Author Archives: Enrico Pagnanelli

Does an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania Let You Skip Court?

We’ve all heard horror stories about long, ugly divorce battles. Instead of moving forward with their lives, once-loving couples put all their resources into going to court and trying to hurt each other, or at the very least to “win.” If you and your spouse live in Pennsylvania and are in agreement with how you want to end your marriage, you can skip court entirely by pursuing an uncontested divorce. Also known as a “mutual consent divorce” or a “no-fault divorce,” in Pennsylvania, an uncontested divorce is possible when both spouses agree on all the issues. Ian uncontested divorce allows spouses to finalize their divorce quickly, cheaply and with no emotional drama. If neither party is seeking support and there is no property to divide, the divorce itself can be finalized before any custody or child support issues are worked out. If you and your spouse have property to divide, or one person is seeking support, then those issues need to be worked out before the divorce is finalized.

The Mutual Consent Divorce Process

In Pennsylvania, a mutual consent divorce applies when couples have been separated for yes than a year. In order to obtain a mutual consent divorce, couples must state that their marriage is irretrievably broken and be willing to sign an affidavit stating their intent to end it. If all of those elements are present, then the process is simple and relatively painless.

It starts with a Complaint in Divorce being filed with the Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts by one of the spouses. The spouse that completes and files the Complaint will be the Plaintiff, while the other becomes the Defendant. After filing, the Plaintiff spouse has to “serve” or ensure that the other spouse receives a copy of the paperwork according to the rules of Pennsylvania. Service must be done within thirty days of filing the complaint.

Ninety days after the Defendant spouse has been served, both spouses need to sign an Affidavit of Consent. This document says that each spouse agrees to the divorce moving forward. Once the Affidavits of Consent are signed, each spouse can also sign a “Waiver of Notice” to skip any remaining waiting periods before asking for the final divorce decree. Once all documents have been signed, the Plaintiff spouse needs to submit all the paperwork to the Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts with a Praecipe to Transmit, which is a document showing the court you followed all the rules and asking for the entry of the divorce decree. Once submitted, the paperwork will be reviewed and approved by a judge for signature of the Final Decree of Divorce. Certified copies will be sent to both spouses and the marriage will officially be dissolved.

An uncontested divorce is easy to accomplish if you and your spouse don’t have children or aren’t arguing about assets or support. Things can be more complicated when there are children involved, though custody and child support can be negotiated at any time, either before or after the marriage is legally over. Many couples work with attorneys to ensure that they have not overlooked any important legal issues or to help with terms of child custody and support while still proceeding with an uncontested divorce to save time, money and headaches.
If you are considering divorce and would like to speak to an experienced, compassionate attorney who can help you get through the process as painlessly as possible, contact us today to set up a time to meet and discuss your situation.


Instead of a judge deciding your child’s future, you and your spouse can decided to get a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement, for couples with children, is a legal document which spells out the details of how matters surrounding your child will be handled. This can save you a lot of financial and emotional costs. A settlement agreement provides clear guidelines to be followed, which also gives your child the added security of knowing what to expect. Any agreement involving children needs to be in the best interest of the child/ren at all times.

Health Insurance

Make sure to inform your lawyer which parent is going to cover health insurance and how any bills from medical problems will be handled. This would include how medical costs not covered by insurance are going to be covered. Another question to be considered is who will pay for this continued health coverage, or will you opt to split the costs?

Dental & Eye Insurance

These two types of insurance are not usually covered by general health insurance. Adding this to a settlement agreement now will save you backtracking and additional legal paperwork, not to mention additional medical cost of being uninsured and legal costs of going to court.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is a major consideration if you have children. Costs under this category can include anything from daycare to piano lessons. Don’t forget to include school activities and the expense of gas for transporting your child to different activities.

Parenting Time

Some questions to consider for your settlement agreement are:

  1. Who will your children live with? Will there be a primary parent that the children stay with?
  2. Who will your children spend the summer, vacations and holidays with?
  3. Is there a schedule you want to create to split parenting time between you and your spouse?
  4. How will children be exchanged between you and your spouse? Will you use a third party?
  5. How will you communicate to make arrangements for the children and any other issues related to them?
  6. How will you handle situations when one of you cannot meet the schedule? Will you request prior notice?

College Costs

You might think your children are too young to think about this now, but getting this in writing now will save the headache of going to court later. Broaden your agreement to include items outside of “immediate school costs”. This could mean anything from late night pizzas to a semester abroad in Italy. Be as specific as you can about what is expected from each parent.

