Whether it involves aggressively litigating a divorce action through the Courts, negotiating a fair and reasonable resolution of a case in an amicable four-party setting, or any variety of the many ways to resolve a divorce dispute, Griffie & Associates’ attorneys have the ability and knowledge to help every client through these difficult time.
Since 1980, Pennsylvania has been a no-fault divorce state which means that a divorce can be secured without proving that one of the spouses was the wrongdoer and caused the divorce. Rather, both parties can simply recognize that their marriage is irretrievably broken and that they both wish to be divorced.
There are two forms of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. The most common form is when both parties simply consent to the divorce and sign the necessary documents to be divorced. If all other issues that are raised in the divorce, such as property distribution, alimony, and other issues are resolved, the divorce can be concluded by both spouses signing the required paperwork 90 days after the divorce complaint has been filed and served upon the other spouse. Again, though, this requires both parties to consent to the divorce. Then, within approximately one to two weeks, a Divorce Decree is received.
The second manner of securing a no-fault divorce is where the parties have been separated for a period of one year. In 2016, this section of the Divorce Code was amended or changed from a requirement for a two-year separation to only a one-year separation, but the new one-year separation only applies to spouses who separated after December 4, 2016. For parties who separated prior to December 2016, they must still be separated for a period of two years before they can secure a no-fault divorce based on a period of separation. Under this section, the spouse who wishes to seek the Divorce Decree must give notice to the other party so that it can be determined whether both parties agree as to when the parties separated. If the date that the parties separated is agreed upon, or the opposing spouse does not object to the date selected by the spouse who has filed the divorce, and if all other issues raised in the divorce have been resolved, then the party who wishes to finalize the divorce may file the appropriate documents to do so.
Otherwise, Pennsylvania still has fault divorce. The Divorce Code sets forth six separate ways a party can secure a fault divorce (listed below), as well as the right to secure a divorce under specific circumstances where a spouse is institutionalized. While it is somewhat uncommon to have a divorce concluded as a fault divorce, it still does take place and is available in appropriate cases.
Grounds For Divorce
Fault: The court may grant a divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has:
(1.) Committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.
(2.) Committed adultery.
(3.) By cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.
(4.) Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.
(5.) Been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime.
(6.) Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse's condition intolerable and life
23 P.C.S. §3301 (a)
Spousal Support/Alimony Pendente Lite
Pennsylvania law allows for one spouse to receive financial
support from the other spouse in two different procedures. Spousal support can
be requested by the party who has less income and, essentially, who has not
been the cause of the parties’ separation. Securing spousal support is a
two-step analysis. First, it must be determined whether one party or the other
is liable or responsible for the separation of the parties. This can become a
rather detailed and complicated process. Secondly, the spousal support is then
based upon the incomes of the two parties.
pendente lite (APL) is very similar in that the same equation is followed to
determine the amount of the payment that is made from the paying spouse to the
receiving spouse. However, the issue of who is responsible for the separation,
if either party is actually responsible, is not an issue in alimony pendente
lite. Also, while spousal support can be filed by a spouse without a divorce
being filed, alimony pendente lite can only be filed as part of a divorce
proceeding. This means that either the party requesting alimony pendente lite
must file for divorce or the other party must have already filed.
addition, there are situations where parties can actually be residing in the same
home and still be entitled to receive spousal support or alimony pendente lite.
These cases are very “fact specific” and are not common.
attorneys at Griffie and Associates have extensive experience in handling and
advising their clients in routine and unusual situations. Because of the in-depth and extensive
experience of our family law attorneys, we are able to review all of the
aspects of the entitlement to spousal support or alimony pendente lite and
discuss that thoroughly with the client in order to determine whether it is
best to proceed to make such a request or, in the alternative, whether it can
be anticipated that the other party may make such claims against our clients.
Under the Divorce Code of Pennsylvania, alimony is financial
support that one former spouse pays to the other former spouse after a divorce
has been concluded. Alimony may be part of a court decision resolving the
issues involved in the divorce or may be agreed upon pursuant to the terms of
the Marital Settlement Agreement or Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.
Code sets out 17 factors (listed below) that must be considered by the divorce
master or the court when determining whether alimony is appropriate and also in
determining the amount and the duration of the alimony. However, the 17 factors
are not exclusive. This means that there may be other issues that are relevant
to alimony that still come into play in a court’s or divorce master’s decision.
alimony is deductible for income tax purposes by the paying former spouse and
must be included as income for the receiving former spouse.
extensive experience appearing before the divorce masters in southcentral
Pennsylvania, where our attorneys practice, as well as addressing exceptions
that have been filed with our local courts, the attorneys of Griffie and Associates
are well versed in these procedures and the law. In many respects, our
attorneys can anticipate the general perspective held by these decision makers.
