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Family Law

How long will my divorce take?

- If you and your spouse have an agreement as to all issues, including divorce, an uncontested divorce can be completed in approximately five-to-six months. The main reason for the length of time is that the law requires the parties to wait 90 days after the Divorce Complaint is served on your spouse. If you and your spouse have been separated for more than two years you do not have to wait the 90 days. During the 90 day “waiting period” the attorney can draft a document called a “Property Settlement Agreement” which memorializes the terms of your agreement. At the conclusion of the divorce, this will become a Court Order.


Can my spouse and I live together and still file divorce?

- The divorce can be started while the two of you are still living together. In fact, you can get divorced while living together. Generally, however, you cannot file for custody or support while the two of you are living together, except in special situations.


Can I change my last name back to my maiden name?

- Yes. At the conclusion of the divorce you can resume your maiden name without going to court. A spouse cannot compel the other person to resume their maiden name.


What if my spouse does not agree to the divorce?

- In Pennsylvania, if your spouse does not agree to sign the consent for a divorce, you can proceed without their consent after two years of “separation” or if the legal basis for “fault grounds” exists.


Is there still such a thing as alimony in Pennsylvania?

- Absolutely. There are many factors that affect the court’s determination in awarding alimony. The biggest factors are the length of the marriage, the income of the parties, whether or not one parent has custody of minor children and the size of your estate. The Court in determining whether or not to award alimony will consider each of the factors.


If my child’s other parent and I agree to a schedule do we still have to go to court?

- No. The best interest of your child involves you as parents deciding the custodial arrangements for your child. It is better for the two of you to agree and then have an attorney formalize that agreement so that it becomes a Court Order. The attorney will ensure that the Agreement will protect you in the future so as to avoid any problems.


What types of custody are there?

- In Pennsylvania, there are two forms of custody – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the obligation to consult one another for major medical, educational and religious decisions. Neither parent is allowed to unilaterally make these decisions. Physical custody is the actual “possession” of the child based upon the overnights. One parent usually has primary physical custody, which means you have more of the overnights, and the other parent has partial physical custody, which is less of the overnights. Physical custody can also be shared which means that you each have 50% of the overnights.


What is alimony?

- Alimony is money that one former spouse pays to the other after the divorce is final. It can be court ordered or paid by agreement and is usually paid in monthly installments. Alimony Pendente Lite is money that one spouse pays to the other after the divorce lawsuit is started and paid until it is final. APL is not automatic and has to be paid only if requested by the spouse with less money and court ordered.


What is a Custody Conference?

- A Custody Conference is a one-hour conference conducted by an attorney (Custody Conference Officer) appointed by the court. The purpose of the Custody Conference is to give each party a chance to share their concerns, help them work through their differences, try to reach an agreement and to avoid the emotional cost to children involved in a custody hearing. The Custody Conference process frequently works in helping the parties reach an agreement.


What is Equitable Distribution?

- Equitable Distribution refers to the legal process by which marital property is distributed to husband and wife as part of a divorce. Equitable distribution is not mandatory as a husband and wife can reach an agreement out of court for splitting up marital property. Agreements such as this are contracts and are referred to by such terms as Marital Settlement Agreement, Property Settlement Agreement and Post-Nuptial Agreement.


What is Shared Custody?

- Shared custody is when both parties have equal legal and physical custody of a child.


What is Legal Custody?

- Legal custody refers to the legal right to participate in major decisions affecting the best interest of a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions. In most cases parents share legal custody with each parent possessing the right to participate in major decisions impacting the child.


What is Partial Custody?

- Partial Physical custody refers to the right to take possession of a child away from the custodial parent for a certain period of time. Most cases involve a person who has primary physical custody, with whom the child resides most of the time and a person who has partial physical custody of the child on a limited basis.


What is Physical Custody?

- Physical custody refers to the actual physical possession and control of a child at any given time.


What is Visitation?

- Visitation refers to the right to visit a child but not the right to remove a child from the custodial parent’s control.


What are Grandparents Rights?

- Grandparent rights is actually a generic term for the right or ability of certain third parties to have some form of custody with children in certain situations as a result of their relationship with a child. Although this usually applies to grandparents and their grandchildren, there are situations when a non-relative may be able to obtain some form of custody depending if certain, limited criteria are met.


What is the Grandparents’ Rights Statute?

- The statute allows the court to grant custody to grandparents, and non-relative third party’s in certain situations, as long as it does not interfere with parental relationships. It also covers the general rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren.

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