Your child’s security is a priority with No Contest Divorce Law, LLC. To get your marital settlement agreement started today call 215-398-6760 or click on SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT to learn more.


Wedding costs can put a high amount of stress on a new marriage. Often newlyweds find themselves in debt just as the couple starts their new life together. This strain in finances can quickly lead to arguments and discord in the relationship.

In the U.S. weddings average between $19,223 to $32,039. Add anywhere from another 50-100% more if the wedding included custom services and products, experienced professionals, designer labels and popular event places. Below is a sample of five average costs for a wedding:


1. Wedding Planner $2,600 – $4,300
2. Wedding Dress $875 – $1,400
3. Engagement Ring $2,400 – $4,000
4. Photographer $1,200 – $2,000
5. Bar Service $1,800 – $3,000

Financial pressures often increase as the new couple purchases their first home, appliances, furniture and other related items. Money is the prime reason couples argue and the number one reason they divorce. Over 70% of couples talk about money on a weekly basis, and the conversations tend to be emotionally based.

The combinations of a downturn in the economy and not having been taught how to effectively engage in financial discussions have resulted in heated and emotional arguments. A spouse may have also kept money secrets thinking that their new spouse wouldn’t find out, or it thinking that it wouldn’t really affect his/her spouse. Lying about finances is a common secret among spouses.

Now that you are considering a divorce it is time to separate emotion from money. The financial road to recovery after divorce can be difficult, especially if you do not have an agreement in writing. Memories can fade or attitudes can change with time. Get your agreement in writing by having a settlement agreement prepared. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement that you both think is fair, then you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to fight over your assets and debt in court.

This is the time to sit down with your spouse and figure out how you are going to divide debt. Who will pay for what portion of debt? How long will it take?

It’s better to pay a little now to have an agreement prepared rather than a lot later to have a judge decide who is telling the truth. You will both sign it and it will be filed with your divorce paperwork. You can then have the agreement enforced in court at a later date, if necessary. Attorney Jim Cairns can put your agreements into writing and ensure you have a legal document to protect yourself. Don’t wait till after the divorce and realize it’s too late.

Once you have decided how you are going to handle the division of finances contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC at 215-398-6760 or click on the words settlement agreement to learn how to get your settlement agreement started.


You want to make sure you have covered your bases and are not being duped by your spouse with hidden assets. To make a martial settlement agreement as fair as possible consider the following.

Start with looking at your expenses. Are your expenses higher than the income that is coming into the house? If so, where is this additional income coming from? When discovering a financial discrepancy one of the best places to start is looking at your spouse’s tax return forms. Some of the key items you want to look at while reviewing tax forms for the last five years are: real estate, trusts, partnerships and inconsistencies in income.

Should you find out after the divorce that your spouse was illegally hiding assets the law permits you a reasonable time to back track and get your share. However, it’s best to do this before you sign the settlement agreement, thus saving you a lot of headache.

Overpayment is a method some spouses will use to hide money. While you are looking at the tax forms, take a look and see if your spouse made a significant overpayment. Your spouse could be banking on that you aren’t going to find out and later on he/she will get a nice refund after the divorce. This also holds true for creditors, don’t overlook these payments.

Third parties are another good source to scrutinize. Did your spouse suddenly have to pay off debt to a friend? Often these types of arrangements are made with the condition that the money be given back after the divorce. Is there a lover in the picture? Was there money spent on a girl/boyfriend – vacations, rent or gifts? Is your spouse and his/her boss close? Would his/her boss wait to pay that big bonus or give a pay raise until after the divorce? Don’t forget to look at stock options and retirement benefits an employer may be holding onto until after the divorce. Also, see if there any contracts that your spouse has been delaying in signing.

Time to visit some government offices. At the County Tax Assessor’s Office you can learn about any home or land that your spouse owns, you will get the address and the assessed taxable value of the property. The courthouse is a must when searching for hidden assets. Records from the courthouse will tell you if your spouse has borrowed money from a mortgage company or a bank. These records will hold information about each asset the person owns and the value, it’s required for the loan application(s).

Bank accounts should be checked for a few different things. Look at the savings account, has there been a huge withdrawal/deposit or unusual patterns of activity? Take a look through cancelled checks. You may find payment for something you weren’t aware of, for example a property payment. In addition, be on the look out for children’s bank accounts which sometimes do not have to be reported as income to the IRS. Don’t forget to make copies of all your financial records.

