Shielding Your Children From the Impact of Divorce in Pennsylvania
Approximately 10 percent of all marriages in Pennsylvania end in divorce, and if yours is among them, one of the hardest aspects will probably be telling your children. In order to minimize the emotional trauma your son or daughter is likely to feel when you make this announcement, it’s important to deal with the legal issues surrounding your marital dissolution as amicably as possible under the circumstances. An experienced Jenkintown divorce lawyer can help you negotiate the custody agreement, visitation schedule and child support obligations that are right for you and your family.
Issues That Should Be Addressed
Very few couples arrive at the decision to divorce without a great deal of deliberation. Here are the four main legal issues that need to be resolved as you move forward with a marital dissolution:
- Type of divorce
- Child custody
- Child support
The unique structure of Pennsylvania’s divorce statutes will have a large impact on how you and the other parent negotiate these issues.
Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania
A Pennsylvania court will only grant a divorce if one of the spouses has resided in the state for at least six months. The court recognizes three categories:
- Divorce by mutual consent
- Divorce following a two-year legal separation
- Divorce on grounds of adultery, bigamy, physical or mental cruelty, abandonment without cause for one year or longer or imprisonment for two years or more
A no-fault divorce that takes place through mutual consent will require approximately four months to process in Pennsylvania. Couples who choose this route generally maintain more control over other parts of the divorce settlement. This option is typically better for children because it minimizes the adversarial components of the marital dissolution.
To pursue a no-fault divorce by mutual consent, both you and your spouse must agree that your marriage is irretrievably damaged so that neither of you contests the action. Courts will impose a mandatory waiting period of 90 days between the time the pertinent paperwork is filed and the time that the divorce decree is signed.
If you and your former partner can agree on a plan that covers the terms of custody and how parental decisions are to be made, the family court system will generally abide by the choices the two of you have arrived at together.
Your parenting plan should be as complete as possible, and it should consider the best interests of the children over the individual interests of either parent. The most important decision you and the other parent will make is the one regarding custody. Legal custody and physical custody are usually considered separately in Pennsylvania courts. If the court feels that two parents are able to cooperate even minimally in making decisions concerning their child’s education, religion and medical care, then shared legal custody is often granted. Otherwise, one of the parents will be granted sole legal custody.
Physical custody is defined according to the stipulations in Pennsylvania Statute Title 23 Pa.C.S.A Section 5328(a). This statute defines four types of physical custody, and it also addresses the visitation rights of noncustodial parents:
- Sole physical custody: The child lives with one parent alone, although the other parent will probably have visitation rights since Pennsylvania recognizes the importance that contact with both parents has on a child’s emotional development and well-being.
- Primary physical custody: The child spends most of his or her time with one parent. The other parent will have visitation rights in most cases.
- Partial physical custody: The child spends more time with one parent than the other.
- Shared or joint physical custody: The child spends frequent amounts of time with both parents. Pennsylvania family courts often use this designation even if the child spends slightly more time with one parent.
A Jenkintown divorce lawyer can explain the effect that Pennsylvania’s divorce laws may have on your family’s unique set of circumstances and assist you in drawing up a parenting plan. Call (215) 886-1266 today to contact the law office of Joanne Kleiner in Jenkintown so that you can set up a consultation.