Getting a divorce in pennsylvania
Generally, a dependent spouse will not be entitled to alimony if his or her unfaithfulness was the precipitating cause of the divorce.
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A parent seeking custody or visitation rights may file a complaint in the country where the child has lived for the past six months. In many counties, a conference will be held with an appointed hearing officer to determine whether or not an agreement by the parents can be made.
Most counties required an educational seminar be attended by both parents and that children of appropriate ages attend an educational program. Finally, a hearing is held by the court at which all the evidence is presented and a determination is made. In most cases, the court will talk with the children to learn their feelings and preferences before making a decision. If the parents are not able to agree, the court will determine the custodial agreement which is in the best interest and welfare of the children.
The most common arrangement is for one parent to have primary custody while the other parent has temporary partial custody at various times during the year. However, the law no longer gives special preference to mothers over fathers. The result in any given case will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of that case.
Many counties and judges now believe that the ideal custody situation is an equally shared schedule. An award of sole custody to one parent with no custody or visitation rights to the other is rare. It is not uncommon for a court to allow a non-custodial parent to have input in making major decisions concerning the well-being of the children if the court find that both parents are fit parents and are able to communicate effectively with each other in the interest of their children.
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This is known as legal custody. It is important to differentiate between legal and physical custody when entering into a custody order. It is important to note, however, that a child is never old enough to choose which parent to live with, absent an agreement by the parents. An important factor considered by the court in determining custody is that the children continue to live in a familiar and stable home environment.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Pennsylvania?
Courts are reluctant to disturb an existing arrangement or to move children from their current school district if the children are doing well. The courts are also reluctant to split siblings between parents. Denial of visitation or custody rights is not a lawful excuse for ignoring a support order. A person has the right to go to court to enforce visitation or partial custody rights, but it is a separate proceeding. Refusing to pay support because of denial of visitation or custody rights will only result in legal action being taken to enforce the support order.
An order of court establishing custody or visitation rights may always be modified providing that the change is in the best interest and welfare of the children.
If a person willfully does not comply with a court order, that person could be cited for contempt of the court order and the other parent will be entitled to make up time with their children. Courts do not look favorably upon a parent that has willfully withheld the children from the other parent and it often negatively affects their custody litigation.
According to the law, both parents have a responsibility to support their children, which continues even after a divorce. In determining the amount of child support to be paid by one parent or the other, the court will consider the incomes of both parents or their respective earning capacities.
Statewide support guidelines establish a presumptive amount of support, with the primary emphasis placed on income. A copy of these guidelines is available at the domestic relations office at your county courthouse. Once a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, the parents generally are no longer required to support that child.
Parents are not required to pay support to a child who is attending college unless they have mutually agreed to do so in writing. A person seeking support may file a complaint for support in the domestic relations section of the trial court for no charge.
Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
If a support order is entered, the payee will be required to pay a yearly fee. Generally, a conference will be held with a hearing officer at which both parents will be required to disclose their income and expenses. An attempt will be made by the hearing officer to have the parties reach an agreement as to the amount of support, if any.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the usual procedure is for the hearing officer to submit a recommendation to the court as to the nature and amount of support that should be awarded. The court will enter an order of support based on that recommendation.
A Guide to Divorce in Pennsylvania
When both parties exhaust their appeal rights, it will become the final order. In Allegheny County, the support process is slightly different. The conference officer does not have the authority to enter a recommendation and if the parties are unable to reach an agreement they will be sent to hearing held on the same day.
The Hearing Officer will hear testimony and accept evidence and will issue a recommendation within 30 days. If either party is not satisfied with the recommendation, they may file exceptions to be reviewed by the judge. An increase or decrease in earnings by the spouse or parent or in the needs of the children are examples of substantial changes in circumstances. Failure to obey a court support order could also result in a term of imprisonment.
Support orders entered into in one state will be enforced in other states which have adopted a reciprocal support law.
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If the whereabouts of the parent who is paying support are unknown, the federal government can provide assistance to courts to locate the missing parent. Circuit Court links — links to sites for a number of Pennsylvania circuit courts Provided by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Other legal links also available. Pennsylvania Bar Association — searchable court opinions, bar news and legal info for the public are available the PBA.
Cordell and Cordell, P. Men come to Cordell and Cordell because they want to feel that their interests and the interests of their children are aggressively championed. Appellate Court Web Docket Sheets. Source: National Center for State Courts. Report broken links or send suggestions by contacting us. Pennsylvania Attorney Directory. Pennsylvania Child Support Calculator.
Legal Overview Many times, parties going through a divorce will also face issues of child custody and support. No-Fault If a divorce is by mutual consent and both parties sign Affidavits of Consent, the court will grant a divorce 90 days after the service of the complaint on the other party. Just as in the mutual consent divorce, the plaintiff spouse states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the couple cannot reconcile.
The third way is for the plaintiff spouse to state in the complaint that the other spouse the defendant has caused the marriage to fail. Some of the more common grounds are adultery, desertion for more than one year, indignities, the defendant has treated the plaintiff very badly and cruel treatment. Using grounds requires the expertise of a Pennsylvania family law attorney. The Court of Common Pleas for each county handles family law cases. The divorce can be filed in the county where the plaintiff or the defendant resides. Pennsylvania Legal Services website has a number of brochures, videos, and sample forms to guide the self represented person through the divorce process.
The website can be found at www. While there are no statewide forms available, some individual counties have samples through their websites. If you use sample forms for a county different from your home county, make sure to adapt the forms by changing the name of the county and making any other necessary adjustments.
Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania