The Divorce Process
The act of getting a divorce is only one step in the whole divorce process. A person often thinks about a divorce for a long time before taking any steps toward a divorce. Sometimes a person thinks about getting a divorce for years in advance of seeing a lawyer.
Psychological Divorce and Legal Divorce
During the time a person is thinking about a divorce and thinking about what life would be like after the divorce, that spouse is processing the divorce. Kate Vetrano calls this part of the divorce the “psychological divorce.” A person needs to go through a psychological divorce, envisioning their life after the divorce process, which is separate from a legal divorce where the assets are divided and support is determined and the marriage is ended.
Everyone needs to go through a psychological divorce before going through a legal divorce. Often both spouses are at different places in the divorce process. It is important for a divorcing spouse who has thought about divorce for a long time to allow the other spouse time and space to process the psychological divorce. The respect accorded the other spouse to process the divorce will help the divorce process move more smoothly.
The Mechanics of the Legal Divorce
The mechanics of the legal divorce process vary from couple to couple. Sometimes we try to resolve all issues between the divorcing spouses before we even file the divorce complaint. Other times we need to file the divorce complaint immediately to protect your rights and interests. We will discuss the options with you so that you can decide what works best for you and for your family.
1. File Divorce Complaint
Once a divorce complaint is filed, it must be provided or served on the other party. The simplest way is to mail the divorce complaint to the other party with a request that a form is signed acknowledging receipt. This acceptance of service can be signed by the spouse receiving the divorce complaint or by his or her attorney. If the form is not returned, our divorce attorneys can mail the divorce complaint by certified mail or have it personally served by handing the divorce complaint to the other spouse. We try to avoid having your spouse served with the divorce complaint by a process server or sheriff as that adds unnecessary embarrassment or stress to the divorce process.
If your spouse has already filed the divorce complaint, once you receive it, you should take it to your divorce attorney or family law attorney. We will enter our appearance with the court to ensure that all future legal notices will be sent to us so that nothing is missed or overlooked. Our appearance for you will also give your spouse’s attorney notice to communicate with us about your divorce action. Sometimes immediate action is necessary to protect you so we will discuss the kinds of relief that you may seek to protect yourself. Certain petitions, such as petitions for spousal support and for child support need to be promptly filed or you can lose rights. Our divorce and child support attorneys will review your situation to advise you on how to protect yourself and your children.
2. Retain Attorneys
Once both spouses have divorce attorneys retained, the lawyers can discuss whether your divorce can proceed toward an amicable divorce or whether you need to go to court to resolve the issues. Sometimes the amicable divorce process envisions a series of meetings with husband and wife and their attorneys. Other times, an exchange of information between the lawyers enables them to propose different settlement agreements that work for both parties. If meetings will be helpful to find the settlement solution, we try to schedule a meeting as soon as possible and then two or three more meetings, depending on the complexity of your marriage situation. It is helpful if these meetings are scheduled about three weeks apart to enable us to accomplish the goals determined by the divorcing couple and their attorneys at the meetings.
3. Discuss Parenting, Custody and Practical Matters
Initially, it is most important to discuss the children as they need to see both parents on a frequent and predictable basis. This is what is best for the children so a custody schedule should be put in place, even if it is on a temporary basis. We also need to figure out how to pay the bills and whether money should transfer from one spouse to the other. Sometimes a divorcing couple will stay in the marital home for a period of time, because of finances, work, or other considerations. At other times, separate households are established early in the divorce process. Either way, the more consensus there is on these issues, the smoother the divorce process will be, which will benefit everyone. And the more agreement there is between the divorcing spouses, the less expensive the divorce will be. Find out more about child custody and child support.
4. Value Assets and Liabilities
Once there is a plan in place for the children’s schedule with each parent and financial support established, we will identify and value the assets and liabilities in the marital estate. Our divorce attorneys will identify the information or documents needed and obtain them. Once the marital estate is established, the divorce lawyers will weigh the factors in the divorce code as a guide to how the marital estate should be divided between the divorcing spouses. Every marital estate and family is different. Our divorce lawyers will tailor advice on how to accomplish these goals in your best interests, with your input on your needs and desires. Sometimes the marital estate will be divided equally between the spouses. Other times, an equitable distribution of the marital assets and marital liabilities will mean that one spouse takes 55% or 60% of the entire marital estate. Consequently, an equitable distribution of the marital estate may mean that a spouse takes 45% or 40% of the marital estate.
Our divorce lawyers will help you make decisions about the assets that comprise your equitable share of the marital estate. We will help you determine if it is wise to take all your assets in retirement accounts or in a house. We will help you figure if you can afford the mortgage, taxes and maintenance on a house. These are some of the difficult issues and concerns that you can discuss with your divorce attorney at Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC. In addition, we can refer you to financial planners or to certified divorce specialists who can give you advice to complement the discussions you have with your divorce attorney.
5. Determine Spousal Support Needs
If the equitable distribution of the marital estate and liabilities, meaning your share of the marital assets, results in unmet needs of a divorcing spouse, it may be appropriate for payments to be made to a dependent spouse in the nature of alimony following division of the marital estate.
6. File for No-Fault Divorce if Appropriate
Sometimes, the divorcing couple is unable to achieve an amicable divorce and needs the court to tell them what is an equitable distribution of the marital estate or what amount of alimony would be appropriate. Before the court decides how to divide the marital estate equitably, grounds for divorce must exist. After ninety days have passed following service of the divorce complaint on the other spouse, the parties can file affidavits of consent seeking court approval of a mutual no-fault divorce. Although the procedures in the different counties in Pennsylvania vary, the judge would then approve the grounds for divorce and refer the matter to a master. The master would take testimony from the divorcing couple about their marriage and family and assets, to enable the divorce master to weigh the factors in the divorce code guiding the court in achieving an equitable distribution of the marital estate and in entering an award of alimony.
7. Pursue an Amicable or Court Resolved Divorce
If one of the parties does not want to proceed with a mutual no-fault divorce, a fault divorce may be sought. Or a spouse can simply wait until there have been two years since the parties’ separation and proceed for a unilateral no-fault divorce to obtain grounds for divorce, the prerequisite for the court to determine equitable distribution of the marital estate and award alimony.
If either party does not accept the master’s recommendation for the equitable distribution of the marital estate and award of alimony, a judge will review the matter and depending on the county procedure either hear argument from the attorneys or take testimony and decide the matter de novo. Contact us for more information or call to schedule a consultation.
Details on Divorce Process Grounds and Steps
Looking for expert divorce lawyers in the western suburbs like Malvern, West Chester, or Exton? Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC Pennsylvania lawyers specialize in family & divorce law and child custody lawsuits. Contact us for more details on divorce grounds & steps.
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Our experienced family lawyers take the time to fully understand the financial and emotional complexities that can be involved in separating two lives. We offer the patience and resources to effectively guide clients through the divorce process, addressing all the challenges they may face in moving forward with their lives. To learn more about how we can help protect your rights and interests in a complex divorce, contact the Pennsylvania divorce attorneys at Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman.