For many spouses, the process between filing the divorce complaint and receiving the decree is an exercise in patience. You’ve moved out, opened separate bank accounts, and likely spent many hours looking for and giving your divorce lawyer all of your financial information but you’re still not divorced. A lot of spouses get very frustrated after having done so much work to only feel like they’re still in the same place.
There are a few reasons why a divorce cannot be granted instantly. The first reason is because Pennsylvania does not allow that to occur, even in the most amicable situations. Even if the only thing you and your spouse seek is the piece of paper saying you’re no longer married, you have to wait at least 90 days before you will receive that decree in the mail. This waiting period cannot be shortened, waived, or removed for any reason.
Most spouses who hire a lawyer for their divorce though need more assistance than merely receiving a divorce decree. The most common situation is that the couple has marital property which must be divided. This requires gathering and exchanging documents. At the beginning of a divorce case, I always instruct my clients to begin obtaining financial records that we will need to divide the marital property. The vast majority of this information is not something your lawyer has immediate access to, and you do not want to pay your lawyer to obtain it if it’s already in your possession. Depending on what your financial picture consists of, it can take awhile before you have everything ready. For this reason, when you formally request to exchange documents with your spouse using the court process, the other person is given 30 days to respond.
After a couple exchanges financial information, everything you provided has to be reviewed by your lawyer and only then can you discuss what an equitable division of the marital estate may be. Although you will see settlement proposals sent before this investigation happens, this is often not a good practice because you may feel differently about a given proposal after seeing what assets the other spouse has. Taking the time to thoroughly review what you worked hard to gather ultimately ensures that nobody can come back years later and say they had no idea what property they even had.
Finally, the factor that often gets overlooked in the length of a divorce proceeding is that so much of the process is outside your individual control. A spouse cannot control the court’s calendar, mandatory waiting periods set by statute, the amount of time a spouse is legally entitled to to respond to requests. You also cannot control whether the court is understaffed and hasn’t processed your documents, or whether your spouse will work quickly to finish the divorce. With few exceptions, your lawyer has no more control over these factors than you do. You can, however, ensure that you are doing what you can to handle everything quickly by being organized and looking for requested documents as soon as you’re asked.
The divorce process is never quick or immediate. But if you are ever concerned about the amount of time it is taking, you can always ask your lawyer about whether the amount of time is normal or typical. He or she will have the experience to know whether your case is taking a particularly long period of time. In our office, we proactively tell our clients if the court has a large backlog which is creating longer delays. The important thing to remember is that if you ultimately want to dissolve the marriage, you will be divorced at some point. It is only a matter of “when.”
Unemployment is everywhere across Pennsylvania at an unprecedented level, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Non-essential” business offices remain closed as our economy labors under life-support, leaving us all to wonder what happens next. Long-term financial planning is difficult or impossible. Many who have not already have been laid off are worried about whether they will have a job next month, or even next week. The latest statistics show that one in six Pennsylvanians have filed for Unemployment Compensation, and that number will continue to increase now that self-employed workers are also eligible to apply. Unemployment has touched all industries and income levels, and even those who previously considered themselves financially secure now find themselves tightening their belts.
Nobody predicted that a worldwide pandemic would practically shut down our economy, or that it would hit hard-working Pennsylvanians so severely in just about every industry. This leaves many worried that they will lose their jobs to the Coronavirus pandemic, required to pay alimony but unable to afford it, and wondering about the consequences for not paying and whether there is any recourse or relief. If your ex-spouse pays you alimony, you might be afraid of a double-whammy from losing both your job and your alimony payments.
If you are paying alimony, where you stand may depend on whether your obligation is part of an agreement you reached with your spouse to settle your divorce, or whether a judge ordered it after a trial. Alimony ordered by a judge is potentially modifiable and can even be terminated if circumstances have changed substantially. That can include loss of employment due to a layoff. If that is your situation, you may be permitted to ask the court to reduce your alimony obligation. Whether you could lower or terminate your alimony, if you lose your job, will depend on numerous factors such as how much your income has gone down, what your ex-spouse is earning, and other facts specific to each individual case.
