What Should I Know About Divorce in Philadelphia?
Divorce is an emotionally charged process in which spouses must make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. Child custody and child support arrangements, parenting plans, alimony payments, and property settlements require careful planning and often turn out better when divorcing spouses can work together amicably. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. No matter how friendly or contentious the split, divorcing spouses are strongly advised to seek legal counsel to preserve their best interests.
The Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. have over 65 years of experience leading clients through all types of legal matters. Attorneys at the firm work diligently to ensure that their clients’ legal rights are protected. We strive to resolve divorce issues as efficiently as possible through mediation, arbitration, and collaboration. However, when litigation is the only option, our experienced trial lawyers serve as zealous advocates who fight to preserve our clients’ best interests.
Types of Divorce
Modern divorce typically occurs outside of the courtroom. However, in some cases, such as those in which couples have a volatile relationship or have a high net worth, a judge must finalize the divorce settlement. Just as no two marriages are alike, no two divorces are the same. There are different types of divorce, each addressing the specific circumstances of the divorcing couple. Although there are two types of divorce, fault and no-fault, they can split into the following categories:
No-fault divorce: In most states, individuals seeking a divorce are not required to prove fault to qualify for a divorce. In the past, clients had to prove that the divorce was justified because of infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, cruelty, or abandonment of their spouse. Today, couples that mutually consent to end their marriage can divorce by accepting mutual responsibility for its demise.
This type of divorce differs from an uncontested divorce because the divorcing spouses worked together to file. This is the best way for a couple to amicably separate, and we prefer our clients to use this option if they can. Every divorce can be complicated, but two people who are ready to move on can use no-fault divorce to save time and money.
Uncontested divorce: In an uncontested divorce, each spouse files their own petition to the court with stipulations clearly outlined in the divorce settlement. This allows the court to grant the dissolution of the marriage. In an uncontested divorce, we will review documentation with the attorney representing the other party and file concurrently. This is a good way to file when both parties have many things to consider. We need to document all the items that will be involved in the divorce to please the court.
Default or absentia divorce: This type of divorce occurs when one spouse petitions the court because their spouse is unresponsive to their divorce summons. This typically happens when one spouse abandons the other and cannot be located, despite sincere efforts to contact the person. When this is the case, a judge can finalize the divorce without the consent of the absent spouse. This type of divorce can also be used when one of the spouses has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Summary divorce: If a client has no children, assets, or property to split, or they have been married for a short time, a summary divorce can expedite the process. Both spouses simply complete and file the necessary paperwork, which is then processed to make the divorce final. Summary divorce is used when divorcing spouses realize they made a mistake, married on impulse, or need to divorce after only a few months. This type of divorce is appropriate when both parties want the marriage to end as quickly as possible.
Contested divorce: In some cases, couples cannot avoid utilizing the court system to finalize the details of their divorce. High conflict divorces often require the case to go to trial. The process can be long and often expensive. When working on a contested divorce, we will collect evidence that proves our client’s case. Contested divorces may require several mediation meetings, and we may need to create various settlement offers for the other spouse. We will also help clients respond to settlement offers from their ex-spouse. These offers might include cars, homes, bank accounts, investment accounts, businesses, retirement accounts, and a range of spousal support options that might be required.
These divorces can get even more heated when child custody becomes an issue. The parents could fight over who will be the custodial parent, if one parent can move out of state, or how visitation will work. We will mediate the process instead of allowing a judge to make that decision. A judge can make all the decisions for the couple in a hearing, or the judge might tell the couple to go back to the bargaining table and work it out. Contested divorces might also become contentious if a restraining order was filed. Someone who is trying to escape an abusive partner will feel safer if all meetings are held in an office for their safety. We work with our clients to help them feel comfortable with the process.
LGBTQ divorce: Although these types of relationships may present unique challenges, LGBTQ couples can utilize the same divorce proceedings on which heterosexual couples rely. We have a track record of working with LGBTQ couples that are ready for divorce. Gender roles are not always the same, and divorcing spouses cannot assume that the court will act as it normally should.
Importance of Hiring the Right Divorce Lawyer
When divorce becomes inevitable, clients should reach out to us. We can explain how to proceed. Hiring the right divorce lawyer is an important decision. Having skilled legal counsel to represent someone is critical to ensure a positive outcome for the family. During this emotionally turbulent time, the client must feel comfortable with their lawyer so that they can share all pertinent information and discuss possible resolutions that will help them move forward.
Trying to represent oneself in court is difficult. The other spouse might show up with an attorney, and courtroom etiquette is difficult to understand. It can also be difficult for people to fill out their divorce paperwork, negotiate on their own, and/or meet with the judge.
Clients have a right to interview lawyers when they need representation. We want to offer the best possible care for our clients. We work hard to provide our clients with the experience they deserve, but our clients should make informed choices. Therefore, we show the advantages of hiring us. Talking to more than one divorce lawyer might help with the decision-making process. Clients also have a right to fire their lawyer at any time and hire a new one. We are willing to pick up at any point in the case if the client was dissatisfied with another attorney.
