All posts by Kevin Handy

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How to Get Divorced in PA (Pennsylvania) – with Links to Free Pennsylvania Divorce Forms

“How do we get divorced in Pennsylvania?” is probably the most frequently asked question by Pennsylvania residents faced with divorce. Unfortunately there is no simple answer. Many people think all they need is a “simple divorce.” A “simple divorce” has a very specific set of criteria, which the standard divorces does not fit. There are many complex, interrelated issues to consider. There may be property, equitable distribution, and support issues that need to be dealt with before a divorce can be processed. Before deciding to proceed with a simple divorce on your own, you should schedule a free consultation with a divorce professional at SnapDivorce. That way you at least know all your bases are being covered.

If you are intent on filing for a simple divorce on your own, a general overview of the divorce process in Pennsylvania follows, along with a link to free Pennsylvania divorce forms.

Once again, however, individuals looking to process their own divorces should be cautioned that obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania without a complete understanding of the process, the laws and the legal implications can result in serious, potentially ruinous economic and legal consequences.

The steps to get divorced in PA (Pennsylvania) are as follows (NOTE: These are instructions to get a simple divorce, without any related claims such as equitable distribution, alimony pendente lite, alimony, or special relief. If you need to raise any such claims, DO NOT proceed on your own):

1. Establish a Date of Separation.

The first step in obtaining a divorce in PA is to establish a date of legal separation. This date is important because it starts the clock ticking for certain waiting periods that must be observed under the law. It is also important if you are raising other claims and seeking economic relief, such as equitable distribution.

A date of legal separation can be established in one of two ways. The first way is by filing a divorce complaint. The law presumes that the date of separation is the date on which the divorce complaint is filed, unless a party can establish an alternate date. The second way to establish a date of separation is through conduct – for example by moving out of the marital residence or by moving into another bedroom and by declaring to your spouse, friends and family that you are separated. While there are no fixed rules about what type of conduct or actions are sufficient to establish a date separation, the conduct should clearly indicate an intention to separate from your spouse emotionally and financially, and to end your marriage.

2. Try to Determine if You Can Get a Divorce Under Section 3301(c) or 3301(d) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code.

There are two main ways to get a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania.

The first way is to get a “mutual consent” divorce, meaning that both parties are in agreement with getting a divorce and will sign the necessary forms. This is a divorce under Section 3301(c) of the PA Divorce Code. You can move this divorce forward 90 days after the divorce complaint has been filed and served on your spouse. If you and your spouse are in agreement with getting divorced and can work together to get the divorced processed, use this link for Free Pennsylvania Divorce Forms and follow the instructions and forms for a Section 3301(c) no-fault mutual consent divorce.

The second way to get divorced in PA is through a two-year separation. You can get divorced this way even if your spouse won’t cooperate with you in getting a divorce. This is a divorce under Section 3301(d) of the PA Divorce Code. To get divorced this way, you need to be separated for two years from your spouse (see Establish a Date of Separation above). Note that you should still file for divorce promptly to establish a date of separation, if another date of separation is not applicable. After two years has passed from your date of separation you can move the divorce forward to completion. If your spouse won’t work with you to get divorce and you are going to try to get divorced based on a two-year separation, use this link for Free Pennsylvania Divorce Forms and follow the instructions and forms for a Section 3301(d) no-fault two year separation divorce.

3. File for Divorce.

After you have determined if you will be seeking a divorce under Section 3301(c) or Section 3301(d) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, the next step to get divorced in Pennsylvania is to file a Divorce Complaint (use the links above to obtain the proper forms and instructions). The Divorce Complaint is usually filed in the county in which you reside. For example, if you live in Bucks County, you will file your Divorce Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. However, if your spouse lives in another state, it raises many complex issues, particularly if you have marital assets that need to be divided or are seeking support or alimony. In that event, you may need to file in the state in which your spouse resides. There are also certain residency requirements that may affect your right to obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania. However, if you have resided in Pennsylvania for more than six months, residency requirements should not be an issue. If your case involves any of these additional issues, seek professional help.

3. Process the Divorce.

After the Pennsylvania Divorce Complaint is filed, the next step to get divorced in Pennsylvania is to process the divorce. In simple non-fault divorces in which neither party is asking the court to award support or alimony, divide marital assets or order other relief, processing the divorce can be relatively straightforward. But it still involves executing and filing all of the necessary forms in the right order and at the right time. Among these forms are affidavits of service or acceptances of service, consents or affidavits of separation, notices or waivers of notices, and, finally, a praecipe for the divorce decree. Follow the relevant instructions for a Section 3301(c) or Section 3301(d) divorce, using the links above.