Once you discover all of your marital assets you can hammer out an agreement with your spouse. Contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC for a marital settlement agreement questionnaire to help guide you. No Contest Divorce Law, LLC Offices prepares marital settlement agreements at an affordable cost. Make sure to check out our settlement agreement blogs and settlement agreement page on our website. Contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC at 215-398-6760 or click on the words DIVORCE MASTER to get a free case analysis.


After two weeks of being tabloid stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes surprisingly hammered out a marital settlement agreement. What looked like a divorce that was going to be dragged through the media and court system has come to an amicable resolution. Cruise and Holmes decided to avoid a long legal battle and do what is best for their six-year old daughter, Suri.

In a statement, jointly prepared by both parties, sent to CNN by Cruise both parties have expressed their desire to keep the divorce a family matter.

To paraphrase the statement:

We are dedicated to cooperating as parents to accomplishing what is in our daughter’s best interests. We want to keep isues affecting our family private and show our respect for each other’s dedication to each of our respective way of thinking and support each other’s roles as parents.”

The martial settlement agreement has saved a lot of embarrassment and emotional pain for not only Cruise and Holmes, but also for people close to them. If a court battle would have been the route for this divorce, Cruise would have suffered damage to his public image and Scientology would have walked away with some battle wounds.

The settlement agreement has been signed and the case settled. From initial reports Holmes will be the primary parent who is responsible for Suri on a daily basis. This part of the agreement worked out for both parties because Cruise was often away from the home due to his career. Another component of the agreement is religion. Though Holmes is protective about the exposure Suri will have to Scientology, Cruise is still free to teach his daughter about his religion.

Divorces with martial settlement agreements are becoming more common. Couples want to save their monies for life after the divorce and not bleed themselves dry in a full blown court drama. Also, the emotional toll of having to relive the pain and suffering of divorce is a top reason couples are figuring how to work out their own affairs and get them into a legal agreement.

Holmes had hired three law firms in three states. You only need one law firm backing you with No Contest Divorce Law, LLC. If you are looking to have a martial settlement agreement, No Contest Divorce Law, LLC can create a legal document which will protect your agreed upon rights. To get started call 215-398-6760 or click on the words SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT. Go to our Divorce Master for a free case analysis and file your simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce case today.


If you have been married for ten years or more you may qualify for Social Security benefits through your spouse. There are four requirements which you need to fulfill in order to apply for benefits.

The first one is having been married ten or more years to your spouse. Below are the other three:

  1. You are unmarried;
  2. You are at least 62 years old; and
  3. You are not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record.

Do keep in mind if you remarry you will most likely lose this Social Security benefit, unless you remarry the same spouse. If you do remarry and the marriage ends in divorce, annulment or a deceased spouse you may qualify for benefits from the initial spouse you married.

You do not have to rely on your spouse to fill out an application for benefits. If he or she qualifies you can go ahead and initiate the paperwork for your benefits regardless of the action your spouse may or may not have taken.

In the event that your spouse becomes deceased you may qualify for benefits as a surviving spouse. In this case the requirements are slightly different, though you must have still been married for at least ten or more years. Listed below are the other two general requirements:

  1. You are at least age 60, if you are disabled then you can apply at age 50; and
  2. You are not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record.

Benefits paid to a surviving or divorced spouse will not affect benefits paid to family members under the same record. To receive an estimate of your possible benefits you can contact a representative at your local Social Security office.

As you are considering your assets and debts in your marriage, you may also want to have a settlement agreement which will legally protect your financial future. No Contest Divorce Law, LLC also concentrates on settlement agreements, call 215-398-6760 for more information or click on SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT to learn more.


You have decided to get divorced. Where do you begin? A top priority is putting your finances in order. This will give you a solid start once the divorce is final and minimize potential surprises. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably already had enough surprises for a while.

At the top of your list should be getting a credit report. Order them right away. You can get a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies each year. Once you get them go over them with a fine toothed-comb and see if there are any discrepancies or items you may have forgotten to include in your settlement agreement– for example, credit card debt.

You are entitled to a free credit report every twelve months, that’s once a year. The top three companies you want to make sure you get a report from are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Some of the information you can expect to find in your credit report include: how you pay your bills, where you live, if you have been sued, if you have filed for bankruptcy and/or if you have been arrested. Keep in mind this information is used by employers, landlords, insurers and applications for credit. Also, beware of imposter websites – we suggest you look up the Federal Trade Commission for details.

Close joint credit cards, if you are not prohibited by a court. The last thing you want to learn is that your spouse went on a spending spree and you are now responsible for this debt.

Tax refunds, if filed jointly, a refund check will be sent in both your name and your spouse’s name or direct-deposited into an account. Use a settlement agreement to make sure the refund is divided between both of you.