Importance of Remaining Calm
It is difficult to remain calm during divorce proceedings, especially when adultery, abuse, or a range of other problems was the cause. If a spouse asks for a divorce, it is best to separate and focus on getting through the divorce. Arguing will not help the case. If one of our clients has been injured or abused after broaching the subject of divorce to their spouse, we will add that information to the divorce filing.
When someone moves out of the house, it is almost as if they are ceding the house to their partner. However, that is not how property rights work. An ex-spouse can also say that the house was given to them. We ask that our clients not move out immediately unless they feel they are in danger. We can create an agreement that allows them to sell the house, divide profits, purchase their ex-spouse’s stake in the house, or sell their own stake.
Clients should not start taking things out of the house in a hurry. When abuse is not a factor, it is important to note all the things that will be removed from the home. Clients should make a list of these items and take pictures. The ex-spouse should be told that these items have been removed from the house so that there are no surprises. If one of our clients stayed in the home and noticed that items are now missing, we will find out where those items have gone.
Talking Instead of Arguing
Talking is much better than arguing. It is not always possible to talk calmly about such a sensitive subject, but that is the best course to take. We offer mediation if it is impossible for clients to have a calm and reasonable conversation with the opposing spouse about the divorce. There are other alternative resolutions available. Clients may have sentimental items in the house that both spouses want, while some clients may want to involve their relatives. Other clients may claim to have damaging information about their ex-spouse. Sharing this information allows our legal team to create a case for divorce. We can also assure that anything said in anger will be brought up in court, no matter the intent. The other attorney will bring this information to court, and it is difficult to explain why these disparaging things have been said. It can be even worse if these arguments occurred in front of the children.
Young Children Should Not be Involved
Young children should not be involved in a divorce. Most young children do not understand the concept of divorce and should not become a part of the argument. Parents need to do what is best for the children, and we can help create a parenting and child custody plan. Young children should not be coached on what to say if they are asked to speak to an attorney or judge, and it is unwise to disparage an ex-spouse to the children. The children may repeat the insulting comments of one parent, which will anger the court. Children deserve to move on to a new life as smoothly as possible. The divorce is between the parents, not the children.
However, older children who are involved in a divorce understand what a divorce entails, and they may have a preference about where to live or how they will spend their last few years as a minor. This is especially important for teenagers who want to graduate from the school they are attending. Adult children who are going to a college financed by their parents may have concerns about who will pay for school. Statements can be added to the divorce filing or be used when settling on visitation. Older children do not make the decisions, but their lives could be altered in an unforgivable manner if parents do not listen during the divorce proceeding.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
For many divorcing spouses, arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce can be an efficient and cost-effective alternative to divorce litigation. Using these alternative forms of dispute resolution may be a last resort because the couple cannot come to an agreement. The couple might choose these methods because they do not want to argue throughout their divorce, or they believe they need help as they work out all the complex issues involved.
Arbitration: A private arbitrator will listen to both sides of the divorce argument and render a decision. This decision may be binding or non-binding, depending on the circumstances. When choosing this type of alternate resolution technique, both parties must agree to allow a third-party arbiter to handle the case. This could be risky, but this is better than allowing a judge to make the decision. An arbiter has the time to consider every issue in the divorce to offer the best solution for both parties.
Mediation: A neutral third party helps the couple reach amicable decisions through communication and cooperation. The mediator does not make the final decisions for the couple, but instead assists them in the decision-making process. We offer mediation when couples need to work through a few items that might be difficult to talk about. We teach our lawyers to join each conversation, get to the heart of the issue, and broker a decision. We know that mediation can be difficult for some, but it is easier than using an arbiter or taking the case before a judge with items left undecided.
Collaborative divorce: Each spouse hires their own lawyer, with an understanding that they will work cooperatively with counsel to reach a divorce settlement. If the divorcing spouses fail to do so, the lawyers can resign from the case, and the spouses will need to start the process over with new counsel. This is a good way for both spouses to have a strong negotiator in the room. We know how the legal system works, and we can argue for the best resolution for our client. We have worked with attorneys in the area on collaborative divorce in the past, and we are happy to do so again.
A divorce lawyer will walk all clients through these options before the divorce is finalized. We know that every client is different, and we will describe each option before they decide. We are here to make this a smooth transition for everyone, and that is why we work with arbiters, other attorneys, and mediators to ensure the divorce progresses as it should.
Legal Counsel Reduces the Stress and Emotional Turmoil of Divorce
When children and marital assets are involved in a divorce, a competent divorce lawyer can ensure that the best interests of the family are served, and that the lifestyles and assets acquired during the marriage are split fairly. A lawyer can fully explain and how the process works, expedite the case as much as possible, and provide a critical form of support that clients do not receive when they try to handle the case on their own.
Marriage and divorce laws vary by state, and it is imperative that those seeking a divorce rely on legal counsel and representation to ensure the process is as stress-free as possible. An experienced divorce lawyer can help divorcing clients choose the best path that leads to a fair and favorable divorce settlement.
Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Guide Clients Through the Divorce Process
Reach out to the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. when you need help navigating the emotional and complex steps of divorce. We will ensure that our clients receive the care they need as their lives change. Call us today at 888-999-1962 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.