In more complex divorces such as those in which one spouse will not agree to the divorce, or which involve fault grounds, or which involve any economic issues such as support, alimony, or equitable distribution, processing the divorce is much more complicated. More complex divorces may involve discovery, such as document requests and interrogatories, appraisals, interim hearings and similar procedures before the divorce may be processed. In the event that a settlement of economic issues is not reached, more complex divorces also need to proceed to a Divorce Master’s hearing on economic issues and, possibly, a trial in front of a judge before the divorce can be processed and finalized.

4. Request the Court to Enter the Divorce Decree.

Only after all outstanding issues are resolved and the necessary paperwork is filed with the court can a party move a divorce to conclusion. Once those steps are completed, the final step to get divorced in Pennsylvania is to file a Praecipe for Entry of a Divorce Decree.

The length of time that it takes to get divorced in Pennsylvania can be anywhere from five months to several years, depending on the grounds for the divorce, the cooperation or lack thereof from the other spouse, and the issues involved in the divorce.

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What is a Good Divorce?

Most people think to have a “good divorce”, it would mean that they win everything, and their spouse is left bereft and remorseful. This is not very realistic, and it almost never happens.

Divorce attorneys see it differently. From their point of view, a good divorce has at its foundation a fair and equitable resolution.

There are a few factors that contribute to a successful uncoupling. The single most important? Take the emotion out of it. Accept that you are dividing assets, time with the children, property, and retirement savings. No strategy, no “killer attorney,” is going to change that. It is somewhat like dealing with the IRS: Once they are involved you are going to have to give something up. When couples get carried away with who did what and who doesn’t deserve what they are asking for, the progress stalls, the fees rise, and stress goes through the roof.

Don’t have attorneys – or the court – settle details you and your spouse should settle, like who gets the dog and whether both parents should be able to go to Back to School Night. If your spouse is a wacko, breathe deep, and don’t be drawn into the fray. Impossible spouses generally reveal themselves for what they are, and the process moves forward despite their theatrics.

A loose custody agreement is also a desirable quality. The more the couple works together to raise their children – being flexible about schedules, honoring the children’s feelings towards the other parent, supporting each other through challenging situations, helping to drive kids even when it isn’t your custodial day – the happier a divorced family is likely to be.

Financial records are an essential part of the divorce process. They should be open and available. Do not try to hide them, or misrepresent values. Do not try to liquidate accounts and store money somewhere else. It all comes out in the wash anyway, so attempts to mislead or hide records could be damaging to your case. When it comes to discovery, honesty is the best policy.

In a way, the concept of a “good” divorce is hollow from the start. There is nothing good about divorce. But there are ways to make the process smoother, and less stressful. We have listed a few suggestions on how to do that. In the end, the couple’s approach toward the whole matter can make all the difference in the world.

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Does Divorce Mediation and Custody Mediation Result in Higher Compliance Rates with Agreements?

A question that is frequently posed is, does divorce mediation and custody mediation  result in  higher compliance rates  with agreements than decisions reached through an adversarial process (litigation)?  Research indicates that, at lease in the near-term, that is the case.  A summary of research studies addressing the question of compliance rates is as follows:

  • A custody mediation studies from family courts in California found that parents who mediated their custody arrangements had more sufficient details in their agreements to guide them in complying, compared with those using other methods of resolving their disputes (g. litigation) (64% vs. 53%).
  • In a study of mediated versus non-mediated parenting disputes, Colorado courts found that in the first two years following the entry of final divorce orders, 38 percent of the comparison group returned to court compared with 24 percent of the mediation group. In three specific areas (parenting time modifications, child support contempt, and other modifications) significant compliance differences favored the mediation group.
  • In a Canadian custody study, adversarial couples reported a significantly higher rate of re-litigation during the first two years post-divorce compared with a mediation group.
  • A child custody and support study from Charlottesville, Virginia found that fathers in mediated custody disputes complied more often with their child support orders than did fathers who litigated their cases.
  • A California divorce and mediation project found that there was significantly more compliance immediately after divorce in the mediation group, compared with the adversarial group, on an eleven-item compliance scale, and more compliance in the areas of (i) paying spousal support, (ii) the final division of personal property and household furnishings, and (iii) the division of community property.
  • A divorce/family mediation pilot project from Ontario, Canada found that compliance problems were reported in greater numbers in adversarial divorces as compared with mediated divorces. Further, within the mediation group, compliance was greater among those participating in multiple mediation sessions, compared with those just participating in one mediation session.
  • In a child protection mediation program in five California courts, complete compliance with mediated agreements was found in 42% of the cases, compared with only 25 % of the comparison group six months post disposition.

Difference in compliance rates and re-litigation rates between mediated and non-mediated divorce and custody settlements appear to disappear two years post-resolution.

Source: Kelly, J.B (2004).  Family Mediation Research: Is There Empirical Support for the Field.  Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol. 22, nos. 1-2, Fall-Winter.