If you and your spouse agreed to an amount of alimony, that could be another matter, entirely. Courts in Pennsylvania routinely hold that monthly alimony payments made under the terms of an agreement are not modifiable. Read your divorce agreement carefully. Many marriage settlement agreements drafted by an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney specifically state that alimony cannot be modified under any circumstances until it is scheduled to end. Agreements like that are treated as contracts under Pennsylvania divorce law, and a family court judge does not have the power to override them. That means that if you agreed to pay non-modifiable alimony, or if your agreement has provisions about when it can change that does not include this situation, you are still required to continue paying alimony in full and on time. There is no decision from the higher courts in Pennsylvania that provide for any exception due to lack of employment as a result of COVID-19. The best way to get out of trouble is often to avoid it in the first place, and so my advice is almost always going to be that if you can afford to pay the amount as ordered, you should continue to do so.
If it is genuinely impossible for you to meet your full alimony obligation, you still need to make a genuine, good-faith attempt to do so. It is far better to pay something regularly and on time, rather than to pay nothing. Judges who are called upon to make decide whether you have willfully chosen to abandon your obligation are more likely to cut you a break if you did your very best to keep faith with former spouse by prioritizing that obligation and sticking to the deal as much as possible without waiting to be told. Doing that also raises the likelihood of solutions based on compromise. A family law attorney can help you through this period – the earlier, the better – by discussing ways for you to stay in compliance, helping you minimize your liability for shorted payments, and by proposing compromises such as lowering your current payments in exchange for extending the duration of your obligation. Although it may seem strange to recommend paying an attorney when money is short, spending some money now to guide you the right direction can be your best investment to save plenty of money and aggravation down the line. Your attorney can help you identify solutions that help you address both the immediate and the long term issues, showing you options that you might not even have known were available to you. In this new and difficult financial reality, we could all use more options!
If you need the help of an experienced family law attorney for your alimony or support case in Squirrel Hill, Greenfield or Edgewood, call our office to set up a personal consultation with an experienced Pittsburgh area support and alimony enforcement attorney and to learn how to get the most out of your modification dispute. Please do not comment anonymously, and do not post anything that you consider confidential. We try to be responsive to commentary and questions, but know that posting here will not create an attorney/client relationship and that we will not offer legal advice via the Internet.
“I’d marry again if I found a man who had $15 million and would sign over half of it to me before the marriage and guarantee he’d be dead in a year.” – Bette Davis
One of the most common questions clients ask me is “Who will get what out of the divorce?” immediately followed by, “Do I have to give my spouse anything?” My answer usually begins with the phrase that clients hate most: “Well, it depends…” Every divorce in Pennsylvania is different when it comes to property distribution, and the particular facts of your situation can make a tremendous difference in the outcome.
What is the Marital Estate for divorces in Pennsylvania? Before even approaching the question of which spouse gets which property in the settlement, a good family law attorney will first analyze what the marital estate contains. The divorce lawyer representing you for property distribution must determine what assets are owned by you and your spouse (irrespective of whose name is on them), what those assets are worth, and what debts you owe. Every rule has its exceptions, of course, but in general if you or your spouse acquired an asset or a debt after your wedding and before your final separation, Pennsylvania says that it is part of the marital estate. The property you owned before you got married usually stays yours alone, but any increase in value prior to the date you separate is also included in the marital estate. This means that assets or debts in one spouse’s name can still be marital property, and therefore can be subject to equitable distribution by a family court judge. That includes credit card debt in your name or your spouse’s name alone, as well as the marital increases in the value of individual retirement assets such as pensions, 401Ks and IRAs.
After your divorce lawyer has determined the size and value of your marital estate, it is time to explore how to divide it between the two of you either by settling your case, or by moving forward toward an equitable distribution trial.
Does Pennsylvania split marital property 50/50 down the middle? Nothing about marital property division in Pennsylvania is automatic. Before the best divorce attorneys are prepared to take a firm position about which spouse should end up with what property, first they will address the percentage share of the marital estate’s value that should go to each spouse. There are many instances in PA of equal division of the marital estate’s value, but divorce lawyers dealing with asset distribution will often talk about “skewed” splits in which one spouse will walk away with a greater share of the marital estate than the other spouse.
Skewed splits are especially common when one spouse has a substantially greater earning capacity than the other. PA divorce law recognizes that one spouse often is economically dependent upon the other, for reasons that include one spouse working as a homemaker, or one spouse being unable to earn as much as the other spouse in the local job market. Pennsylvania law requires the court to prioritize economic justice over a formula-based outcome in any marital property division that goes all the way through court, and that includes consideration of various factors such as the relative earnings (and capacity to earn) of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living that the couple enjoyed.
Even an equal distribution of the marital estate can require one spouse to give up separately-titled assets.