With frequent flier miles you have a couple of options. You can either have tickets issued to one of the parties or one of the spouses can monetarily compensate the other for the points.

If Insurance is prepaid, such as house, life, disability and health insurance, then determine the amount that is currently prepaid. Prepayments can be considered part of your marital assets when valuing and dividing up property and finances.

Timeshares can also be dealt with in a few different ways. You and your spouse can continue to own it jointly, one spouse retain it (often at a lesser value than it’s purchase price, since timeshares are usually worth less than what is owed on them- consider an appraisal to find out for sure), or you can agree to sell the timeshare and split any equity or debt.

Professional dues and magazine subscriptions normally offer a significant discount when prepaid two to three years in advance. If monies from your shared accounts were used to pay for this make sure you account for this when reviewing your finances.

No Contest Divorce Law, LLC can legally help you protect your financial assets by preparing a settlement agreement which will be legally binding. If you and your spouse can agree upon how you are going to divide your property and finances, a settlement agreement can save you money. Contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC at 215-398-6760 or click on the words SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT to learn more.


The school year is about to start for many students throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Changes from a summer schedule to the scholastic schedule will soon start to affect your family as you settle into new routines. This is a good time to pull out your marital settlement agreement and review details for the upcoming school year.

If you are divorcing in Pennsylvania and are currently working out your marital settlement agreement we have some areas you may want to consider to help this time of year run smoothly for you and your family. Will physical custody of the children change between you and your spouse as your children head into the new school year? Have you decided if your children spend every other summer, or every summer, with one individual? Prepare a child custody schedule to ensure a seamless transition for your children from one household to the other.

Another consideration is splitting summer time between two households. How will you handle vacations that are away from home? Will your children be spending time at family functions such as family reunions?

Divorce means that you must divide child rearing responsibilities differently. Think about the roles and responsibilities which will play out during the school year. Will one parent have sole responsibility for educating the children? How will you distribute responsibilities for your child, such as extra-curricular activities? Will one person be in charge of pick-ups and another for dropping the kids off for different school events? Do you want both parents to be involved in picking up the children from school? Think about how your choices will affect your kids. Will they be embarrassed by other kids talking about their divorced parents switching off pick up times and going to different homes? Talk with your children about these aspects of your divorce that affect them.

A helpful way to plan the school year and family roles is to get a copy of the school calendar. Most major activities will already be planned out for the school year and then you can easily add extra-curricular activities to your family’s schedules.

Look into the future and think about if you want to make provisions in your marital settlement agreement about how you want to make decisions about the children’s schooling. Your children’s schedules and needs will change as they grow older. How will you make decisions about their future needs? Will one person have authority in some areas to make final decisions?

Don’t forget to add how you are going to cover extracurricular expenses. Will you split them? Will the highest income earner be solely responsible? Also, how are you going to handle making sure homework is completed now that you are divorced? Will the parent who does not have custody check-in with the kids to make sure they are meeting their scholastic responsibilities? How will you share information about the children now that you are divorced? Do you both have online access to their progress? Don’t be shy about asking the school to send duplicate reports to each parent.

Keep in mind that the overall goal should be to put your children first. They love both parents and when divorced individuals work together for the future of their children they not only model positive behavior, but also give them a sense of security. Remember to always do what is in the best interest of your children.


When working out a marital settlement agreement with your spouse, consider the current and future special needs of your child. This includes what happens when your child becomes an adult. Your special needs child will benefit greatly if you and your spouse take the time to work in a collaborative manner. Otherwise the situation can become quiet traumatic for your child and cause long-term damage.

When determining the child visitation schedule with your spouse, remember to pay close attention to the needs of your child. All children need consistency and solid structure in their lives, especially special needs children. Moving between homes can make children feel destabilized. Transitions for special needs children, especially if they do not understand the concept of time, can add to a child’s confusion.

If your child will be traveling between homes after your divorce, consider what they will need when traveling and when they are living in the second home. Some items to take into account include being close to a medical facility and any necessary medical equipment. This includes medical equipment for moving the child between homes and equipment that needs to be in both homes in order for your child to be comfortable. Take time to consider the details. This is especially important if one parent has been the primary caretaker. The non-caretaking parent may not know how to handle certain situations such as:

  1. Special diets;
  2. How to administer medication;
  3. Managing behavior (including potential triggers); and
  4. Preferences of a non-verbal child.

