Lawyer referral service 2008


Believe it or not, this is the time of year that most family law practitioners will see a rise in the number of divorce filings. Although it’s not always a pleasant topic, many people contemplating a divorce or separation or currently going through one have many questions about the process.

Below are some basics and some commonly asked questions:







Property Distribution in a Divorce



The date of separation is usually the date upon which the spouses cease living together. This can be a bit tricky now because many times in the interest of young children, couples will stay in the same house together but sleep in separate bedrooms, the wife will begin using her maiden name or bank accounts may be changed. All of these things will be taken into consideration. Pennsylvania has no such thing as a legal separation – you are either married or divorced. The actual date that you begin making these changes will affect things such as the time limits for filing certain types of divorce and property distribution matters as well. Keep track of when you started to do things separately and let the attorney know – he or she will then be able to help you determine the exact date.

Marital property is typically defined as those assets accumulated during the marriage. If you buy a house while you are married this is marital property. This may also include funds you accumulated prior to the marriage, inheritances and gifts. If you think that an asset should not be included as marital property the burden is on you to prove that it is strictly your asset and no in any way connected with your spouse or the marriage. This means concrete proof – simply your testimony is not enough. Keep in mind that any assets which are deemed to be marital property are subject to equitable distribution (having the court divide up the assets).

Not necessarily. Most often spousal support is issued pendent lite which means pending litigation- or before the final divorce decree. A spouse may be entitled to some spousal support as part of a divorce decree but this is usually where one spouse has been a homemaker for several years and has been outside the workforce, or may have certain medical needs. A support order may also be entered to allow a spouse to pay the mortgage on a home while there are still minor children living in it. All of these things will factor into the determination. In this case however, barring anything else, if a spouse is seeking long term spousal support just because he or she is no longer earning what they used to – as long as they have the ability to earn more – don’t count on receiving support long term.  Also keep in mind that spousal support and child support are two completely separate issues.

As always for a referral to an attorney dealing with divorce matters, contact the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at (412) 261-5555, or search on-line at