Category Archives: Divorce Advice

The Difference between a Contested and Non-contested Divorce in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, divorce proceedings are either “contested” or “non-contested.”  A contested divorce occurs when one person does not agree to the divorce or the parties cannot decide how to divide the marital property.  A contested divorce often leads to extensive court proceedings and high legal fees because the parties are forced to use the court to resolve their issues rather than coming to an agreement.  Going to court can be very expensive because attorneys charge not only for the time they are in the hearing, but also for the preparation beforehand.  The more combative the case, the higher the number of court hearings and legal fees.

A non-contested divorce gives people another option to the time consuming and expensive procedures of a contested divorce.  A non-contested divorce occurs when both people agree to get a divorce.  A non-contested divorce can be achieved quickly and cheaply when both people are on the same page.  In a non-contested divorce, if there is property from the marriage and the parties agree how it should be divided, the parties can simply create a settlement agreement with the help of an attorney to say who gets what and the agreement becomes part of the parties’ final divorce decree.

If there is no marital property and the parties are just looking to walk away from the marriage, a non-contested divorce can be finalized in less than six months and with minimal legal and filing fees.  If the parties have been separated less than a year, a mandatory 90 day waiting period applies before both parties have to sign documents agreeing to the divorce.  If the parties have been separated more than a year, then the waiting period can be reduced to 20 days with the agreement of both parties.

Our attorneys are available to help you figure out which option applies best to your situation.

Why is the Date of Separation Important?

If you are planning on getting a divorce in Pennsylvania, the date of separation will be important for more reasons than one. The date of separation is not black and white and it is NOT the same for every couple. Sometimes, it’s easy to determine; for example, it’s the day the husband moved out of the house, but it’s not always that simple.

For instance, a husband could have moved out and onto his best friend’s couch, or back home with his parents, but if he’s been going back to his wife and having sexual relations and the couple have continued going to dinner or bars together with friends, the courts may not see this as a legitimate separation.

In the example above, suppose the husband has been staying someplace else for six months and one day, his wife says, “We cannot be intimate anymore,” and they stop going on friendly “dates” with their mutual friends, then that may be the actual date of separation. In other words, they need to stop “acting” like a married couple by doing things together that couples do, such as going on dates and being intimate.

Sometimes, a couple can be considered separate and apart even when they live under the same roof. This can happen when the couple has not been having sexual relations for a long time, when they’ve been sleeping in different bedrooms, and when they have stopped sharing meals together.

Why the Separation Date Matters

Why does the separation date matter so much in a Pennsylvania divorce? For one, under Pennsylvania law the separation date commences the one-year waiting period to obtain a no-fault divorce. Second, that’s the date that the assets (or debts) acquired by the spouses are no longer marital and subject to division.

If you want to get divorced sooner than later, it’s important to start living “separate and apart” as soon as possible. Because, once that happens the clock starts ticking on your divorce. Until then, you’re at a standstill.

At Cairns Law Offices, clients can obtain a divorce for just $319 in as little as 30 days when they’ve been living separate and apart for at least one year. If you’d like to learn more, contact our firm today!

CAN I DATE MY SPOUSE DURING OUR DIVORCE?

When people think of divorcing couples, they almost assume that the husband and wife can’t stand to be in the same room together. They imagine that they can’t wait to physically separate and move on with their lives. But, is that really the case? Not always, and if you’re reading this, you may be able to relate to what we’re about to say.

Some divorcing couples are still intimate with each other. Some of them still love each other, or at least still enjoy each other’s company. Maybe they’re still best friends. Maybe they’re wildly attracted to each other, but can’t make the marriage work. Maybe one of them cheated, but the innocent spouse still finds comfort in their spouse’s arms, but he or she is through with the marriage.

As divorce attorneys, we know it happens. Some couples decide to have a no-fault divorce, but they can’t help going out on double dates with friends, sharing the same bed, or at least ending back in the throes of passion despite the divorce. The question is, “Can married couples continue to date, to be intimate with each other during their divorce?”

What The Courts Think About It

In some states, such as California or Nevada, the family courts could care less about divorcing spouses who are romantic with each other, but in Pennsylvania, it’s frowned upon. Whether the citizens of Pennsylvania like it or not, our family courts do care.

In fact, the courts can go so far as to not grant a divorce if a divorcing couple is still acting and behaving like they’re married and in an intimate relationship. You see, to get a no-fault divorce, you must be separated for one full year before you can commence the divorce process. If you’re still intimate with your spouse, this can delay your divorce proceeding.

In our post, “Why is the Date of Separation Important?” we explain how the courts don’t consider a couple separated until they stop acting like a couple, which includes having sexual relations with one’s spouse. So, if you’re certain that you want a divorce, we suggest physically separating from your spouse as soon as possible. This way, there’s no chance the courts will prevent you from filing your divorce action.

