If you have started to think that divorce is inevitable because your marriage is no longer fulfilling or healthy, you probably have tons of questions. Divorce laws vary from state to state, which means that your sister’s experience in West Virginia will have very little bearing on your situation in Pennsylvania.
Before you make any legal decisions or announcements, it’s important to answer your basic questions about the divorce process so that you can move forward with confidence.
Do you need grounds to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania?
Legal grounds for divorce include abandonment, abuse and adultery, among others. All of these scenarios involve essentially blaming one spouse for the decline of the marriage.
Even in scenarios where one spouse is clearly at fault, needing to prove that fault in court can lead to protracted and expensive divorce proceedings. Thankfully, Pennsylvania allows for no-fault divorces that don’t require that you prove that your spouse abused you or cheated on you.
Does your spouse have to agree to divorce you?
If you want to divorce but you think that your spouse doesn’t, you might worry that you can’t move forward with the process until they changed their mind. The good news is that you do not need their approval to file for divorce. Only one spouse has to consent to the divorce process for it to move forward in Pennsylvania.
What will the courts do with your property in a divorce?
The Pennsylvania family courts apply the equitable distribution standard to marital assets during a divorce. Everything that you acquire and earn during marriage is likely part of that marital estate unless you have a marital agreement on record.
In an equitable distribution scenario, the judge will try to fairly split up your property and debts based on your circumstances and contributions to the marriage, including unpaid labor around the house and custody of any children you share.
How did the Pennsylvania family courts handle custody?
Everyone has heard at least one exaggerated nightmare story about an unfair custody outcome that can make them nervous about filing for divorce. The good news is that the Pennsylvania family courts do their best to center the best interests of the children in all of their custody decisions.
For most families, that will mean a shared custody scenario. For situations involving extreme circumstances like addiction or abuse, the courts will consider those issues when deciding how to allocate the custody of children.
There are many other questions that you probably have about divorce, but they will probably reflect your personal situation and requires some interpretation. Sitting down to talk about your concerns and circumstances with a family law attorney can leave you more confident about your decision to dissolve your marriage.