I worked to earn my pension, so why does my spouse get to touch it? Retirement assets usually are among the biggest things to divide in divorce; and often, the spouse with higher wages often has put more money into savings funds such as IRAs, TIAA-CREF plans and 401K plans. My economically-advantaged clients often become upset that they have to give part of these assets to their soon-to-be exes. From the higher-earning spouse’s perspective, it simply is not fair that they worked as hard as they did, earned what they did and sacrificed what they did, only to have to give part of it away to the spouse who failed to do the same thing.
You can expect a Pennsylvania family court to view things differently. One spouse’s time might be worth more money than the other’s in the world of employment, but as between the two of them in their marriage they will be viewed on much more of a level playing field. Were it otherwise, the breakup of a traditional family arrangement featuring a breadwinner spouse and a homemaker spouse would leave the breadwinner extremely well-off, while consigning the homemaker to financial ruin. No divorce court will permit this.
It may help you to understand that for purposes of Pennsylvania divorce law, marriage is neither a religious sacrament nor an affair of the heart; instead, it is no more (or less) than an economic arrangement created by contract (getting married), much in the nature of a shared business enterprise. A family court presiding over a divorce case is unlikely to be interested in the family drama incident to any marital breakup, but will focus instead upon the dollars and cents of the marriage along with what those dollars and cents were used to buy.
For that reason, it is best to think about Pennsylvania divorce as being about economic closure rather than being about personal closure. The family court is unlikely to overlook the prospect that lower-earning spouses become financially dependent for many reasons, such as having sacrificed income potential or education, having focused on caring for the children, or having been in a state of impaired health. A divorce court judge is not going to leave a dependent spouse destitute simply because the marriage came to an end, and instead will want to ensure that he or she has sufficient resources available to attain financial independence. Giving a dependent spouse the greater share of the marital estate is one way a court can achieve that goal. This is an example of why “equitable distribution” often is not the same as “equal distribution” in the eyes of a Pennsylvania divorce court.
How a Pennsylvania family court divides marital property in divorce. In making an award for equitable distribution of the marital estate, a judge has to consider eleven different factors. These factors include the length of the marriage, the incomes and earning potentials of the spouses, whether one spouse will be caring for minor children, and the opportunity available to each spouse to increase earning potential. None of these factors are assigned greater importance than any other by default, meaning that your judge has substantial discretion to determine a distribution that fits your (and your ex’s) actual situation and needs.
You may be surprised to learn that “marital misconduct” is specifically excluded from consideration by the court when it comes to allocating your marital property between you and your former spouse. Fault grounds for divorce have absolutely no effect on equitable distribution in Pennsylvania, and so claims of adultery or abandonment have no effect when dividing marital property. Your judge is there to judge the case, and not the hearts and souls of the ex-spouses. If you own a pen, for example, and use that pen to write terrible things about your spouse… you still own the pen. Nobody cares whether you deserve it, because (rightly or wrongly), ownership of property in our society has nothing to do with what the owner might deserve.
You can expect the court to worry less about what you and your spouse might deserve, and more about what each of you may need.
If you need legal assistance with your marital separation in east-end communities such as Squirrel Hill, Shadyside and Monroeville, call our office to set up a personal consultation with an experienced Pittsburgh-area marital property division lawyer and to learn how to get the most out of your separation. Please do not comment anonymously, and do not post anything that you consider confidential. We try to be responsive to commentary and questions, but know that posting here will not create an attorney/client relationship and that we will not offer legal advice via the Internet.
“A lot of people have asked me how short I am. Since my last divorce, I think I’m about $100,000 short.” — Mickey Rooney
“I’m not sure my spouse and I can afford to separate.”
It can be hard enough while still in your shared household to accept that you and your spouse are heading toward divorce, without having to add that complicating question: How can we afford a separation right now? You may have known or heard about other separating couples who encountered the same problem, and who had no real choice but to continue living together for a while, simply because they lacked the money to afford separate residences. Sadly, the old adage that once worked in your favor is now your next hurdle: two people live together more cheaply than they do apart. It can be challenging enough right now to continue to live with your ex in one shared household (although there are coping strategies), without the added expense of establishing and maintaining two separate homes with income that may have been barely enough for one.
How a divorce lawyer budgeted his way to freedom. When my former wife and I first separated, we knew that we could not afford to live in two separate households right away. Even though we were able to get through our days without fighting, it was awkward and very uncomfortable for both of us. I set out to determine how to make our transition possible sooner, rather than later.