To learn about our low-cost divorce services, contact our firm today!

WHEN DOES ALIMONY END IN PENNSYLVANIA?

In Pennsylvania, there are three types of alimony or spousal support: 1) spousal support (paid after the spouses separate), 2) alimony pendente lite (refers to a temporary order for support that is made after the divorce is filed), and 3) alimony (spousal support paid after the divorce is final). For the purpose of this post, we’re going to discuss alimony and when it ends in Pennsylvania.

Alimony, also known as “spousal support,” is a monthly payment that a higher-earning spouse pays to a lower-earning spouse for financial support after a divorce. If spouses can agree, they can put their heads together and decide on an amount of alimony and duration. If the spouses cannot reach such an agreement, the court may decide to order it.

If the issue of alimony is decided by the court, it will examine the following factors before deciding whether to award alimony:

  • The age and health of both spouses
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • The spouses’ individual income and assets
  • The length of the marriage
  • If either spouse has an inheritance or expects to inherit one
  • Whether a spouse helped the other obtain education or training during the marriage
  • If a spouse helped the other increase their income
  • If one spouse has a lower earning capacity because of raising the couple’s child
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • Both spouses’ assets and debts
  • If one of the spouses contributed by being a homemaker
  • Either spouse’s marital misconduct during the marriage
  • The tax consequences of alimony
  • And other relevant factors

Terminating Alimony in Pennsylvania

As mentioned above, a divorcing couple can decide when alimony ends. Otherwise, the court can determine that alimony will end at a specific time. While some orders have an end date, others are ongoing and do not establish an end date – this is especially common in long-term marriages. However, if circumstances change, the court may change the order.

When does alimony end automatically?

  • The receiving spouse lives with a member of the opposite sex who is not a member of their family.
  • The receiving spouse remarries.
  • The receiving spouse passes away.
  • The paying spouse passes away, unless there is an agreement or order that says the alimony shall continue despite the death.

Looking for a cheap, no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania? Contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to make the process as easy as possible!

DOES PENNSYLVANIA HAVE LEGAL SEPARATION?

Some states, such as California allow married couples to get legally separated as an alternative to divorce. In California for example, a married couple can get legally separated to give themselves time to see if they want a divorce, or if they don’t believe in divorce, they can get legally separated instead and remain that way indefinitely.

In the meantime, the California family courts can issue orders regarding child custody, child support, asset and debt division, and spousal support. So, can Pennsylvania couples get legally separated like couples in places like California?

Is There Legal Separation in PA?

Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separations. If you’re “separated” from your spouse, it means the two of you are living separate and apart, whether you’re living in two households or even under the same roof.

Separation between married spouses can occur when:

  • The couple mutually agrees to get a divorce.
  • One spouse kicks the other spouse out of the house.
  • One spouse voluntarily moves out of the house.

Divorce Requirements in Pennsylvania

In order to get a divorce in Pennsylvania, you have to meet certain requirements. For starters, you must meet the residency requirement. To meet the residency requirement, you or your spouse, or both of you, must have lived here for six months before you can file for divorce.

Second, you must be “separated” for one yearbefore you can file for divorce. If you are still living together, this can get a bit tricky, especially if you’re still having marital relations and sleeping in the same bed. While it’s best for the spouses to be living in separate households, if that’s not convenient, we advise sleeping in separate bedrooms and living separate lives – no date nights and no more dinners with friends “as a couple.”

Once you break up and decide to get a no-fault divorce, you want to make sure that you are no longer behaving as a married couple, otherwise it could delay your divorce proceedings and derail the one-year waiting period imposed by the courts.

Related: Why is the Date of Separation Important?

To learn more about the separation requirements for divorce in Pennsylvania and our $319 divorces, contact No Contest Divorce Law, LLC today!

HOW TO USE DIVORCE TO REINVENT YOURSELF

Tips for Personal Change

The end of the marriage comes with a significant number of headaches, but one of the positives is the chance to reinvent yourself once everything in finalized. Divorce is increasingly seen, not as the end of a relationship, but the start of a new life and the experiences it can bring. This fresh beginning can give you the chance to let go of any frustrations previously felt and allow you to develop a positive outlook moving forward.

Five tips to help you reinvent yourself following divorce:

  1. Find out what you want from life moving forward. Visualize what you want the future to look like and develop a list of dreams for your future.
  2. Once you know what you want to accomplish, develop a plan to move forward and actualize those goals. Recognize that action does not need to be taken on these goals right away, but the steps are outlined whenever you become fully ready. Start small, and doors will open.
  3. Be a vocal and outspoken advocate for yourself. Without the partnership that you may have come to rely on from your life, you must take it upon yourself to request help when it is necessary. You know where you want to be and what it is going to take for you to get there.
  4. Begin believing in yourself. The process of divorce may bring down your confidence levels, but working with a therapist or a counselor can relive some self-doubt. Self-love is your most powerful tool for personal advancement.
  5. Understand why you chose the steps that you did to accomplish your goals and do not sabotage yourself. If may be easy to doubt and steer yourself in a different direction, but keep in mind that every step and small goal is one more re-examination and reinvention of yourself.

