What is a 90 day consent divorce?

The couple must wait 90 days after the divorce complaint has been served on the defendant spouse (the one who did not file for the divorce). After the 90 days, if both husband and wife agree to the divorce, they each sign an Affidavit of Consent which is filed with the court. The court will sign the divorce decree as soon as the consents are filed and the couple has divided their property.

What is a two-year separation divorce?

If one spouse will not consent to the divorce, the plaintiff (the spouse who wants the divorce) must wait until the couple has been separated for two years, unless there are fault grounds for the divorce. (Very few couples pursue fault divorces because of the added cost and the uncertainty of the result). The statute requires the couple to live “separate and apart” for the two-year period. This is possible even if they are still in the same house. The court will sign the divorce decree as soon as the plaintiff has filed an affidavit of the two-year separation and the couple has divided their property.

What is an uncontested divorce?

A divorce is uncontested when the couple can agree on all the issues between them related to the divorce. These issues may include division of property and debt, parenting plans and custody, support for the children and support for a dependent spouse.

What is a contested divorce?

A divorce is contested when the couple cannot agree on one or more of the issues between them. At that point, the couple must decide whether they want to explore mediation to resolve their conflict. Their other choice is to request their attorneys to schedule a trial.

How much will it cost to go to trial?

There is no easy answer to this question. It depends on how much time your attorney spends preparing for your trial and presenting your case to the court. It also depends on how difficult it is for your attorney to get the information needed from the other party. Some cases also require experts to value a business or a pension, or to appraise real estate. All these things add to the cost of a litigated divorce.

Won't the spouse with the higher income have to pay the other spouse's attorney's fees?

The Divorce Code gives courts in Pennsylvania the power to award counsel fees. However, counsel fee awards are rare. They occur in some cases where one party has been found in contempt for failing to obey a court order or an agreement between the parties. The court may also award counsel fees if one spouse has refused to cooperate in providing financial information (discovery).

What is discovery?

Discovery is just what it sounds like–it is a formal way to obtain financial or other information from your spouse through your attorneys. Each lawyer usually requests information from the other attorney; usually they exchange this information informally and voluntarily. If one spouse won’t cooperate informally, the Pennsylvania courts authorize more formal discovery and impose a penalty on the party who does not cooperate.

What is a Property Settlement Agreement?

A Property Settlement Agreement is a comprehensive, written document which spells out the agreements between you and your spouse on all issues related to your divorce, including the division of property and debt, custody and parenting issues, support, transfer of title of real estate and vehicles and the rights of each spouse to pension and savings plans.

SHOULD I UPDATE MY WILL DURING MY DIVORCE?

​Yes. ​
​ It is very important to be sure your estate planning documents reflect your current situation. Often people forget to update beneficiary designations or to change the Executors named in their Will, or the Agents under their Power of Attorney or Living Will. The last thing you want is for your estranged or former spouse to remain in charge of the decisions about your estate if you pass away during the divorce litigation, or worse, to have your documents made invalid by not having named an Executor or Agent who is not your current spouse.
​ Some of these problems were addressed in c​hanges to Pennsylvania’s Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, signed in 2010,​ ​The new law clarified the rights of inheritance when a divorce is winding its way through the court system but there is no final​​ divorce decree yet.​
​”​Death while Divorce is Pending“​

There are three important elements to the new law:

(1)  When one spouse dies during the course of divorce proceedings when grounds for divorce have been established but no final divorce decree has been entered yet, the surviving spouse shall have no right or interest in the estate of the deceased spouse.

(2) When one spouse dies during the course of divorce proceedings when grounds for divorce have been established,  the surviving spouse in a pending divorce is deemed to have predeceased the other spouse
when the will of the deceased spouse is interpreted.

(3) When one spouse dies during the course of divorce proceedings when grounds for divorce have been established, the new law invalidates a beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy, annuity contract, pension or profit-sharing plan.

The important element in all the above scenarios is that grounds for the divorce must have been established before the spouse dies. Grounds are established by either (a) when both parties have signed the Affidavit of Consent to a no-fault divorce or (b) the parties have been separated for two years or more and one party has filed an Affidavit alleging the 2-year separation.

The other important message from this new legislature is that the deceased spouse should have a will. This is something most people ignore during divorce litigation. The better course of action would be to have your attorney prepare a new will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney with living will early in the divorce process. You can always amend these documents again after the divorce is final.