The process of separation and divorce is best understood within the context of each family’s dynamics. Strategic decisions are optimally formulated only after an initial and substantive consultation with Attorney Bernstein. Following this first session, you will come away with the tools to make well-informed decisions relative to the law, court procedures and costs involving divorce, support and custody.

The two no-fault grounds for divorce where the marriage is irretrievably broken are mutual consent after 90 days of the service of a divorce complaint and a separation of 2 years. Fault remains a viable ground for divorce, but is most often considered when spousal support is contested.

Although the term “legal separation” is not recognized in Pennsylvania, the concept of “living separate and apart” has meaning when spouses cease to live together and aids in the definition of the marital estate. Marital estate generally means all assets and debts acquired from the date of marriage until the date of final separation. Attorney Bernstein will explain exceptions and clarify the rights of each spouse even when title to certain property and debts are not jointly held. Income tax implications and consultation with an accountant should be considered during the pendency of a case.

A scheme of a final distribution should begin early in this process. Often, it comes down to “who gets what and who pays what.” The use of discovery procedures (e.g., requiring documents to be produced and interrogatories requiring that the other spouse produce crucial information) is essential to achieve a fair and equitable distribution of the marital estate.

Judges generally are not involved during most stages of the litigation. In some cases the issue of protection from physical abuse may have to be addressed in a separate proceeding to protect a spouse or a child from abuse. Divorce Masters or Conference/Hearing Officers can play a crucial role in the divorce, custody and support proceedings. Most cases are resolved by attorneys through the negotiation of postnuptial property settlement agreements or final orders issued by a Divorce Master without expensive hearings.