Making the decision to reinvent yourself and following all the necessary steps to be able to do so is not only a brave decision, but one that may also be able to get you through the difficulty of divorce. Taking the necessary steps to foster change is all that you need.

CAN SOMEONE HIDE ASSETS DURING DIVORCE?

On occasion, some married spouses lie about finances during their marriage. While it’s not illegal to keep a purchase secrete from a spouse or withhold the details about one’s earnings from a husband or wife – that changes when you get a divorce.

In fact, when couples get a divorce each spouse must be open and honest about their finances, including their income, assets and debts – it’s a legal requirement.

There’s something about divorce that makes some people want to lie or cheat to keep at least a portion of their assets all to themselves, without giving their spouse what they are legally entitled to.

Many divorcing parties are surprised to learn how common it is for spouses to try and hide assets from their soon-to-be exes. These methods range from getting cash back from the grocery store (making it look like the money was spent on groceries) to reporting less income to lower child support or alimony payments.

Some of these dirty tricks, include:

  • Reporting higher expenses
  • Working under the table
  • Not reporting cash income
  • Overstating liabilities and debts
  • Undervaluing marital property

When a spouse is considering hiding assets in hopes of keeping more of the marital property to themselves, they should think again. Not only is such a strategy misguided and underhanded, but it’s illegal and can cause serious negative consequences.

As an uncontested divorce firm, our clients are generally willing to reach a fair and reasonable settlement, but we have seen estranged husbands and wives test the waters to see what they can get away with, and we’re not alone.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about one-third of adults in the U.S. who combine their assets with a spouse or partner say that they have been deceptive about finances.

Such deceptive actions included hiding cash from their spouse (58%), hiding a statement or a bill from their spouse (30%), and lying about finances or debt (34%), according to an NEFE press release. While these behaviors aren’t illegal during marriage, they can mean big trouble during divorce.

Hire a Qualified Divorce Team

When you and your spouse sign the financial affidavit – which is required in every divorce case – you are both swearing under penalty of perjury that you’re telling the truth about your income, debts, assets and expenses.

If either of you lie under oath, there can be serious financial and legal consequences, which may include paying the other spouse’s attorney fees, paying fines, and in serious cases, incarceration to name a few.

If you’re divorcing, it’s critical that you hire a qualified divorce team, such as No Contest Divorce, LLC to not only handle your case, but explain how you should handle your bank accounts, cash, investments, and other assets and liabilities.

For the divorce support you need, contact us for a free consultation.

DIVORCE & THE FINANCIALLY DEPENDENT SPOUSE

In community property states, such as California and Nevada, a couple’s marital assets are divided 50/50 during a divorce. That’s not the case in Pennsylvania, which is an “equitable division” state.

Under Pennsylvania’s divorce laws, a married couple’s assets are divided equitably, which doesn’t always mean “equally.” If a couple cannot reach a settlement agreement, the court decides how their assets are divided bases on 11 factors, including each spouse’s income, the length of the marriage, and whether there are any minor children.

There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to this division process; the outcome is based on the parties’ current financial situations and future needs.

Financially Dependent Spouses

For financially dependent spouses, some of the biggest problems come down to:

  • Not knowing about all investments
  • Not having current information about assets
  • Not having access to information about assets

With the discovery process, the spouses are required to file inventories of their assets with the court. However, it’s not uncommon for a spouse not to comply with request for document requests, or sometimes he or she will provide incomplete information.

If a spouse is noncompliant with the discovery process, it can lead to a long delay and it can be expensive. Once the divorce is finalized, assets will need to be distributed to the financially dependent spouse, but this can get difficult if a retirement plan needs to be transferred to the economically dependent spouse.

The issue is that plan administrators generally won’t speak to the nonemployee spouse or their attorney, therefore, obtaining information for transferring retirement assets can be difficult. If there is a long and costly delay in this transfer process, it typically results in a frustrated client, and reasonably so.

Often, the financially independent spouse hides income or assets, especially when they are self-employed. In that case, the financially independent spouse may try to put assets in different entity names or in a family trust, which makes it hard to identify or value such assets.

Unfortunately, the perception that the homemaker or stay-at-home mom or dad is at a disadvantage during a divorce can be true, especially when he or she does not have good representation.

A good divorce attorney knows to petition the court for the financial documents, and they are fully prepared to argue for an equitable division of the couple’s assets so the client’s contributions as a stay-at-home parent are recognized by the court.