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Why You Should Let a Divorce Arbitrator Decide the Outcome of Your Divorce

Most people want to feel like they can control the outcome of their divorce. They have the idea that it is possible to “win” in their divorce if they hire an “aggressive” attorney, or if they “fight” hard enough. They have gotten this idea from Hollywood, and from their friends. These are probably the two worst sources of information for those involved in a divorce in real time and in the real world. The actress Ellen Barkin reportedly received $20 million in her divorce from investor Ronald Perelman. Your neighbor’s cousin may have gotten three homes and the family dog in his divorce. Your college roommate may have walked away with total custody of the children. All of this has nothing to do with your case.

One of the most fitting quotes about divorce comes from the character Gavin D’Amato (Danny DeVito) in the movie The War of the Roses, in which Gavin says, “There is no winning, only degrees of losing.” It’s true. No one ever feels like they got everything they deserved in a divorce. The key to a “successful” divorce is to get through it without massive expense and long delays. Your goal is a fair and equitable resolution.

The reality is that someone else is going to decide the outcome of your case. In most cases, it’s a judge – often an overworked judge with little experience practicing family law. Judges have thousands of cases on their dockets, and not enough time to devote to a substantial review of each. Or maybe it’s the lawyers who settle the case after years of discovery, motions, court hearings, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses. By either of these routes, the couple is often worn down from years of fighting. The kids’ college savings are spent, the equity in the home is spent, and you still had to borrow money from your elderly parents to pay legal fees. And for what? For the very same outcome that a good divorce lawyer could have predicted on day one.

With SnapDivorce, you avoid this nightmare. You get a team of experienced divorce professionals who are focused on resolving your case fairly and efficiently. Your case is thoroughly investigated and analyzed by professionals with the time to do it justice. You have an opportunity to present the factors that you think are important. A panel of three neutral divorce lawyers reviews the facts of your case, using years of experience to render a fair and equitable decision. In most cases, the divorce is resolved in under six months, so you can get on with your life. And SnapDivorce does it all for a reasonable flat fee.

Ultimately, the question isn’t why would you let a Divorce Arbitrator from SnapDivorce decide your case. The question is, why would you do it any other way?

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Ten Reasons You Should Think Twice About Traditional Divorce Mediation

If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Similarly, if a business practices exclusively in the area of divorce mediation, they probably think every divorce should be mediated. However, in our experience, less than 5% of divorces are appropriate for traditional mediation.

For a divorce mediation to be successful and end in a fair and equitable settlement, several factors need to be present. First, both of the parties should have similar financial circumstances (i.e. have equal earnings and relatively equal separate assets). Second, both parties should be equally agreeable to the divorce, and they should have an amicable relationship with one another. Third, both parties should have an excellent understanding of the other party’s income and finances, and have equal access to the other’s financial statements. Finally, both parties need to be equally competent negotiators and be in equal negotiating positions. If any of those factors are not present, the divorce is not a good candidate for mediation. Thus, you should proceed with caution before electing mediation.

If you are seriously considering mediation, here are ten additional reasons you should think twice before proceeding.

1. No one is looking out for your interests.

This may surprise you, but it is not the job of the mediator to look out for your interests. Rather, the mediator’s job is to act as a neutral party to facilitate the parties reaching their own agreement. Any agreement. Even one that is unfair or inequitable. In fact, since a mediator is legally bound to be neutral, he or she cannot alert or advise you if an agreement is unfair. Worse yet, some mediators will subtly push the parties into accepting an unfair agreement simply so they can claim that the mediation was a “success.” This is why you are supposed to retain a divorce attorney to advise you in the background during the mediation process.

2.  You still need to hire an attorney to represent you during the mediation process.

Did you know that, in addition to paying for the mediation, you are supposed to hire an attorney as background representation during the process? Not only is this recommended, it is critical so you don’t end up accepting an inequitable marital settlement agreement. Do you know how many people follow this recommendation? Almost none. Why? Because people don’t want to have to pay for mediation and for a divorce attorney. One of the main reasons that people choose mediation in the first place is that they think they can get divorced without getting attorneys involved. This is one of the fundamental problems with how mediation is sold to the public – as a cheaper alternative to traditional divorce litigation. It’s not.

3.  Mediation can cost as much or more than a traditional divorce.

People choose mediation because they think it will be less expensive than a regular litigated divorce. While it can be, this is frequently not the case. People entering mediation are almost always surprised to hear that they should hire their own attorneys to represent them in the background during the process. Once they hear that advice, much of the appeal of mediation disappears. That is why most people ignore that crucial advice, and proceed with mediation without representation.