The solution turned out to be very straightforward. I created three complete household budgets: one for the two of us together, and one for each of us in our new, separate households. I used realistic, reasonable average numbers based on the way we were actually living at the time, erring high and making sure to include a fair reserve for miscellaneous expenses. Doing things this way gave us a real picture of where we stood together, and what it would take for each of us to be able to afford the extra expenses of living apart.
Click on the PDF image below to download your own joint budget worksheet.
What if it turns out that we can’t afford to separate? When we completed the task, the picture was less than pretty. If we lived very carefully while still under the same roof, we had enough income to pay our current debt with a small amount left over. Add the cost of rent and utilities for a second home, though, and there wasn’t enough money to go around. Like most people who carry a lot of credit card debt, a substantial portion of what my ex and I were paying month-to-month was interest.
Come up with a plan. We calculated how much income each month we needed to free up to make it possible for one of us to move out of our marital home. We recovered some of those funds by cutting our expenses as close to the bone as we thought we could manage, knowing that every dollar we saved was a step closer to the exit from our amiable-but-painfully-awkward cohabitation. When we ran out of things to cut and needed plenty more, we decided to attack our credit debt.
We decided which among our various credit card obligations had the best combination of low balance and high monthly payment to be good targets, so that when they were paid off we would have the money we needed to separate. We made our list of “target” debts and decided on which order to pay them off, ignoring which ones had high interest and instead focusing on the ones that would free up the largest amount of money for us in the least amount of time. Our focus was not long-term economy, but rather short-term cash flow.
Plan your post-separation finances.
My ex and I decided which of our consumer credit debts would still be around when we went our separate ways, and we included the monthly payment for each in the separate budget for that one of us who would be paying it, at least in the short-term. We did our best to move the numbers around on our separate household budgets so that we knew who would be paying what, and so that the monthly payments for the debts each of us were assuming fit within our respective means.
Consider whether there is a need for spousal support or child support.
Both my ex and I were earning a decent living wage when we separated, and we had no children together. If you have minor children or if one of you is economically-dependent upon the other (or both!) you will probably need to consider making the budgets balance by means of one spouse paying support to the other.
Worry less about long-term issues such as alimony, and more about short-term concerns such as spousal support and child support. To the extent that you can manage to keep your respective households afloat financially by mutual agreement, you can save yourselves substantial conflict and expense. That said, though…
Get professional legal advice from a family lawyer. As self-serving as it may seem coming from a divorce lawyer in Pittsburgh, there is no substitute for understanding the road ahead. Knowing where you stand according to the Pennsylvania child and spousal support guidelines can help you make informed decisions that will let you do things right the first time. A good divorce attorney will not create conflict where none needs to exist, and will make sure that you are taking every important consideration into account as you structure your future. A single hour of a lawyer’s time can be cheap at the price when the advice you get can save you thousands of dollars in expenses, and months or even years of unnecessary fighting.
Stick with your budget plan.
This is the hard part, but not as hard as feeling like you are stuck in the doorway of the next part of your life! No budget is any more useful than your willingness to stick to it, and if one of you changes the rules it all falls to pieces.
My former wife and I agreed to stick to our budget like it was written on two stone tablets, and to use all the money we freed up each month against the single debt that we wanted to pay off first. Once that first debt was paid off and its monthly payment was ours again, we had that much more to throw at the next debt in line, and more still to throw at the third, until we reached our goal.
Patience. Lots and lots of patience. It took seven months to bring us where we needed to be. Seven months of peaceful-but-empty coexistence. Seven months of careful courtesy and closed doors. Seven months of whispered telephone conversations. Once a month we paid our bills and inched our way toward our goal, only to go back to seemingly-endless waiting for our new lives to begin. From January until July of that year we did our best to make it easy for each other, but both of us had our eyes on August.
It seemed to take forever, but August finally came. It was worth it, in the end; both because it helped us to avoid a fight that neither of us wanted, and because it kept us out of the financial death-spiral that you can see everywhere, these days.
May your own separation likewise be free from conflict and disaster. As the Boy Scouts like to say, though: be prepared.
If you need legal assistance with arranging your separation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, call our office to set up a personal consultation with a Pittsburgh marriage attorney. Please do not comment anonymously, and do not post anything that you consider confidential. We try to be responsive to commentary and questions, but know that posting here will not create an attorney/client relationship and that we will not offer legal advice via the Internet.
