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Pennsylvania FAQs About Divorce
Can I force my spouse to leave our marital home? And if so, will he/she still be responsible for some of the expenses?
Oftentimes when a married couple is not getting along, one person would like the other person to leave the home. If certain criteria are met, then a spouse may file a petition with the court asking the judge to award him/her sole possession of the marital home. If the person who leaves the house earns more money, then the spouse who remains in the marital home may be entitled to spousal support.
Spousal support is money that one spouse has to pay the other spouse. This money may be used to contribute towards the mortgage, food, clothing, or any other expenses.
If the spouse who remains in the home also has custody of the children, he/she may be entitled to child support as well.
In order to determine how much spousal and/or child support a person may receive, you must look at the parties' net monthly incomes and then do a mathematical calculation based on the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines.
If I leave my spouse and children, is that considered abandonment and will I lose title to my home?
If you choose to leave your spouse and children that does not constitute abandonment or desertion. Also, by leaving the marital home, that does not necessarily mean that you will lose title to the home or any equity in the home.
If a divorce complaint gets filed which includes a count for "equitable distribution," then you and your spouse will have to divide your marital property. In Pennsylvania, a husband and wife do not automatically receive 50% of the marital property. Instead, equitable distribution is based upon a variety of statutory factors. Thus, the marital property may be divided 60/40 or 55/45 or even 75/25, depending upon the facts of your particular situation.
My spouse is physically and mentally abusive to me, is there anything that I can do?
If your spouse is abusive, you can file a petition with the court requesting a Protection from Abuse Order be entered against him/her. You will have a hearing within ten (10) days. The judge may issue an Order stating that your spouse is not allowed to harass, stalk or be anywhere near you. The Order may also state that you are entitled to sole and exclusive possession of your home. Further, the Order may address the issue of custody. If your spouse violates the Order he/she can be put in jail up to six (6) months or fined.
A Protection from Abuse Order lasts for one (1) year although it may be extended depending upon the situation.
What is the difference between physical and legal custody?
Physical custody means with whom the child resides. If the child resides with you the majority of time, you are the primary physical custodian. If the child resides with you part of the time, you are the partial physical custodian.
Legal custody is typically shared between the two parents. The person(s) granted legal custody is able to make all of the "major" decisions in the child's life. For example, what school the child should attend, what religion the child should be, and whether the child needs any medical care.
If the parties are able to work out a physical and legal custody arrangement between them, then there is no need to go to court. The attorney can draft a Custody Stipulation which takes into account the desires of the parties. The parties sign the Stipulation, it is filed in court and subsequently becomes a Court Order.
Pennsylvania grants a no-fault divorce when both spouses agree to divorce and file an affidavit that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The court may grant a divorce 90 days after filing. If one spouse files an affidavit that the couple has lived apart for at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may grant a divorce based on those circumstances.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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