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Common Questions About Divorce In Pennsylvania

Pursuing a divorce is a big life transition. It also has far-reaching legal ramifications. Understandably, many people find divorce to be a stressful and intimidating process. Not knowing what to expect from a legal perspective can add to that stress and uncertainty.

I’m attorney Anna Sulanowski, a divorce lawyer and founder of ACS Family Law, PLLC, in Mt. Lebanon. I help people from all walks of life navigate the divorce process as well as related family law issues such as custody. My goal is to bring clarity and, with it, peace of mind.

Read on for answers to common divorce questions I hear.

How long will my divorce take?

The amount of time to finalize a divorce will vary upon a number of factors including the type of divorce filed and the cooperation of the opposing party.
Additional factors include the complexity of marital assets and if the parties agree as to how such assets will be distributed.
Cases involving litigation will take longer to resolve, and proceedings are scheduled according to your assigned judge’s availability.
An uncontested Pennsylvania divorce can be finalized as early as 90 days after service of the divorce complaint.

What is equitable distribution?

In a Pennsylvania divorce, equitable distribution refers to the division of marital assets and debts. It is important to note that an “equitable” division does not necessarily mean an equal one. Unlike community property states, which divide marital assets and debts on a 50/50 basis, Pennsylvania considers specific factors when deciding how the marital estate should be distributed.

What property is subject to equitable distribution?

Equitable distribution applies only to marital property, meaning the asset or debt was acquired during the marriage. Title is irrelevant -what’s yours is theirs and what’s theirs is yours. This does not necessarily mean, for example, that a car in your name will not remain with you, but it does mean the value of that car must be considered in an equitable distribution determination. Although non-marital property is not subject to equitable distribution, any increase in value is. For example, if you acquired a $100,000 house prior to the marriage and the home is now worth $150,000, $50,000 may be subject to equitable distribution. It is also possible that co-mingling non-marital property will convert it to marital property.  In the example above, if you added your spouses name to the deed or used the home as your marital residence, it is possible the full $150,000 would be subject to equitable distribution.

What if my spouse and I agree how to divide our marital property?

Equitable distribution does not have to proceed formally through the court.  If both parties are in agreement as to how to divide their marital assets and debts, an attorney can execute a Marriage Settlement Agreement to memorialize the concession. Marriage Settlement Agreements are governed by contract law and may be enforced by the Family Division Court even after a final decree in divorce has been entered.

What is a 3301(c) divorce?

A 3301(c) divorce refers to a mutual consent divorce where both parties aver that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This does not necessarily mean the parties agree as to how to resolve equitable distribution. 3301(c) refers to the relevant section of the Divorce Code

My spouse filed a divorce complaint - am I required to file an answer?

While it is not mandatory to file a responsive pleading, it is necessary to raise any claims not included in the divorce complaint, such as equitable distribution and/or alimony. Such claims are waived if not raised in a formal response.

What if I cannot locate my spouse?

It is possible to complete a divorce where one party cannot be located, however, this requires the filing spouse to obtain court permission for alternative service of the complaint and can be costly to complete.

Where should I file?

A divorce can generally be filed where either party resides. To file for a divorce in Pennsylvania, at least one of the parties must be a bona fide resident for six months immediately preceding commencement of the action.

What type of alimony is available in Pennsylvania?

In the context of divorce, there are three kinds of financial support in Pennsylvania:

  • Spousal support: Financial support before a divorce action has been initiated
  • Alimony pendente lite (APL): Financial support during a divorce action
  • Alimony: Financial support after a final divorce decree has been issued

Can I pursue legal separation instead?

Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation.

Start Moving Forward With A Free Consultation

When you work with me, you can expect clear and honest answers to all your questions. I understand the challenges you’re facing as you embark on the divorce process. I draw on my degree in psychology to provide an emotionally supportive environment.

Let’s get to know each other during a free consultation. Call 412-557-7763 to get started.