult with an attorney to determine whether it is appropriate for you to include additional counts in your divorce complaint, such as equitable distribution, alimony, alimony pendente lite, and/or counsel fees. You may also want to include a claim for child custody in your divorce complaint. An attorney can help you decide what is most appropriate for your unique set of circumstances.
- Proper Service: After the Complaint has been filed, it must be served on your spouse. Pennsylvania has specific service rules that must be explicitly followed in order for service of the divorce Complaint to be valid. The Complaint must be properly served upon your spouse within 30 days or else it will need to be reinstated. Proof of service must then be supplied to the court.
We realize that filing for divorce is not a decision that anyone makes lightly. To speak to an attorney who understands the impact that a divorce has on your family, call Jessica Smith or Alexis Miloszewski at (717) 883-5671, or send an email to FamilyLaw@jsdc.com to schedule a consultation to discuss your divorce options.