What is no-fault divorce? In Pennsylvania, a “ground” for divorce is always needed to legally dissolve a marriage. Using a “no fault” ground for divorce just means that you don’t need to prove that there is a “good guy” and a “bad guy” to get your divorce decree. There are two “no fault” grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania: “Mutual Consent,” which requires that each spouse sign consent forms after a 90-day waiting period before the divorce process can conclude; and “Irretrievable Breakdown,” which requires at least a one-year separation (reduced from two years effective 12/5/16, with certain exceptions). You can use a no-fault ground even if you or your spouse did something wrong, and nothing about using a no-fault ground prevents a court from resolving disputes over support, property distribution or child custody. No-fault divorces are never “automatic,” even though a no-fault divorce can be a relatively uncomplicated process when both spouses agree.
What is fault divorce?
As with no-fault divorce, “fault” grounds for divorce are set forth in the Pennsylvania Code. Fault grounds include willful and malicious desertion without reasonable cause for a year or more, adultery, cruel and barbarous treatment which endangers the life or health of the other spouse, knowingly entering into a bigamous marriage, being sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime, or offering such indignities to the other spouse so as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome. The spouse looking for a “fault” divorce has the burden of proving that the other spouse did wrong, and must also show himself or herself to be “innocent and injured.” Fault grounds for divorce are hardly ever used today, because no-fault divorce is generally less expensive and does not require the kind of extensive proof needed in a fault divorce proceeding. Nearly all divorces granted today are no-fault divorces, even when a spouse has “fault” grounds available. In my quarter-century as a Pittsburgh divorce lawyer, I have handled only three fault-ground divorces; and concerning the last of them, I learned that the judge’s staff was very excited about the case because the judge had never handled one at all!
What about annulment?
Annulment is only available in Pennsylvania for either “void” or “voidable” marriages. A marriage is void under the law if the marrying parties could not legally marry, for example if they are brother and sister. Examples of voidable marriages include “shotgun” weddings, or when one or both spouses were drunk at the time of the wedding. Annulment under the law is not to be confused with religious annulment, and obtaining one can be substantially more expensive than getting a divorce. Regretting a decision to marry, however short the marriage, does not by itself constitute grounds for annulment.
Will I have to appear in court?
The court system exists mainly to resolve disputes and to enforce agreements. In most Pennsylvania counties, if both spouses are in agreement regarding all aspects of the divorce proceeding, there is no need to appear in court. An annulment proceeding does require a court appearance.
What if we were married in another state or country? It is not where you were married that matters, but where you and/or your spouse reside. If either you or your spouse has been a bona fide resident of Pennsylvania for the six months immediately prior to the filing of the Complaint in Divorce, Pennsylvania’s requirements are satisfied and you can file here no matter where you were married. You can still be considered a Pennsylvania resident if you are in the military services and have been stationed elsewhere, provided that you have maintained your status as a Pennsylvania resident.
How do I get a legal separation in Pennsylvania? Some states require “legal separation” prior to divorce. In Pennsylvania, however, legal separation does not exist; you do not need to “get” a separation to commence living separate and apart from your spouse. Spouses can be considered separated when one of them notifies the other that the marriage is over, even if they continue to reside at the same address for a time. The date of separation can be important when determining what is and is not marital property for purposes of distribution, or when deciding which no-fault ground for divorce to use.
Can I date before I am divorced?
Once you and your spouse have made your final separation, neither of you has any expectation of the other’s fidelity that a Pennsylvania divorce court will recognize. Marital misconduct after the date of final separation (that does not involve violence) will not be considered by the court when making determinations of alimony or property distribution. Assuming that you exercise appropriate discretion around your children and have properly prepared for the effect a new relationship will have on them, child custody should not be affected. Actual cohabitation with a boyfriend or girlfriend (as opposed to mere dating) can cut off a right to spousal support or alimony, since cohabitation has the effect of forming a new household.
Can I claim alimony, property or debt contribution from my ex-spouse after I am divorced? Divorce in Pennsylvania is intended to bring economic closure to the divorcing spouses, as well as personal closure. Unless you have protected your claims against your spouse with a written agreement, or you have filed a formal claim for economic relief with the family court prior to the award of a divorce decree (such as alimony or marital property distribution and allocation of marital debt), your rights to do so are probably lost forever. Please note that any claims relating to your children, whether for child support or child custody, are not affected by divorce; since these involve independent rights of your children, they cannot be lost.
Does my spouse have the right to live with me or enter my home?
