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divorce Archives

Marital Agreements

Given the statistics on the likelihood of divorce, many couples are opting to enter into pre-nuptial agreements to protect their rights in the event of a divorce. A pre-nuptial agreement is a private contract between the parties entered into prior to their marriage that outlines how assets and debts will be handled if the parties subsequently divorce. A post-nuptial agreement is a contract that can be entered into during the marriage. It may be contemplated in the context of temporary or long-term separation or just as a precaution to minimize litigation costs if there ever is a divorce. A standard agreement would provide that each party retains anything they acquire in their own name and that anything marital or acquired jointly will be divided based on the divorce laws or a mutually agreed upon percentage. An agreement may also provide for support to a spouse based on the number of years married or number of children produced. Alternatively, one spouse may be required to pay support as a punishment if they commit adultery during the marriage.

Post Divorce Issues

As long as your relationship, in some way, continues with your ex-spouse there is always potential for conflict. That relationship may be financial, because of ongoing alimony or child support payments, or parental, due to child custody and visitation. Spouses that finally, officially split are almost universally glad the legal process is over, but the reality is for many people that process is just starting a new phase.

Don't Point That Smoking Gun at Yourself: Hacking Your Spouse's Email is a Bad Idea

We've all seen too many courtroom dramas where just in the nick of time that critical piece of evidence is dramatically thrust into the hands of the defendant or waived around in front of the jury. Even attorneys sometimes fantasize about having those moments but litigation is normally pretty mundane. Parties and their attorneys would love to have that "smoking gun" evidence to hammer the other side with, but getting it may cost more than its worth.

Starting the Divorce Process

When you make the decision to divorce you have many aspects of life to manage. As we start to the process with you, we help you get organized and sort things out. While divorce can be scary it can also be a time of great transformation as you start to build a new life for yourself. We know there are times of uncertainty but help you navigate through those so you do not get overwhelmed.

Date of Separation

Determining the date of separation is important for valuing the marital estate as well as grounds for divorce. Section 3103 of the Divorce Code defines "separate and apart" as follows: Cessationof cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not. In the event a complaint in divorce is filed and served, it shall be presumed that the parties commenced to live separate and apart not later than the date that the complaint was served." Accordingly, separation does not mean the parties have to live separately. Many parties still reside in the same home but are considered to be "separate" based on the definition provided by the Divorce Code.

Time Frame for Family Law Cases

One of the most popular questions we receive from our clients is how long will their case take. There are a number of factors that can impact the time line for your case. One of the biggest factors is the cooperation, or lack thereof, of the other party. Resolving matters by agreement is almost always quicker than litigation. However, if an agreement is not possible, the court's schedule will dictate when your case can be heard. For custody and support matters in Bucks County, it is approx. six (6) weeks from date of filing to the date of your first court appearance. The first appearance is a conference to see if the matter can be resolved with the assistance of a court officer. If there is still no resolution after the conference it can be another six (6) weeks until you have a hearing before a Judge. With a custody case, there is the potential the parties will need to participate in a custody evaluation. The evaluation can take several months to complete. The evaluator then has six (6) weeks to draft their report for the court. You can motion for a custody hearing once the report is received and again, be prepared to wait at least six (6) weeks from date of filing to the actual hearing date.

Exclusive Possession of Marital Home

Once a relationship starts to turn south one of the first objectives is often to find a way to physically separate. This can be difficult if the parties own a home together. Neither party may want to give up the marital residence. It can also be difficult financially to go from sustaining one household to two. In situations where there is a lot of hostility, tension and potential for even physical fighting, it is necessary to get a party out of the home sooner rather than later for the sake of everyone involved. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. § 3502(c), the court has the express authority to award exclusive possession of the marital residence to one or both parties during the pendency of the divorce. Laczkowski v. Laczkowski, decided in 1985, was the first case to hold that the court could award exclusive possession of the martial residence during a divorce. 344 Pa. Super. 154 (Pa. Super. 1985). In Laczkowski, the home was to be given to the spouse having physical custody of any minor children.

Securing a mortgage after your divorce

Whether you are taking over the mortgage on your current home or buying yourself a new house, you will want to walk carefully through the mortgage application process as you divorce. To save money, you want a mortgage with the lowest costs and interest rate. There is no guarantee you'll get the mortgage you want but by planning ahead and being proactive there's a better chance you will.

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