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Divorce Litigation

In Pennsylvania, there are two types of divorce, fault and no-fault. In my practice, people rarely use fault divorce anymore as it does not give them much, if any, advantage in the division of assets. Most people go the no-fault divorce route. No-fault divorce is further divided into consensual and non-consensual.

Consented divorce is when both parties agree that they want the divorce to happen. If there is no property to divide (remember, property means all assets, not just a home) then a consented divorce can be finalized in a few to several months. It is the quickest, cheapest way to accomplish your divorce. Likely there will be no court time at all.

However, when people own assets together such as houses, retirement plans, cars, boats, stocks, bonds and the like, they have to go through a process known as equitable distribution. That is a fancy name for dividing up all assets and debts. This is usually accomplished by means of a large document known as a Property Settlement Agreement. Depending on several factors including how many assets there are and how quickly the parties negotiate, the parties can be divorced in several months. There may be a period of "discovery", which is just another name for each side finding out what assets/debts the other has.  Some parties know in advance how they want to settle everything and have their attorney(s) prepare the Property Settlement Agreement. It is likely there will be very little or possibly no court time involved.

Non-consensual divorce is when one party wants the divorce and the other does not. This can drag out for 1-3 years or sometimes even more. There is almost always court time involved and it can be extensive, adding up to thousands of dollars in legal fees. It is important to remember that even if one party does not want the divorce, it is still going to happen. Many times I have counseled clients that certain events were going to happen and this is what they can expect in court, and then that exact thing happened. Listen to your attorney; he or she has been through the court process and can offer you some reality testing. Perhaps it may be better to settle now and take a lesser offer than what you hoped to get, rather than risk getting the same or less in court, and you still need to pay your attorney!

In non-consensual divorce, it is likely that you will be seen by a Master (not quite a Judge) who will make initial recommendations on how to settle the case before a hearing occurs. If the parties do not agree with the Master's suggestions, the matter goes to hearing and the Master makes his or her recommendation. If one of the parties does not agree with the Master's recommendation, he or she can file Exceptions and ask to be seen by a judge. This process can drag on for months. Masters can decide equitable distribution, support and custody. For each of these issues you will be seen by a different Master. 

Divorce litigation can be risky and expensive. Only the most complicated, grave or serious issues should be heard by a judge. It behooves the parties to negotiate and stay out of court, saving time, money and perhaps even their sanity.

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Law Offices of Catherine Cardozo, LLC
1147 Easton Rd.
Abington, PA 19001

Toll Free: 866-779-6227
Phone: 610-298-1081
Fax: 215-572-1700
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