The mere fact that you remain legally married gives your spouse no special rights to be near you, in your home, or to harass you. If you are living in a different residence from the one the two of you shared, and your spouse is not an owner or fellow renter, you can have your spouse removed by the police just like any other trespasser (or you can simply refuse to open the door). However, if you are not yet separated (even if your home is in your name alone), or your spouse is an owner or named renter of your residence, your spouse can probably come and go as he or she pleases. Even changing the locks might not help, since it is not illegal to break into one’s own property. Police generally will decline to remove a spouse from his or her marital home, no matter who owns the home. It is sadly common to have a “pressure cooker” situation in which neither party will budge from the house. Usually, changing the situation takes some sort of compromise, a willingness for someone to back down and leave, a lawsuit for “exclusive possession,” or the award of a Protection from Abuse Order.
Can my spouse throw me out?
If the two of you are still living together in your shared residence, the odds are that neither of you can throw the other one out, even if the residence is in the name of only one of you (either rented or owned). Police will generally not get involved in deciding who gets to live there and who has to leave, unless there is a violent situation. Although a family court has the power to award “exclusive possession” of your home in some circumstances, that process (if opposed) can take months. If you are looking to stay in the marital residence and your spouse wants you out, it is a very good idea to avoid expressions of frustration or anger which could be misinterpreted as a violent threat or a physical attack. Keep your voice down, keep your distance, keep your hands down (avoid gesticulating), and say nothing that could be interpreted as a physical threat. It is all too easy for something to occur between you that your spouse can either misinterpret or inflate out of proportion for the purpose of getting a Protection from Abuse Order. Even if you feel that you are being provoked to use violence, avoid doing so at all costs. There is never an excuse for initiating violence of any description as far as the Court is concerned, and such a thing is likely to come back to haunt you. Pushing, grabbing and the use of physical intimidation can be just as bad as punching. If you are worried that your spouse might try to get a Protection from Abuse Order against you, justified or otherwise, it is a good idea to make sure that you have a place you could go in a pinch, with at least some changes of clothing and personal items stored outside the house for easy access. If you, yourself are the victim of domestic violence or have been put in fear of imminent injury (by threats or gestures), you may be eligible for a Protection from Abuse Order.
If I leave, can my spouse “get me” for abandonment?
“Abandonment” for a period of a year or more is one of the “fault” grounds for divorce. However, you are not abandoning anyone if you have a good reason to leave, if you are asked to leave by your spouse, or if you agree with your spouse that you should leave. For your departure to qualify as abandonment, your spouse must be “innocent and injured,” and that is usually not the case. In any event, abandonment or other fault grounds for divorce have absolutely nothing to do with property and debt distribution rights, have only a limited role to play (if any) in alimony considerations, and generally do not affect child custody or support rights. If you are considering leaving without your children, it is a good idea either to have reached an agreement regarding custody and parenting of your children (your divorce and family lawyer can draft one for you), or to have initiated a custody process in court and asked for an interim custody arrangement; otherwise, you depend on your spouse’s goodwill to allow you to play your role as a parent. If you want your children to live with you primarily, you should know that leaving your children with your spouse can establish a status quo which can be very difficult to change later. If you take your children without your spouse’s consent, your spouse can file for custody and ask the children to be returned. It is always best to reach agreements with your spouse regarding custody and parenting of children prior to leaving, if possible.
I don’t know how to find my spouse. Can I still get divorced?
Under certain circumstances, yes. Ordinarily, after divorce papers are filed with the court, they must be served on your spouse by having him or her sign for them, by sending them certified mail, or by having someone deliver them personally. No divorce decree can be granted without proper service. If you have made a genuinely diligent effort to find your spouse (which can include searching the Internet, hiring an investigator, checking for mail forwarding instructions at the Post Office, contacting your spouse’s relatives or friends, and searching based on your spouse’s Social Security Number) and you have been separated more than two years, you can ask the court to grant permission for “alternative service.” A court can permit you to serve the divorce papers in an alternate way, perhaps on your spouse’s relative or by placing advertisements in newspapers. Once that is done, you can get a divorce decree based upon the Irretrievable Breakdown ground.
If you need legal assistance with your divorce or family law matter in Southwestern Pennsylvania, call our Pittsburgh family law office to set up a personal consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer. Please do not comment anonymously, and do not post anything that you consider confidential. We try to be responsive to commentary and questions, but know that posting here will not create an attorney/client relationship and that we will not offer legal advice via the Internet.