Another, frequently overlooked aspect of mediation that can end up making it more expensive than traditional divorce is the high risk of an unfavorable marital settlement agreement. Lack of knowledge about your spouse’s financial assets, ignorance of the law, and poor negotiating skills can easily cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when you end getting less than you otherwise would have if you had retained a divorce attorney . You have not saved money if you negotiate a poor marital settlement agreement.

4.  There is no guarantee you will settle your case in mediation.

If you do proceed with mediation correctly and hire a divorce attorney to represent you in the background, mediation will likely cost you and your spouse anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 — and you may not succeed in reaching an agreement with your spouse. If you don’t reach an agreement, you may have to start the process over again with traditional divorce litigation. And any money you have spent on mediation will have been wasted, sent down the drain.

5.  No one is going to make sure you get accurate financial information from your estranged spouse.

In traditional divorce, your attorney will use the process of “discovery” to obtain all the financial information needed from your spouse to accurately analyze the financial aspects of your divorce. Divorce attorneys use a variety of methods to obtain this information, such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents, subpoenas and even depositions. They have experience in knowing when a person is being dishonest, or is hiding information. More often than not, discovery reveals that the spouse was trying to hide assets or underrate their value.

Mediation, by contrast, relies on voluntary financial disclosures by each of the parties. What that means is that you are unlikely to get accurate financial information from your spouse. There is simply too much incentive to mislead, and virtually no repercussions if caught. If you think your spouse is going to be honest and open in mediation, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

6.  You will have to negotiate with your spouse.

Mediation also means that you will have to negotiate your divorce settlement directly with your spouse. Yes, you. That is what mediation is about. This is incredibly difficult in most cases. You are getting divorced for a reason. Nine times out of ten, to put it politely, it is because you and your spouse are estranged. It is virtually impossible to be clearheaded and in equal bargaining positions in such circumstances. Negotiating a fair result will be difficult to impossible.

7.  No one will tell you to walk away from mediation without reaching an agreement.

The goal of the mediation process is to get the parties to reach an agreement on their own. Mediation is not designed to ensure that whatever agreement you reach is fair and equitable. As a result, mediators will not tell you that your agreement is unfair or unworkable. They will not tell you that you should walk away from the mediation. They want you to sign onto an agreement so they can chalk you up to one of their “successes.” We cannot emphasize this enough — mediators do not represent you or your interests.

8.  The result of your mediation most likely will not be fair and equitable.

If you do reach a settlement in mediation, it will most likely not be fair and equitable for the reasons stated above. One spouse will walk away as the “winner,” and one spouse will walk away as the “loser.” The loser-spouse usually doesn’t realize they are the loser until they see how little they receive in the divorce, and have a hard time supporting themselves. I can’t count the number of cases in which we have had people approach us to reopen a divorce settlement agreement after mediation, because the agreement was so unfair. Literally 99% of the time we have to tell them it is too late, and that there is nothing we can do. Once you have signed a marital settlement agreement, you have signed away your rights.

9.  There is a good chance your marital settlement agreement will be poorly drafted.

Do you know what is worse than realizing that you have signed an inequitable marital settlement agreement? Realizing that it is poorly drafted, and that its terms are vague and difficult to enforce. This happens all the time. The reason? Many mediators never practiced divorce law (or any area of law, for that matter). In most states there are few, if any, qualifications to become a divorce mediator.

10.  You will likely regret mediating your case to make your divorce amicable.

The most common refrain I hear from people who come to us for advice after they have signed an unfavorable marital settlement agreement is that they chose mediation because they “wanted my divorce to be amicable.” By the time they see me, their ex-spouse is not doing what they are supposed to do under the agreement, and the parties are no longer amicable. Usually it’s because the settlement is unfair, and our client has little or no effective recourse available to them. Universally, they regret having mediated their case.

So, if mediation is not a good option for most divorces, is there another option?

Now there is. It’s called SnapDivorce.

We invented SnapDivorce to solve the problems inherent in mediation, and in the process of traditional divorce. At SnapDivorce, a team of experienced divorce professionals does all the work necessary to resolve your divorce, fairly and equitably. SnapDivorce will do the “discovery” to identify, value and analyze the marital assets. SnapDivorce will investigate your spouse’s financial records. You don’t have to negotiate with your estranged spouse. You don’t have to pay a mediator and lawyers. Instead, a panel of three experienced divorce attorneys resolves your case with an eye towards what is equitable under the law for both parties. So you are assured a fair and final resolution to the economic issues in your divorce.

And we do it all for a low, flat fee, so you know how much the divorce will cost you before you even get started.  Learn more at SnapDivorce.com.

SnapDivorce. Save Time. Save Money. Save Your Sanity.

