Our Attorneys Answer the Most Frequent Questions Asked by Divorcing Couples in PA

Individuals facing divorce or those involved in a custody matter, no doubt, have many questions.  In addition, family law matters often cause emotional stress. It is natural to feel alone, lost, depressed or overwhelmed.

Our divorce and custody lawyers are here for our clients.  In addition to providing legal support, we are emotionally supportive of our clients.  We know you have a lot of questions.  Can parents sue for sole custody? How long does it take for a divorce to become final? Can men collect alimony from their wives? Read through our FAQ page to find out what couples are most likely to ask when preparing to separate for good.

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  • Can You Enforce a Pennsylvania Marital Settlement Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement?

    Question:  My spouse and I divorced last year.  When we decided to divorce, we agreed that we would file the divorce complaint ourselves without a lawyer because we were on relatively good terms. We were able to work out a marital settlement agreement.  Per the agreement, I stayed in our home, but my ex would pay for the mortgage of the house.  He paid the mortgage for about 10 months, and the last few months, he stopped paying it.  When I talked to him, he said he forgot and will pay it.  It’s been several months, and he still has not paid for it. What can I do to make him comply with our agreement and pay the mortgage?

    Answer: I am sorry you have to deal with this issue.  When your divorce was finalized, you probably didn't think that you would have to deal with any other issues related to the divorce later on.  Unfortunately, you are not the only one in this situation.  As divorce lawyers in Doylestown and Newtown, we have seen this happen to many divorcing couples.

    In order to enforce the marital settlement agreement, you would need to file a petition with the court to enforce the agreement.

    What is a Petition to Enforce Marital Settlement Agreement in Pennsylvania?

    A petition to enforce your marital settlement agreement is a petition that asks the court to enforce the terms of the agreement you reached with your ex-husband.  Depending on whether the agreement was entered as an Order of Court or whether it is a stand alone agreement, you may be able to file a petition for Contempt of the Order or a petition to enforce the terms of the stand alone agreement.  The petition must show that the agreement was validly entered or that the agreement was entered as an order of Court and how your ex-husband violated the agreement, i.e., failed to make mortgage payments.  The court will then schedule a hearing and your ex-husband will have a chance to respond to your petition.

     So long as the agreement is valid, PA divorce courts will enforce marital settlement agreements and compel the non-complying party to abide by the terms of the agreement.  The court may take steps to enforce compliance, such as garnishing your ex-husband's income.  In addition, if the Court finds that your ex-husband willfully violated the agreement he may be required to pay for your reasonable attorney's fees for filing the petition to enforce the marital settlement agreement particularly if it was made an Order of Court.

    There are limited situations where the court will not enforce the agreement.  Marital Settlement Agreements are viewed by the Court as a contract and subject to contract law.  As with any contract, there must be certain conditions met to enforce that contract.  For example, if your ex-husband shows some type of fraud committed, or he was under duress when he signed the agreement the Court may set aside the agreement and find there is no agreement to enforce, either in whole or in part.  .

    I encourage you to talk to a divorce lawyer in PA about your case.  We have offices in Doylestown and Newtown, Bucks County. Our divorce lawyers have extensive experience in helping parties similar to your situation. 

  • How to Find the Best PA Divorce Lawyer for My Case? Answer by a Doylestown and Newtown Divorce Attorney

    Divorce is emotionally draining and stressful for all parties, whether it is an amicable divorce or a contentious one. If kids are involved, divorce also has a significant impact on them. Many times, individuals facing divorce are referred to divorce lawyers through their friends or family members.  Although family members or friends know the lawyers, it is a good idea for parties facing divorce to do their research and make sure that they are hiring a divorce lawyer who is best for them.  Below are some tips to help you choose the best Pennsylvania divorce lawyer for your case.

    Make Sure You Feel Comfortable with the Divorce Lawyer

    You want to make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer.  After all, you are going to be working closely with the lawyer throughout the divorce process.  Your lawyer will know details about your relationship and financial situation.  You want to feel comfortable talking to your lawyer about these issues.  You want to feel that the lawyer is on your side and be confident that he/she will do everything he/she can to help you achieve your goals in the divorce, i.e., custody, child support or spousal support.

    Related: Doylestown & Newtown, PA Divorces – Are You Required to Have a Lawyer?

    Ask Questions

    It is important to ask questions when you meet the lawyer.  Don't be shy or feel embarrassed to ask the lawyer questions.  Below are some questions I encourage you to ask when meeting a potential divorce lawyer.

    What kind of divorce cases do you handle? 

    There are different types of divorce cases.  Some are straightforward, and some are complex, especially when parties have significant assets and/or real estate.  These types of high end divorces have various tax implications and require a divorce lawyer who not only knows divorce laws, but also tax laws.  Therefore, you may want to know if the lawyer has handled divorce cases that are similar to your divorce case.

    Will anyone else be working on my case? If so, what is that person’s level of experience and can I meet them?

    Oftentimes, a party may meet a lawyer at an initial consultation. However, that lawyer may not be the only person handling the case.  That lawyer may have another associate work on the case.  Sometimes, the case may even be handled entirely by another attorney.  While there is nothing wrong with having other attorneys from the firm working on your case, it is important to know who the other lawyers are and to meet them.  You want to feel comfortable with the other lawyer as well.

    Doylestown and Newtown Divorce and Custody Attorneys

    Feel free to contact our PA divorce attorney to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Doylestown and Newtown.

  • Is having an attorney required to get a PA divorce? My spouse and I have decided to divorce, and we are on good terms. The divorce should be relatively simple. Can we file the paperwork ourselves?

