Things to Do Before You File for Divorce in Pennsylvania
- Evaluate finances, career, and living arrangements
- Learn residency requirements
- Gather financial information
- Assess your immediate needs
- Craft a divorce strategy
Divorce is more than just a dry legal process where you file some documents. Not only are you facing a life-changing transition, but numerous financial and practical aspects need to be considered before filing for divorce in Pennsylvania.
Understanding Pennsylvania’s divorce procedure and laws can help prepare you and create a smoother transition for both you and your family.
Preparing to file for divorce in Pennsylvania
Before filing for divorce, you want to become mentally and financially prepared. This means you’ll want to look at each aspect of your life through a new lens: that of a divorcing person. And that can be significantly different than how you look at things as a married person.
Evaluate your personal situation
As a married spouse, many things work to your advantage. You physically and financially share a home, kids, expenses, debts, and a future. But divorce has a holistic impact on your life – personally, professionally, financially, and legally. Before you file your divorce petition, consider the following.
One of the primary considerations during a divorce will be your financial life. Your financial landscape will change drastically after your divorce. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have enough resources to take care of yourself and your kids.
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that the divorce-related division of your marital property will not necessarily be a 50/50 split. Many things are taken into consideration when splitting marital property in an equitable distribution state, such as the length of the marriage and what each person contributed to the marriage.
Spousal support (alimony) could come into play if you think you’ll need temporary financial support to help you become financially self-supporting. Consider getting some professional financial advice about what you may need financially post-divorce.
If you have children, child support will also be on your horizon. Child support is typically paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. It’s calculated based on both parents’ income and your children’s expenses. Note that if you and your spouse can come to an agreement outside the courtroom on custody and child support, it may be beneficial. Once the court gets involved, their primary concern will be what they consider the best interests of the child – but not necessarily what is convenient for the parent(s).
When you’re going through a divorce and beyond, your professional life can take some unexpected turns. Ideally, both you and your spouse have professional stability during this time of upheaval. But divorce can upend the most stable of jobs if you need to relocate or once you become a single parent.
What’s more, during the divorce procedure itself, you can count on having to take time off for personal adjustments, meetings with financial professionals and attorneys, or court appearances.
Divorce means you and your ex-spouse will need to find separate living arrangements. If one of you plans to keep the marital home, you will have to decide how to split that asset during your property division. That spouse must also get mortgage financing in their own name.
Especially when children are involved and you are sharing parenting time, you’ll need living arrangements that are as stable and comfortable as possible. You may consider moving closer to extended family members for additional support or staying in the same neighborhood to maintain their friendships and school districts. Either way, children who have fewer disruptions in their lives and can spend time with both parents have an easier time adjusting to their divorce.
Learn Pennsylvania’s residency requirements
Residency requirements for divorce filing are unique to each state. Pennsylvania has a relatively flexible residency requirement. To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, one of you must have lived in the state for six months.
It’s important to note, however, that where you file for divorce matters in Pennsylvania. You must file for divorce in the county:
- Where your spouse resides
- Where you reside if your spouse is not a resident of Pennsylvania
- Where you both lived while you were married
- Where you live if you have not been separated for six months and your spouse agrees, or where either of you currently reside if neither of you live in the county where you lived together, or
- Where either of you live, if you have been separated for at least six months
Gather your financial information
Part of your divorce process will involve dividing marital property and debt between yourselves according to Pennsylvania state laws. Marital property includes all money earned and property and debt acquired during your marriage.
To do this, you must prepare and gather all your financial information to clearly understand what you’re working with.
Divorce laws vary by state, but most states — including Pennsylvania — require a married couple to put all their financial information on the table before the break-up.
Gather information from all your income sources, including things like investment accounts, wages, benefits, retirement income, pensions, investment property, business income, or other possible sources of income.
Compile a list of your current expenses. This should include your mortgage and car payments, credit card debt, loan debt, or anything else you make monthly payments on.
You and your spouse should also gather details about any jointly held accounts: joint credit cards, joint bank accounts, and any other accounts you share. Do this to promote an equitable division of funds in your marital settlement agreement.
Part of any divorce proceeding will be a full financial disclosure by both spouses, so it’s important to gather all financial documents in one place so you are prepared. Financial transparency requires both of you to be as honest and accurate as possible about your financial life. If you deliberately mislead the court regarding your financial status, it could result in serious penalties.
Assess your immediate needs
Your life will change dramatically after divorce. Be prepared by assessing what you will need in the days, weeks, and months leading up to and following it. Where will you live? Will you have enough financial resources? Do you have transportation to get to work? These are things you may not have considered, but you should consider them now before it becomes a reality.
You may find you will need some temporary financial support until the court grants your divorce. Either spouse can get a court order for temporary support in Pennsylvania, including orders for attorney fees, health insurance coverage, and other expenses.
Craft a divorce strategy
Divorce can be emotionally overwhelming, and things can get confrontational. Set ground rules early on so you and your spouse can expect respectful communication from each other. Especially when children are involved, you and your spouse should try to keep confrontations at bay, or at the very least, out of their earshot.
Are you seeking a fault-based divorce or a no-fault divorce?
In most cases, there is little advantage to filing for divorce with fault-based grounds. Fault-based divorce tends to make the divorce process more acrimonious, take longer, and result in more attorney fees and court costs.
Divorce mediation can help bridge any gaps you and your spouse may have regarding property division, spousal support, custody, or any other contentious issues. Negotiation through a divorce mediator allows you to mutually work out your issues with professional guidance, alleviating the need for costly attorney fees and litigation.
In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees on how their marital settlement agreement should look. In contested divorce, they struggle to agree on aspects of their settlement. If your divorce is contested, consider hiring a divorce mediator rather than a divorce lawyer.
If you are contemplating a divorce in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to consider many personal and financial issues. Your best course of action will be to understand your rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania law, consider what you will need for your future, and prepare yourself for all possibilities.
That’s where we come in. Let us guide you with an efficient and cost-effective online divorce plan. Or, let us provide the tension-reducing mediation or soul-affirming divorce coaching you need. (Click here to learn what a divorce coach does.)