Again and again, clients come into our office convinced that certain myths about divorce law in Pennsylvania are true. Here, we take a look at some of the most common misconceptions and briefly explain the reality.
1. Marital property is always divided 50/50. False. While some states (most famously, California) mandate a 50/50 distribution of marital property, Pennsylvania does not. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. What constitutes an “equitable distribution” in Pennsylvania will depend upon a variety of factors found in the Divorce Code. Sometimes, 50/50 is equitable; sometimes a disproportionate division of assets is more fair.
2. Alimony payments can be predicted easily. False. Unlike spousal support or alimony pendente lite (APL) which are largely income-driven, there is no set formula for alimony in Pennsylvania. It is difficult for even the most seasoned attorneys to accurately predict what a court would determine to be a fair amount of alimony in each case or whether to award alimony at all. Outcomes can vary by county. Indefinite alimony, which used to be extremely common, is becoming a rarity. As with equitable distribution, the Divorce Code provides factors that act as a guideline in determining when and how much alimony is appropriate. Whether alimony should be paid in your case will depend upon your unique circumstances.
3. Your divorce can be finalized automatically after two years. False. This may be the most common myth that we encounter. In Pennsylvania, you can get divorced by consent of both parties, if one party is “at fault,” or after a two-year separation. If you truly have no property to divide, then some cases can be wrapped up easily after a two-year separation. However, most cases do not fall into that category. More often, even though you have grounds for divorce once you and your spouse have been separated for two years, the court does not magically divide your property, award alimony, or deal with any other ancillary claims. The reality is that if you have property to divide, the two-year mark is when you can ask the court to conduct a hearing to divide your property, regardless of whether your spouse agrees with your desire to get divorced.
4. Committing adultery means that you lose everything. False. Fault, which includes adultery and abandonment, among other things, is a factor in determining whether a divorce can be granted and in determining an award of alimony. However, fault is not a consideration in the division of marital property. If you have an affair, you do not forfeit–or even diminish–your interest in your home. If your wife has an affair, you do not suddenly get a larger chunk of her retirement account.
5. The divorce process must be adversarial. False. Although getting divorced can be a nasty process, it does not need to be. If you are afraid of ending up in court, you have options. Most divorces, even those that proceed within the typical litigation framework, settle out-of-court. You have the option of mediating your divorce-related issues. Additionally, you and your spouse could opt-in to the Collaborative Divorce process. Attorneys trained in collaborative divorce law can offer their clients a real alternative to litigation, where the threat of going to court is removed from the equation. Attorney Jessica Smith and Attorney Alexis Miloszewski are collaboratively trained and certified to assist their clients through this process–where the clients have complete control over the outcome.
Whether you need a divorce attorney in Harrisburg, Hershey, Mechanicsburg, or elsewhere in Central Pennsylvania, contact Attorney Alexis Miloszewski or Attorney Jessica Smith at 717.520.4400 or email@example.com to discuss your options and the unique facts of your case.