by Melissa Pavlack

“It’s Not My Fault”

The first thing that anyone who thinks their marriage is coming to an end should do, is meet with an attorney for an initial consultation.  These meetings are entirely confidential and will give you the tools you need to go forward in a pragmatic and cost effective manner.  Additionally, you may want to interview attorneys until you find the one who makes you feel the most comfortable.  The relationship between the client and divorce attorney is far different than any other attorney-client relationship.  Keep in mind that you may be involved in the divorce process for a while and even longer if you have custody and support issues. You will want to feel that you have a good working relationship with your attorney.

One of the first things that you will learn in your initial consultation with an attorney is that Pennsylvania is first and foremost a no fault state.  Although we do still have fault grounds in our law, litigants must first exhaust the no fault avenues before they can pursue the fault grounds.  Under the no fault divorce law, two people may be divorced 90 days after the filing and service of a divorce complaint as long as both parties consent to the divorce and agree on a property distribution.  While this may seem like an easy thing to do, it may become quite difficult depending on each person’s reason for wanting or not wanting the divorce.  In the event that one party will not consent to the divorce, then under the no fault law, the Court may not enter a divorce decree with an order for property distribution until two years after the parties separate.  As such, the interplay between the entry of the divorce decree and the property distribution can be very significant in negotiating the case to its final conclusion.

As a last resort, if neither of the no fault avenues can be established, then the Court may hear the divorce and property distribution issues if one party can establish and prove the fault grounds.  The fault ground does not, however, increase in any way, shape or form the amount of assets the non-faulting party receives.  In determining the divorce and property distribution, the Court may not consider the very emotionally charged issues that you are facing.  The Court is considering the finances and how to look toward your financial future.  Your attorney will have to understand your emotional position, yet guide you through the process considering your financial situation first.

Your friends and co-workers will all tell you things that they think will help you but often they are based on the emotional and not the financial aspects.  All cases are unique and at times people will tell you things that were very specific to another case or the story has gone through too many people and the advice is not based on the actual law.  Be careful not to listen to “side-line” legal advisers who will tell you all about what their divorce was like or what their best friend’s divorce was like.   Divorce truly is a step-by-step process and you want to think logically and take each step as it comes.

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