This allows us to guide our clients relative to their demands in trying to
amicably resolve the divorce action and otherwise prepare to present a case on
behalf of our clients where alimony is an issue.
the determination made by the divorce master or the court relative to the
application of alimony to any specific case, that decision can be modified and the
alimony can be increased, decreased, or terminated. Whether the alimony set forth
in a Marital Settlement Agreement or the Separation and Property Settlement Agreement
is modifiable or nonmodifiable depends upon the terms of the Agreement. This is
something that must be very carefully written and reviewed to make sure the
client’s future needs are properly addressed. The experience of the attorneys
at Griffie and Associates in dealing with multiple divorce situations allows
for our clients to confidently move forward in their divorce case.
Factors Relevant in
determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount,
duration and manner of payment of alimony, the court shall consider all
relevant factors, including:
(1.) The relative earnings and earning
capacities of the parties.
(2.) The ages and the physical, mental and
emotional conditions of the parties.
(3.) The sources of income of both parties,
including but not limited to medical, retirement,
insurance or other benefits.
(4.) The expectancies and inheritances of the
(5.) The duration of the marriage.
(6.) The contribution by one party to the
education, training or increased earning power
of the other party.
(7.) The extent to which the earning power,
expenses or financial obligations of a party
will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
(8.) The standard of living of the parties
established during the marriage.
(9.) The relative education of the parties and
the time necessary to acquire sufficient education
or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
(10.) The relative assets and liabilities of the
(11.) The property brought to the marriage by either
(12.) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
(13.) The relative needs of the parties.
(14.) The marital misconduct of either of the parties
during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony; except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party. As used in this paragraph "abuse" shall have the meaning given to it under section 6102 (relating to definitions).
(15.) The Federal, State and local tax ramifications
of the alimony award.
(16.) Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
(17.) Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable
of self-support through appropriate
23 P.C.S. §3701 (b)
Property and Debt Distribution
The Divorce Code provides for marital property and debts to
be divided between the two parties that are going through a divorce proceeding.
This is referenced as “equitable distribution.” As the term suggests, the
Divorce Code does not require an equal distribution of the marital property
that the parties have obtained or an equal distribution of the debts that have
been incurred during the marriage. Rather, there are extensive factors listed
in the law that must be reviewed in determining what percentage of the various marital
assets should be distributed to each party to make the distribution
Code sets forth 11 specific factors (listed below) that must be taken into
consideration in equitable distribution. However, the law is very clear in
indicating that these are simply factors that must be included and by no means
ends the analysis. Rather, any factors that are relevant to equitable
distribution may be taken into consideration to determine which spouse receives
what portions of marital property, or is given the obligation for different
portions of the marital debt.
As with most
aspects of a divorce case, by having the background, knowledge, and experience
of how our local divorce masters and the courts commonly address these factors,
as well as having an in-depth understanding of the court decisions made
regarding divorces, the attorneys of Griffie and Associates are able to guide our
clients in determining the general likelihood of how property may be
distributed under the equitable distribution factors. This allows our attorneys
to properly guide our clients as we review all of the relevant materials
concerning property and debts in an effort to reach an agreement with the
opposing party. At the same time, it allows us to properly prepare the client
for any proceedings that may occur in front of the divorce master or the court to
have equitable distribution addressed through litigation.
Factors Relevant to
Determining Equitable Division of Marital Property:
(a) General rule: Upon the
request of either party in an action for divorce or annulment, the court shall
equitably divide, distribute or assign, in kind or otherwise, the marital
property between the parties without regard to marital misconduct in such
percentages and in such manner as the court deems just after considering all
relevant factors. The court may consider each marital asset or group of assets
independently and apply a different percentage to each marital asset or group
of assets. Factors which are relevant to the equitable division of marital
property include the following:
The length of the marriage.
Any prior marriage of either party.
The age, health, station, amount and sources
of income, vocational skills, employability,
estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
The contribution by one party to the
education, training or increased earning power of
the other party.
The opportunity of each party for future
acquisitions of capital assets and income.
The sources of income of both parties,
including, but not limited to, medical, retirement,
insurance or other benefits.
contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation
of the marital property, including the contribution of a party as
The value of the property set apart to each
The standard of living of the parties
established during the marriage.
circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is
to become effective.
The Federal, State and
local tax ramifications associated with each asset to be divided, distributed or assigned, which
ramifications need not be immediate and
The expense of sale,
transfer or liquidation associated with a particular asset, which expense need not be immediate and
Whether the party will
be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.
23 P.C.S. §3501(a)
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Attorneys Fees and Costs
The Divorce Code allows for a party to request that they be
granted the payment of their attorney’s fees and costs, or a portion of those fees
and costs, by the other party. Each case has its own facts and the claim or
request that attorney’s fees be paid by the other party must rest on those
facts. This is one reason why the attorneys of Griffie and Associates take the
time to get all of the details and facts of our client’s situation when
determining whether such a claim should be made or whether it can be
anticipated that the other party will make such a claim against our client.