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The Only 15 Minutes That Matter in Divorce

The amount of time it takes the average person to shower; the amount of time it takes the average person to eat a hamburger; the amount of time it takes the average person to get a latte at Starbucks — that’s the average amount of time it takes a good attorney to predict the outcome of your divorce. Fifteen minutes. The prediction is almost always accurate, regardless of how many years intervene between the 15-minute assessment and the delivery of the Divorce Decree.

In general, most divorces come with a standard set of issues that are neither unique nor complicated. The same issues come up over and over again: how the property and assets are going to be divided, who is going to live in the marital house, how much support one spouse pays to another, who gets primary custody of the children, and the degree to which each spouse must contribute to familial costs. These decisions are based on standard questions about earnings differentials, earnings potentials, where the children spend the majority of their time, and the length of marriage.

Every family law matter adjudicates these issues. A good, experienced attorney can take a look at the presenting information and predict what is going to happen with them in 15 minutes.

So if the divorce process is essentially formulaic, and the same issues arise in each case, why does divorce take so long and cost so much?

There are two answers. One, the court system is a morass of delays, bureaucracy, and overburdened employees, all leading to a longer divorce time. Two, people fight. A spouse is 20 minutes late dropping off the kids. Offensive emails are sent and received. Extramarital affairs are discovered. These are painful issues, but while they end up having little impact on your case, they contribute significantly to the length of time it takes to get to a resolution and the cost of arriving there.

There is a solution to all of this: SnapDivorce. It gets couples to the same place they would end up after a traditional, over-lawyered, court-processed divorce, but at a fraction of the cost, time, and stress. If you have any doubts, just ask someone who has been through the ringer of a traditional divorce, and who is still wondering why something that could have been resolved in 15 minutes took all those years and all that money.

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Divorce Tips and Advice – The Divorce Checklist

Set for below is a divorce checklist of ten divorce tips and advice. You have to be the judge of which of these steps, if any, you should take during the processing of your SnapDivorce. If you and your spouse are separating on good and trustworthy terms, you may not want to take some of the steps outlined below to minimize the disruption and antagonism in your lives. Often parties who are on good terms will continue to maintain joint bank accounts and other financial arrangements while the divorce is pending. However, when a spouse is bitter or vindictive, it is important to protect your finances and personal property as soon as is practical. Here are some suggestions that might work in in the latter situation.

1. Cancel all joint credit accounts.
While debt incurred by a spouse post-separation will generally not be considered a marital debt, you may still be liable to the creditor for the debt if you are a signer or co-signer. This is typically the case with joint credit card accounts, individual credit card accounts where your spouse is a cardholder, and home equity lines of credit. Often, if a credit account is left open, an estranged spouse can draw down on the line of credit to finance his or her post-separation living expenses.

It is also often difficult to parse out separate versus marital credit card transactions at equitable distribution, making the assignment of non-marital credit card debt to a spouse difficult. Further, there may be insufficient marital assets to satisfy the credit card debt at equitable distribution and/or a spouse may not pay the debt assigned to him or her at equitable distribution in a timely manner, impairing your credit rating. However, if you need access to funds post-separation to finance your living or legal expenses, you may consider taking an advance against one or more joint lines of credit before closing the accounts. Also, we recommend that if our customers do not have available cash to pay the fee for SnapDivorce that they use a joint credit card prior to closing the account.

2. Close joint bank and investment accounts.
You should consider closing joint bank and investment accounts and moving the funds in such accounts to individually titled accounts. The purpose of this step is to secure the funds from being dissipated by your spouse. As with lines of credit, your estranged spouse may attempt to take the money in those accounts or use the money to finance his or her post-separation living and legal expenses. This step will also provide you with access to funds while the divorce is pending. You might consider leaving a portion of the funds in the account for your spouse. For example, often our customers will often effectively “split” an account by removing 50% of the funds in the account and leaving the remainder for their spouse.

3. Change your direct deposit and cancel automatic deductions from bank accounts.
If you have a recurring direct deposit of your paycheck or other funds, you should change it to an individually titled account. You will also need to cancel any automatic deductions, such as bills, that are paid out of bank accounts that you are closing or in which you are ceasing to deposit money.

4. Secure important and/or valuable personal property.
Divorce has a way of making personal property disappear or become damaged. You should promptly secure any personal property that is important to you or particularly valuable by removing it from the marital residence or other residence to which your spouse has access. This includes furniture, antiques, jewelry, gifts, photographs, memorabilia, work projects, computers, etc.

You do not need to and should not “clean out the house.” Just secure items that are irreplaceable, particularly valuable, or to which you need access during the divorce. You might consider renting a storage locker to store the personal property during the divorce. You might also consider inventorying the contents of the marital residence by photography or video at the outset of the divorce.

