Divorce is a topic often fraught with high emotions and unreasonable expectations on both sides. In navigating a divorce, it’s important to approach the legal components of the case with a clear head to make sure that you don’t make any rash or unnecessary decisions. Here are some quick terms that you should understand about divorce in Pennsylvania.
Important Terminology for Divorce and Separation
- No-Fault: This occurs when fault cannot be proven, or when a divorce occurs by mutual consent—both of which are further explained below. In addition, it will apply if the parties have been living separately for two years, or two years have passed since the filing of a divorce action. This works when only one of the parties is requesting a divorce.
- Fault: To file for a fault divorce, the filing party must prove that they are either ‘innocent and injured’, which means that they are not the one at fault, or that the other spouse has participated in misconduct that caused the breakdown of the marriage. Reasons for a fault divorce include violence, bigamy, desertion, insanity, adultery, or conviction of a crime.
- Mutual Consent: When both parties agree to the divorce, it can be granted by the court 90 days after the complaint was served and the parties have both filed their Affidavits of Consent.
- Legal Separation: In Pennsylvania, non-divorce separation is not a specific legal term. It means that the spouses are living apart, and could be done either by mutual consent or by one party expelling the other from the home. There are instances where a couple could be considered separated even if they are living in the same household.
- Marital Property: All property that was acquired by either party during the marriage is joint property, with a few personal exceptions. If not specified by name in the separation agreement, all marital property can be divided by the court in what it deems an equal arrangement.
- Annulment: Known also in a religious sense, legally annulment refers to marriages that have been deemed invalid by the court. If the contract of marriage was entered into illegally such that the parties would not have been capable of properly doing so, because of being underage, intoxicated, or the marriage being fraudulent, the court will declare that the marriage contract never existed.
The Lawyer’s Role
When going through a divorce proceeding, attorneys can assist separating couples in three major areas: informing you of your legal rights and duties, working with you to bring about an agreeable settlement or resolution, and representing you in court during the proceedings.
For each of these parts, it’s important to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side, and at Smith & Horwitz, we have decades of experience on our site that we use to best defend and represent you. Contact us for a free phone consultation at (215) 515-8464 to talk with us about how we can work with you through the many steps of a divorce proceeding.