Consider how education will be handled once your are divorced. Will your child be starting in a new school? Are there special considerations that need to be put in place for the child’s new school, including the signing of legal papers? Will both parents have legal custody of the child? Will one parent sign school papers or will your agreement require for both parents to sign-off? Some other questions you may want to answer consider in the educational section of your marital settlement agreement include:

  1. How will additional educational needs be handled?
  2. If your child requires additional tutoring, which parent will pay for it?
  3. Does transportation need to be included in your agreement? If so, will a parent be compensated for time spent transporting the child, gas money, special transportation arrangements for school and other activities?

Another useful tool that can be written into your marital settlement agreement is the use of software for keeping track of your child’s schooling. Technological tools can be a great way to reduce potential conflict between parents. Programs such as Our Family Wizard allows both parents to have access to the latest medical records, school information and a joint calendar for easier schedule coordination between parents. You may not want to specify the software program, but have an agreement to use one and spell out what the program should include. Technology changes quickly and it would be prudent to keep your options open.

A parenting coordinator can be useful during times of conflict for divorced parents. a parenting coordinator is a person who is familiar with your marital settlement agreement, thereby allowing him or her to effectively work with both parents. The parenting coordinator is a standby for communication and decision making. Keep in mind this should be a neutral third-party.

No Contest Divorce Law, LLC offers a free questionnaire to get started with your marital settlement agreement. In addition, please feel free to visit the Marital Settlement Agreement section in our blog for more ideas on how to create your personalized and specific marital agreement with your spouse.

For further reading on divorce and special needs children consider the book Divorce and the Special Needs Child: A Guide for Parents. The book includes a checklist and further resources. If you have other reading or software suggestions please share them with our parents in the comments section below.


Grandparents are living longer, and this means more involvement in their grandchildren’s lives. Being a grandparent to children of divorced parents has become a modern reality. The emotional turmoil and uncertainty of your divorce has the potential to make grandparents fearful of losing their relationship with their grandchildren. Getting a grandparent’s visitation rights written into a martial settlement agreement can provide structure for your grandchildren and give them the comfort of knowing that they will continue to be part of their grandchildren’s lives in the future.

There are several ways that you can help grandparents to cope with your divorce, and how to help them stay in their grandchildren’s lives. Consider the following suggestions for helping grandparents cope with your divorce, and for including grandparents in your marital settlement agreement.

The first step is to give grandparents space to grieve, it’s part of the emotional healing process. Many of the dreams that grandparents may have had are no longer a reality, and there is a deep disappointment which comes with facing the reality of the situation. Even if grandparents may have suspected things weren’t going well in the marriage, the traumatic news can be difficult to emotionally cope with.

Feelings of guilt are also normal. Grandparents may feel guilty for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons can include guilt from their own divorce and how it has impacted your mariage. Grandparents may wonder if they could have done something to prevent the divorce. Don’t let them fall into the trap of being stuck in guilt. Gently communicate with them and help grandparents move their emotions in a positive direction.

Ask the grandparents to keep their opinions to themselves when around your spouse and thier grandchildren. Staying as neutral as possible will not only give your family some stability, but will leave the door open for spending more time with their grandchildren. Divorce is between you and your spouse, and it is not their place to pick sides and verbally annihilate your spouse. A great way to include grandparents at this difficult time of divorce is by asking them to help watch their grandchildren. This could be a few hours of time for them to connect and feel a part of their grandchildren’s lives instead of feeling threatened and alientated. It can also give you the break that you’ll need during the difficult time of divorce.

Encourage grandparents to listen to their grandchildren when the grandchildren talk about the divorce. After all, the grandparents may be the only ones that your children feel comfortable expressing themselves to and they can provide a safe place for them to blow off some steam. Don’t make the mistake of forcing grandparents to take sides or pass judgment on your soon to be ex-spouse. Also, they may able to help the grandchildren to express themselves if they don’t have the vocabulary to express their emotions.

When you are negotiating your marital settlement agreement with your spouse, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much time do the grandparents get with their grandchildren?
  2. Are there opportunities for the grandparents to help out, such as picking up a grandchild from school once a week? Taking the grandchildren to an activity?
  3. When do the grandparents get to see their grandkids?
  4. Will the grandchildren be part of family get togethers, reunions and celebrations?
  5. Will grandchildren travel with their grandparents? If so, when? How often?

Once you are ready to have your marital settlement agreement finalized, Attorney Cairns can create a marital settlement agreement for you and your spouse to sign. You can contact Attorney Cairns for a free consultation at 888.863.9115 or start right away by clicking on DIVORCE MASTER. Read client testimonials and see why No Contest Divorce Law, LLC is a better choice.