5. Secure all important financial documentation.
Having access to both your and your spouse’s financial documentation is important in a divorce and afterwards. Although SnapDivorce normally obtain financial documents directly from the institutions, may ask you to provide us with copies. You may also have the need for the documents in the future. If possible, you should take all of your personal financial documentation (account statements, tax returns, etc.) and make copies of all of your spouse’s financial documentation and secure those documents at a location to which your spouse does not have access. Do not forget about computer files that include financial information, such as QuickBooks files.

6. Change your mailing address.
Once you are involved in the divorce process, you may not want your spouse to have access to your mail. If you have moved out of the marital residence, change your address to your new residence. If you are going to continue to live in the marital residence, secure a post office box or ask a friend or relative if you can have your mail forwarded to their address temporarily.

7. Change your passwords.
Your spouse probably knows your passwords to all of your devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) and on-line accounts (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, bank accounts, etc.). Change all of these passwords immediately.

8. Forget what your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers have told you about divorce (unless they recommended SnapDivorce, which is great advice).
“I know someone who only paid $400 for a divorce;” “My sister said that I’m guaranteed to get full custody;” “I moved out of the house because my wife told me that I had to.” People going through divorce get all kinds of advice about divorce from their friends and family. This advice is often grossly inaccurate. Every situation is unique. Just because your co-worker has to do something does not mean you will be required to do the same thing. Don’t let your acquaintances’ free “legal advice” affect your judgment or actions. Let the experienced professionals at SnapDivorce resolve your case fairly and efficiently.

9. Rely on professionals.
There really is no more important step in the divorce process than relying on the professionals who are doing this on a daily basis, and who have experience in applying the ever-evolving divorce laws in real time. It is incredibly easy to let the promise of a $159.00 “do it yourself” divorce ruin your financial future. Too often parties involved in divorce seek legal professionals only after they have tried to represent themselves. Then it is either too late to correct the mistakes or it adds unnecessary costs to the process. Seek out professionals who can get you to a fair and equitable result from the outset. Of course we truly believe that SnapDivorce is the best option for anyone going through a divorce.

10. Talk to your children.
Even in the best of cases divorce is difficult for everyone, especially children. It becomes even more stressful when your children don’t know what is going on. Most children are adept observers of their parents; they can tell that something is amiss, even if they are unable to articulate their impressions. You should discuss the situation with your children as soon as possible after you have decided to pursue a divorce. You might consider meeting with a family counselor or therapist to assist with this discussion. While the conversations will be difficult, they will almost certainly lead to a less adversarial and stressful divorce process.

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Is SnapDivorce Divorce Mediation and Arbitration The Right Choice For You?

SnapDivorce Divorce Mediation and Arbitration is designed to help couples that would otherwise hire attorneys to litigate their divorce in court resolve their cases fairly and efficiently. Apart from those in the simplest of cases, most divorcing couples will benefit tremendously from using SnapDivorce. It is probably easier to identify the cases for which SnapDivorce may NOT be the best option.

SnapDivorce may not be the best option for couples that, (1) have been in relatively short marriages (1-3 years), (2) have little or no assets, debts, or joint property (such as a house), (3) have no children, and (4) have approximately equal incomes. Couples meeting all of these criteria might be better off getting what is known as a “simple” divorce, meaning a divorce in which there no issues of property distribution, support, custody, or other matters to be raised. A simple divorce is the type of divorce you see advertised on the Internet for a ridiculously low price (e.g. $199). If you don’t meet all of these criteria, however, a simple divorce is absolutely not right for you – you will lose important rights and options.

That means in all other cases, SnapDivorce is most likely your best option to resolve your divorce fairly and efficiently for one low, flat fee. If you have marital assets or debts to divide, own joint property with your spouse, have children, and/or have a need for child support or spousal support (alimony), then SnapDivorce is right for you. Why spend tens of thousand of dollars each to resolve the issues in your divorce when SnapDivorce can do it for one low flat fee?

In short, SnapDivorce is simply the best option for most divorcing couples. Even if you are already in the midst of contentious litigation, we can take over and resolve your case, sparing you the time, cost and stress associated with traditional divorce.

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Dividing Marital Property In Divorce: How it Works

The legal process of dividing marital property, assets and debts in non-community property states is known as “equitable distribution,” or “ED” for short. Equitable essentially means, “fair, based on the circumstances of the parties.” In comparison, in community property states, marital property is generally divided equally or 50-50.

The main factors that influence ED are the earning abilities of the parties, the ages of the parties, the contribution of each party towards the marital property, who has primary physical custody custody of the children, and any property and assets owned separately by the parties. To many peoples’ surprise, marital misconduct, such as adultery, is not a factor in ED.

