Marriage, Separation, and Divorce
Couples sometimes enter in pre nuptial agreements or separation agreements to avoid disputes in the event of divorce. Such contracts can deal with property rights, support, child custody and visitation. You may be able to enter into such agreements before or during marriage. Unmarried couples living together sometimes use a contract to specify their expected rights and responsibilities, and may enter into agreements similar to the ones used by married couples.
Separation agreements routinely specify who, in the event of divorce, will have custody of children, and stipulate the frequency and duration of visits by the other spouse. Pre nuptial and separation agreements can also address various contingencies such as selling your home and valuing one anothers interest in pension plans. Such contracts might also require that a spouse pledge property to be forfeited for failure to comply with the agreement.
The probability that a person will be touched in some manner by the consequence of divorce is all too great. There are two basic types of divorce today (at least in PA and in many other states as well).
No fault divorce, which implies a consent by the parties, (or a statutory period of separation which qualifies a person for a divorce) or Fault divorce, which encompasses some sort of grounds, such as Indignities, Adultery, Cruel and Barbarous Treatment, or some other statutory creation. Both types of divorce are instituted by the filing of a Complaint with the Court and serving it upon the other party to give him/her the opportunity to defend the action.
Unfortunately, most divorces involve more than the simple breaking of the marriage contract. People have children when they marry. Sometimes they even have them before they marry (or sometimes even when they don't marry.) Child custody issues can be extremely complex and very emotionally trying for all parties concerned. Support is a legal responsibility which can become financially burdensome even when it is fairly applied.
Under the law, support is not only available for the children but also for the spouse (spousal support) who is without resources to maintain themselves until the marriage is dissolved.
Alimony also takes different forms. It may cover a short period of time after the divorce is granted to allow the receiving spouse to recover financially by either getting a job or obtaining training or education which will enable the spouse to support him or her self. Or it may be permanent Alimony paid to a spouse which has been in a long term marriage and is of advanced age and does not have the skills or education to secure employment and provide for themselves.
There are also issues of property settlement. Who should get the House and who should have to pay the mortgage. Who gets the car (wife?) and who gets the truck (husband?), who is going to pay all the Credit card bills, and who gets to keep the furniture.
Even worse, consider Council fees. The law provides that if one of the parties is without funds to pay for her legal advice the other party can be directed to pay those bills for her/him. So who has to pay for the wife's (husband's) attorney fees? This can be a bitter pill to swallow, paying your spouse's lawyer while he works to nail you to the wall. (or so you think.)
Increasingly, couples are utilizing No fault provisions as a manner of simplifying matters and cutting the costs of securing a divorce. Many times the parties are able to agree on the collateral issues we've discussed and avoid lengthy and expensive hearings.
And what does a Divorce cost? Filing fees, those moneys paid to the Clerk of Courts for filing or to the Sheriff for service of papers or to the stenographer for preparation of transcripts, etc., range between $150.00 and $250.00. The money you pay to your lawyer (Attorney fees) for his expertise (as well as his kind and patient demeanor and a shoulder to cry on) can range from a minimum of $500 on upwards, depending upon the number of problems which you present, the value of your estate and the unreasonableness of your spouse. Most lawyers request a minimum retainer (minimum $500.00?) and then bill at an hourly rate for work performed. Hourly rates vary from $100.00/hr to $??/hr.
If you are faced with the prospect of a Divorce, try to learn as much as possible from your Lawyer concerning your rights. If you work with him, the process will go much smoother and be considerably less painful.
This information is presented as a service of Kahle & Associates, Attorneys at Law
Created by Warner Computer Services of Bradford, PA