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Domestic Relations Law in Pennsylvania
Going through a divorce is a scary, anxiety-ridden process. You have thousands of questions and no one to give you answers. Do I get to keep the house? Should I be able to receive money from my spouse every month? Will I get custody of the children?
I understand the complexities and intricacies of divorce law. My legal practice is devoted exclusively to handling divorce, equitable distribution, support and custody.
It is possible for people to determine how they want their "marital property" to be divided without the courts getting involved. However, the first question that you must ask yourself is: What constitutes "marital property"? Marital property is anything that is acquired from the day you marry until the day you separate. So, for example, if you and your spouse bought a house during the time you were married, then that constitutes marital property. What if you had a pension prior to the time you were married? Then the value of the pension on the date that you were married is yours alone; however, the increase in value of the pension from the date that you married until the date that you separated is considered marital property and both you and your spouse have a right to it.
Spousal Support/Alimony Pendente Lite
Pennsylvania law states that spouses are obligated to support each other until the time they are divorced. Thus, even if there is no divorce complaint filed, yet, it is still possible to obtain support from him/her.
The court compares your income to your spouse's income and then performs a mathematical calculation based on the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines in order to determine how much support one person is required to pay the other either on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
There are certain definitions that every person should know about if they are going through a custody conference/hearing.
"Physical custody" is with whom the child resides. So, for example, if the child resides with the father from Monday through Friday, then he is the primary physical custodian; whereas, if the child resides with the mother on the weekends, then she is the partial physical custodian.
The parties or, alternately, the court can determine the custody arrangement any number of ways: One parent may have the child one week and the other parent may have the child the following week; or maybe, the child will only see one parent every Sunday from 12:00 noon until 4:00 p.m. The standard for determining the custody arrangement is "whatever is in the best interests of the child."
"Legal custody" is also an important definition because the legal custodian is the one who makes all of the ma or decisions in the child's life, such as: What school they should attend; what religion they should be; or whether they need medical care. Typically, legal custody is joint (shared between both parents) unless one parent can prove the other parent is "unfit" to render such decisions. Determining unfitness is a case by case analysis based on the facts of the particular situation.
The Pennsylvania court may decide to order both spouses to attend an orientation for mediation or counseling. Mediation may resolve issues outside of court. The court tells the parties what issues need to be addressed in the sessions (for example, child custody, child support or division of property). The court cannot order mediation if there have been any allegations of domestic violence or child abuse within the past two years.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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