Marital property is generally any property or assets that a married couple acquired during the marriage. It includes increases in value on separate property, such as property acquired before the marriage. For example, money contributed during the marriage to a pre-marital, separately titled retirement account, such as a 401(k), is considered marital property, as is any increase in value during the marriage of the money in the account as of the date of the marriage. In comparison, non-marital or separate property, is property that a person brings into the marriage, is acquired by gift or inheritance, or that is acquired post-separation.

All marital property is divided in equitable distribution. It can include bank and retirement accounts, pensions, stocks, paintings, college funds, the marital home, cars, even the living room sofa. Because separate property is not divided in ED, an important step in the ED process is to accurately identify what property is marital property and what property is separate property.

In a traditional litigated divorce, getting to court for equitable distribution usually a lengthy, complicated and expensive process. First, an Equitable Distribution claim must be raised in the divorce. Then, “discovery” must be completed, which is a detailed exchange of documents and information between the parties and their respective lawyers. Then, you must prepare and file all of the appropriate paperwork to get to court, which also involves mandatory waiting periods and other obstacles. Included in that paperwork is a detailed analysis of your assets and the case prepared by an attorney, which is time consuming and expensive to generate.

One of the reasons SnapDivorce is so efficient is that we do all of this work for you, in-house, without dueling attorneys and without the delays endemic to an over-burdened court system.

With decades of experience in ED matters, the navigators and arbitrators at SnapDivorce are knowledgeable about the laws and procedures that impact ED. We know how to identify, investigate and value property, assets and debts to render a fair and equitable decision.

We break the ED process down into three steps. The first step is the identification all of the marital assets and non-marital assets that the parties own or in which they have an interest. The second step is valuing the assets identified. The third and final step involves actually dividing marital property  – determining how the assets should be divided, which is accomplished by a panel of three divorce arbitrators.

To establish which assets owned by the parties are marital property and which assets are separate property, SnapDivorce determines, among other things, how the asset was acquired (e.g. by purchase, gift, inheritance, exchange, etc,), how the asset is titled, whether a separate asset has been commingled or combined with a marital asset (as in the case of separate money used for a down payment on a home jointly owned by the parties), and whether there have been both premarital and post-separation contributions to a separate asset (usually in the case of retirement accounts and pensions).

Once the parties’ marital and non-marital assets are identified, the current values of the assets and/or the marital portions of the assets are determined in a variety of ways. For real estate, a professional appraiser may be necessary or, in the case of a sale, the market will determine the value. For pensions, professional pension valuations are used. In the case of businesses, it is often necessary to hire a professional business evaluator. The value of assets such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts and non-pension retirement accounts can usually be determined from the account statements, but parties must be sure to establish value of each account as of the date of marriage, as of the date of separation and the current value, and to back out any pre- and post-marital contributions to the accounts.

Dissipation of marital assets must also be considered to properly value marital assets. An example of dissipation is if one party spends money from a marital account post-separation. Dissipation can also occur where a party in control of a marital asset, such as a home, fails to maintain the asset.

Finally, after the marital assets and non-marital assets are identified and valued, the process for the distribution of the assets is determined. Each party does not necessarily receive their percentage of each individual asset. Rather, the goal is to have the overall distribution of assets reflect the percentage distribution that has been determined by SnapDivorce. Some assets may be divided between the parties (e.g. bank accounts) and some assets may be distributed in their entirety to one party or the other (e.g. real estate), all while maintaining the overall predetermined percentage distribution. In distributing the individual assets, SnapDivorce will take into consideration the nature and liquidity of each asset, the tax consequences associated with the asset, and each party’s desire to retain all or part of the asset at issue.

After the distribution process is determined, the assets are divided accordingly. Some assets may simply be divided or distributed, such as bank accounts. Real estate often needs to be liquidated (sold) or title transferred. Retirement accounts are divided through qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) or rollovers to avoid taxes and penalties.

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How Is Alimony Calculated in Pennsylvania Divorce?

Separation and divorce can cause an enormous amount of economic stress, particularly for the spouse who earns less. In many cases, support laws provide for that spouse to receive monetary support from the higher-earning spouse, either temporarily or permanently. These payments are commonly known as alimony or spousal support.

Many states have complicated spousal support and alimony laws, and the facts of any individual case may significantly affect the amount of support due, as well as the length of time that support will be paid. A spouse may also be eligible to obtain heath insurance coverage from the other spouse.

The divorce arbitrators at SnapDivorce are experts in alimony and support law, with decades of experience prosecuting family law matters. By examining the facts of your case, we will determine which party is entitled to receive or be required to pay support, and the amount and duration of such support. We will consider all relevant facts of your case and apply the law scrupulously in rendering a decision – just as would be done in a traditional courtroom.

SnapDivorce facilitates divorces through the mid-Atlantic region, and every state has its own particularities as to how support and alimony is calculated. However, for the sake of an example, we will use Pennsylvania’s support laws to illustrate how such matters are decided.