To learn more about dividing assets in a Pennsylvania divorce, contact No Contest Divorce, LLC today. All of our initial consultations are free!

2016 DIVORCE CHECKLIST

Now that 2016 is just around the corner, we are entering one of the busiest divorce seasons of the year. Historically, divorce filings surge on the first Monday in January, which will be Jan. 4 this year.

Why is January such a popular month for divorce filings? One reason is that people like to wait until after the holidays, especially when they have children. Unhappy couples often want to give their children one more holiday season where everybody can be together as a family – and that’s understandable!

With Jan. 1st quickly approaching, you may be switching gears from holiday mode to “divorce” mode. In order to help you prepare for the big transition, check out our 2016 divorce checklist:

1. Get copies of your credit reports. We recommend pulling your credit report and your spouse’s if at all possible. This way, you can familiarize yourself with exactly which accounts you both have and which accounts are joint. Pull your credit report from all three bureaus, which provide one free credit report each year.

2. Close or convert joint accounts. Once you identify all joint accounts, you want to either pay them off and close them or try and convert them to individual accounts. If you fail to do this and your spouse defaults, not only will the creditor go after you, it can ruin your credit.

3. Gather all of the financial documents. Get copies of all of your financial accounts ASAP. We’re talking about bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage loan documents, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies etc. Being organized is key to a smooth divorce.

4. Hire a new financial advisor. If you have significant assets, you’ll need a good financial advisor, but you don’t want to use the same person that you used during your marriage. Instead, hire someone new that has not been used by either of your families in the past. You need someone who is 100% on your side.

5. Don’t move out…yet. If you have children with your spouse, don’t pack your bags until you’ve discussed child custody with a divorce attorney. If you are hoping for custody, moving out and leaving the kids with your spouse sends a powerful message to the courts that your spouse is capable of taking care of them without you.

6. Don’t let emotions get the best of you. Did your spouse cheat on you? Or, did they blow your retirement at the horse track? Regardless of the reasons for your divorce, don’t drag it out just to get back at them. If you refuse to consent to the divorce, you’ll have to be separated for two years before the divorce can be granted, thereby prolonging the inevitable.

Contact No Contest Divorce, LLC to schedule a free consultation with a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce lawyer. We would be happy to answer your questions!

WHY DO I NEED A DIVORCE ATTORNEY?

In the Pennsylvania legal system, people have the right to represent themselves in criminal and civil cases, but that does not mean they should. You’ve probably heard about criminal defendants firing their public defenders or private criminal defense attorneys and representing themselves, and as we all know, that never ends well. Is divorce any different?

From a legal standpoint you are entitled to represent yourself – this is called “pro se,” which means “on your own behalf” in Latin, but the practicality of this is highly questionable. If you ask any divorce lawyer, they will say that representing yourself is not a good idea, especially if you’re not an experienced family law attorney.

Would you perform your own dental extraction or heart surgery? Certainly not, and you don’t want to handle your own divorce either. What you would save initially in legal fees would most likely end up costing you dearly in the long-run.

Even in the friendliest, no-fault divorces, there are legal and financial matters that require legal expertise, such as:

  • Taxes
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Property and debt division
  • Pensions
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life and health insurance
  • What to do with the marital residence
  • What to do with a business

When you file for divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you understand your rights and responsibilities in regards to the topics listed above. If you do not handle one or more of these issues correctly, you could be giving up important rights without knowing it, and it’s just not worth taking the risk.

Mutual Consent Divorce in Pennsylvania

Let’s take a look at mutual consent vs. no-consent divorces: Pennsylvania does not operate like many other states, such as California, where you can get a divorce in about six months as long as one of you wants out.

Instead, if a spouse does not want a divorce in Pennsylvania, you have to live separately and apart for at least two full years before the state can grant you a divorce. It’s essentially delaying the inevitable, but until the laws change that’s the way it is.

Most divorce lawyers will attest that the majority of unhappy spouses do not want to wait two years to get divorced. Therefore, it’s considerably more favorable to seek a mutual consent, no-fault divorce. When our clients agree to a no-fault divorce, we can help them obtain a divorce in as little as 30 days, which is one of the shortest waiting periods for a divorce in the nation.

Quality Divorce Services Don’t Have to Break the Bank

When you file for divorce, it’s critical to have an experienced divorce lawyer representing you and looking out for your best interests. If you’ve been afraid to file for divorce because of the legal fees, you don’t have to fret any longer.

At No Contest Divorce, LLC, you can receive quality divorce representation at a fraction of the cost of other divorce law firms. As long as you and your spouse agree to a mutual consent, no-fault divorce, we can help you achieve a quick, affordable divorce in as little as 30 days. If you’re ready to get started, contact us today!