    Required? No. Advisable? Maybe.  You can certainly file the paperwork yourselves, but before you do, it is a good idea to at least speak with a PA divorce lawyer about it.  This way, you will be aware of what the issues are and the options available to resolve them. There are many legal nuances that people often don’t know if they are not experienced family law or divorce lawyers.  You may be putting yourself at a disadvantage and end up with a marital settlement agreement that favors one party over the other, without even knowing that it happened this way.  Only after speaking with a divorce lawyer can you properly decide whether you need a divorce lawyer involved or not and to what extent.

    There are a few things you should know if you decide to file the paperwork yourself.  Though the divorce may appear to be straightforward, the logistics of finalizing the divorce may be more complicated than you would think, given the need to comply with Rules of Civil Procedure and other local law requirements.  Thus, you have to be mentally prepared that it may not be as easy as you envisioned even though you and your spouse are on good terms.  Having to go through a divorce is stressful enough.  Having to make sure you completed the right paperwork should not be the source of more anxiety.

    From a practical standpoint, if you don’t file the right paperwork, the divorce process may be delayed.  It is not uncommon that couples who do not hire divorce lawyers have problems completing the forms or inadvertently complete the wrong forms.  Dealing with the resulting problem notices will undoubtedly prolong the divorce process unnecessarily, a problem that can be easily avoided.

    Related: Marital Property & Equitable Distribution in a Bucks County, PA Divorce

    Consider the following example.  A couple living in Doylestown decides to divorce.  The parties are on good terms.  The husband drafts a marital settlement agreement for the wife to sign.  They agree that each party will keep his or her own assets and debts.  However, the agreement does not list the assets or the value of the assets.  The wife signs the agreement, and as it turns out, the husband has significantly more assets than the wife, and wife was completely unaware that such assets existed given the way that the parties managed their finances.  Thus, the wife unknowingly settles for less than what she should receive.  Depending on the terms of the agreement, the wife may be unsuccessful in challenging the marital settlement agreement at a later date, which is why it is important to consider all issues before the marital settlement agreement is signed.

    For all of the above reasons, it is advisable to talk to a PA divorce lawyer to make sure you are protecting your interests.

    Feel free to contact our PA divorce lawyers to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Doylestown and Newtown.

  • How long will my no-fault divorce take in Doylestown, PA?

    How Long Does a No-Fault Divorce Take in Pennsylvania?

    Short Answer 

    • Mutual consent divorces can take 4-5 months, including a mandatory 90 day waiting period (after the divorce complaint is filed).
    • Irretrievably broken divorces can take a few months to finalize if the parties comply with all procedural requirements. There's no 90 day waiting period.

    See full answer and discussion below.

    Last updated March 25, 2018

    How Long Does a No-Fault Divorce Take in Pennsylvania?

    Answer by a Doylestown Divorce Lawyer

    This is one of the top questions our clients have when faced with divorce in PA.  The answer depends on a variety of factors, including whether your spouse consents to the divorce and how long you have been separated.  The divorce process can be simple and straightforward, but it can also be complicated if there are issues with property division, support, alimony and/or custody (some of which have to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized).

    There are two grounds for obtaining a no-fault divorce in PA, which we will discuss below.

    Pennsylvania No-Fault Divorce

    Mutual Consent

    Mutual consent is one of the most common grounds for obtaining a no-fault divorce and occurs in cases where the parties consent to the divorce and agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken or cannot be fixed.  After a divorce complaint is filed and served, there is a 90-day waiting period that must elapse before the parties can proceed to finalize the divorce.  After the 90-day waiting period has elapsed, each party must file an affidavit consenting to the divorce.  Then, assuming the parties do not have any property division or alimony issues, the parties can file the appropriate paperwork to allow the judge to grant the divorce without a court hearing.

    In cases where there is mutual consent, the divorce can take anywhere from 4 to 5 months to be completed.  Even though the waiting period is 90 days, it takes time for the court to process the various paperwork that must be filed and to issue a divorce decree.

    Irretrievably Broken

    If a couple in PA has lived separate and apart for at least 2 years (with the understanding that “separate and apart” does not require the spouses to be physically separated), a party may file a complaint based on the ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

    In order for the court to grant a divorce, the other party must not deny either that the parties have separated for at least 2 years or that the marriage is irretrievably broken.  Because there is no 90-day waiting period, the divorce process may only take a couple of months, if the other party fully cooperates with fulfilling all of the procedural requirements.

    Even if the other party does not consent to the divorce and denies that the parties have been living separate and apart (again, not necessarily physically apart) for at least 2 years or denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, a judge may still grant a divorce after a hearing to address such claims.  At the hearing, the judge will hear the other party’s objections and may decide that the parties have, in fact, lived separate and apart for at least 2 years, or that the marriage is irretrievably broken, even though one party may not agree to one or both facts.

    However, if the judge decides that there may be a possibility of the parties reconciling, the judge will continue the case for a period of no less than 90 days and no more than 120 days, unless the parties agree to a period in excess of 120 days, in order to give the parties an opportunity to resolve their issues and reconcile.  In such a case, the divorce can take some time before it is finalized.

    Seek Counsel from an Experienced PA Divorce Lawyer in Doylestown, Bucks County

    Though no-fault divorces may be straightforward and appear simple, it is advisable to speak with an experienced PA divorce lawyer to make sure that your interests are protected, because once the divorce is finalized, your remedies are extremely limited.  Additionally, while spouses may be on friendly terms initially and decide to file the complaint themselves, they may later find that they are at odds with each other, thereby creating a litany of unexpected issues.  The above only addresses how long a no-fault divorce can take and does not address other issues associated with no-fault divorces; remember, “no-fault” does not mean “no-issue.”  Call the experienced divorce lawyers at Zlock P.C. to schedule a consultation.  The firm has offices in Doylestown and Newtown, PA.  215-340-5500