In Pennsylvania, there are three types of support (not including child support) that a party to a divorce might be required to pay to a spouse: spousal support, alimony pendente lite, and alimony. The difference between them mostly relates to the stage in the divorce process in which the support is paid. Spousal support is monetary support paid to a spouse after separation but before a divorce is filed. Alimony pendente lite is monetary support paid to a spouse after a divorce is filed, but before the divorce is finalized. Alimony is monetary support paid to a spouse after the divorce is finalized.

How is alimony calculated in Pennsylvania? Alimony pendente lite and spousal support, like child support, are calculated in Pennsylvania by a mathematical formula set forth in law. Alimony is technically not set by formula, although the formula is frequently applied in such cases anyway. In general, the amount of alimony pendente lite/spousal support payable from one party to the other depends on two factors: (1) the amount of child support payable, if any, and (2) the monthly after-tax incomes of the parties (net incomes).

If there are no minor children that will be covered by the support order (i.e., no child support is payable), then alimony pendente lite/spousal support is simply calculated by multiplying the difference between the parties’ net incomes by .40 (i.e., 40%). Net income includes income from any source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, interest, rental income, etc. The only items that are deductible from the parties’ monthly gross income to arrive at the parties’ monthly net income are taxes, (federal, state, local, FICA) and union dues. Other common deductions from a party’s income or paycheck, such as 401(k) contributions, are added back in to determine the party’s monthly net income.

The higher earning party is always the person who pays alimony pendente lite/spousal support. For example, if a wife’s monthly after-tax net income is $5,000.00, and her husband’s monthly after-tax net income is $3,000.00, then the wife would owe the husband alimony in the amount of $800.00 per month ($5,000.00 – $3,000.00 = $2,000.00 x .40 = $800.00). This might be complicated by certain other factors, such as a high mortgage payment paid by one of the parties.

If there are children who are covered by a child support order, then in the case where the party with the higher income is also the party responsible for paying child support, the amount of child support payable is first subtracted from the payor’s net income prior to calculate alimony pendente lite/spousal support. The amount of alimony pendente lite/spousal support payable is also only 30% of the difference in net incomes, rather than 40%.

For example, if a husband and wife have two children, and the wife’s monthly after-tax net income is $5,000.00, and her husband’s monthly after-tax net income is $3,000.00, then the amount of child support payable from the wife to the husband (assuming the husband has primary physical custody of the children) would be approximately $1,099.00. Alimony payable from the wife to the husband would then be $270.00 per month ($5,000.00 – $1,099.00 – $3,000.00 = $901.00 x .3 = $270.30). The total support order, therefore, would be $1,369.30, (assuming no complicating factors such as a high mortgage payment).

Believe it or not the formula is even more complicated if the party with the higher income is also the party who is entitled to receive child support (the party with primary physical custody of the children). In that case, alimony pendente lite/spousal support is first calculated using the formula for parties without minor children. Next, the parties’ net incomes are re-computed factoring in the alimony pendente lite/spousal support payments. Then, child support is calculated using the parties’ adjusted net incomes. Finally the net amount of support payable is calculated.

For example, where the parties have two minor children, and the wife’s monthly after-tax net income is $5,000.00, and her husband’s monthly after-tax net income is $3,000.00, the amount of alimony pendente lite/spousal support payable from the wife to the husband would be $800.00 per month ($5,000.00 – $3,000.00 = $2,000.00 x .4 = $800.00). The parties’ net incomes factoring in the alimony pendente lite/spousal support payments would then be re-computed to be $4,200.00 per month and $3,800.00 per month respectively for wife and husband. Using those adjusted numbers, the husband would owe the wife $835.53 per month in child support. After offsetting the husband’s child support obligation with the alimony pendente lite/spousal support that the wife owes the husband, the net amount of child support due from husband to wife would be $35.53 per month ($835.53 – $800.00).

Note that the above child support numbers may vary based on periodic updates to the Pennsylvania child support guidelines and various other complicating factors not discussed here.

Alimony pendente lite/spousal support may be limited in duration. Alimony, which, as noted above, is post-divorce support, is calculated based on a list of factors rather than a strict formula. It is not necessarily payable in every case and, even when it is payable, is usually of a limited duration. That length is based on a variety of factors.

If this looks formidably complex, it is. That is why it is important that a knowledgeable, experienced professional oversee the award of support in your divorce case.

It is also important to note that support is set based on formulas and rules, not by who cheated on whom, who is willing to fight harder and longer, and who has the better attorney. Since that is the case, it is pointless to spend years and thousands of dollars fighting over what will, in the end, be a cold, hard equation applied in your support matter. Let the professionals at SnapDivorce do the very same thing for less money, less time, and less stress.