Pittsburgh Divorce Lawyer
Skilled representation that protects you in all aspects of divorce
For many, divorce is one of life’s most emotionally challenging experiences. In many cases, the parties are not equally interested in ending the relationship. One person may have been more emotionally hurt than the other. The more heated the emotions, the less likely the various issues associated with divorce can be resolved through simple negotiation. The more issues to be resolved, the more complex the divorce process will be.
The Pittsburgh divorce lawyers at Bunde & Roberts have decades of experience representing clients through all stages of a Pennsylvania divorce. At the onset of a case, we assess the number and complexity of contested issues, the vehemence of your feelings and the feelings of your spouse, your inclination to consider settlement, the identity and style of the assigned judge, the anticipated court calendar, and the identity of opposing counsel and his or her style. We will work to resolve your divorce proceeding as efficiently and effectively as possible, saving you time and money where possible but ensuring at all stages that your interests and desires are zealously protected.
The Divorce Process
A divorce action generally begins with the filing of a complaint. The decision of who should file requires an analysis of various issues, including support considerations, health insurance considerations, the existence and nature of retirement plans, and considerations related to the types of assets and liabilities involved in the case. Actions for divorce, property distribution, support, and custody may be included as part of a single complaint or as separate and distinct proceedings. There may be advantages to being the first to file, so reach out to us as soon as you can if you are seriously considering divorce.
A divorce may be uncontested. In such cases, the parties enter into a written settlement agreement or a consent order of the court. In some cases, despite everyone’s best efforts, a settlement cannot be reached.
After pretrial discovery is completed, counsel/parties meet with the judge or master for an attempt to settle the case and/or narrow the issues in dispute. If the case is settled at the pretrial conference, the resolution is memorialized through a consent order, a recitation of the settlement on the record or a settlement agreement. If a settlement is not reached, a trial is scheduled.
If the case does not settle, it will eventually proceed to a trial where each side presents testimony and evidence, and the court makes a final decision. The case may be heard by the judge or by a master appointed by the judge. At the time of trial, witnesses may be called and documents presented to support the case. The judge or master may render a decision immediately or may mail a decision following the trial. If a master hears the case, either party may file exceptions to the decision. If exceptions are filed, the judge reviews the record of the hearing and counsels’ briefs, and counsel argues the exceptions before the judge. If a judge hears the case, the parties may file an appeal to the superior court under appropriate circumstances.
Contested and Uncontested Divorce
A divorce decree may proceed by consent, where each party signs an affidavit of consent. This allows a judge to grant a divorce decree. At the earliest, a marriage may not be dissolved until 90 days have passed after the complaint is filed and served. In practice, most divorce proceedings take much longer. The length of the divorce will vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved, including the types and values of the marital assets, the presence of children, and the commingling of the parties’ finances. A period of two years or more is not unusual when there are issues in dispute.
Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
Although less common, a divorce might proceed based on fault grounds if one of the parties engaged in certain acts of marital misconduct listed in the divorce code. Misconduct that may give rise to a fault divorce includes abuse, infidelity, abandonment, and criminal incarceration.
A divorce may also proceed if the parties have lived separate and apart for more than one year, if separated on or after December 5, 2016, or for more than two years, if separated prior to December 5, 2016.
Pennsylvania Divorce FAQs
The Pennsylvania divorce lawyers at Bunde & Roberts, P.C., have over 100 years of collective experience advising and representing clients through all manner of divorce proceedings. Below, we provide answers to some of the more common divorce and family law questions we hear from our clients.
Do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
We advise that you consult with a lawyer even if you believe that your case may be simple. Even an uncontested, amicable divorce will inevitably involve complicated questions of finances, distribution of assets like homes, cars, and personal property, alimony, and many other issues. Once a mistake is made, it may not be able to be corrected.
If children are involved, moreover, matters can quickly become emotional and difficult. Having an attorney gives you a professional to negotiate matters on your behalf, keeping things from getting heated. If you end up disagreeing with your spouse on any issue, it is important to have someone with experience in these matters who knows what questions to ask, what evidence to collect, and how to apply the law.
Do we need a specific “reason” to file for divorce?
Pennsylvania permits divorce for “fault” and “no-fault” reasons. You may claim fault if your spouse has engaged in abandonment, adultery, extreme cruelty (including physical or mental abuse), bigamy, or if they have been imprisoned for a crime. You may also file for divorce, however, simply by asserting the marriage is irretrievably broken. Fault, where applicable, may have an impact on alimony.
What if my spouse does not want to get a divorce?
You may still seek a divorce, even a “no-fault” divorce, over the objection of your spouse. You must, however, show that you have been separated from your spouse for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. Establishing the date of separation is an important factor in these divorces, as well as other divorce proceedings where additional property was acquired after separation.
How long will my divorce take?
The length of a divorce will depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of any financial issues involved, the length of the marriage, how willing and able the parties are to agree on various divorce-related issues, and whether there are children involved. A short marriage involving no children and limited financial issues will take much less time than a divorce involving complex financial issues. A divorce involving wealthy spouses who have children and were married for a long time may take longer, especially if the parties are unable to agree on things like property division and custody.
How much will my divorce cost?
The cost of a divorce is very specific to each case. The more assets and debts the parties share, the more complex the divorce may be. The longer the divorce proceeding, the more costs will arise, including legal fees, evidence collection, and payments for expert witnesses. In Pennsylvania, proceedings are often conducted in distinct segments such as property division and alimony, custody, and spousal and child support; if you must litigate each of these segments, then your case may be longer and more expensive.
How are annulments different from divorce?
Whereas divorce ends a marriage, an annulment will invalidate a marriage such that legally, the parties were never married. Annulment is only available where the marriage was legally invalid to begin with. A marriage may be invalid if one party was already married (bigamy), one party was too young to consent to marriage, or one party was incapable of giving consent, such as by reason of mental incapacity.
Can I change my name when I divorce?
Yes. You can file a notice of resumption of prior surname during the divorce proceeding. However, if you have children you may want to consider of having a different last name than your children.
Which one of us must move out of the house?
While the divorce is pending, neither party is legally required to move out without a Protection From Abuse Order or other Order granting exclusive occupancy. The issue of whether or not to move out of a shared residence is a complex one involving financial and custody issues, and should be analyzed with counsel.
Contact our Dedicated Pittsburgh Divorce Lawyers
If you are considering divorce in Pittsburgh, or if you have questions about a Pennsylvania family law matter, our knowledgeable and effective Pittsburgh divorce lawyers are here to help. Reach out to Pittsburgh family law firm Bunde & Roberts, P.C., today at 412-391-4330 for a consultation.