Divorce Myths and Frequently Asked Questions

There is a surprising amount of misinformation about divorce on the internet.  Many commonly held beliefs are also wrong.  Here are some of the most common myths:

If you have been told that there is no such thing as alimony in Pennsylvania, this is not correct. If you think you might be a candidate for receiving alimony, please call for a consultation with an attorney.

If you have been told that you are “automatically” divorced after being separated for two years, this is incorrect. You must apply for and receive a Divorce Decree from the Court in order to be divorced.

The minimum separation period in order to proceed with a no-fault divorce, despite one spouse’s refusal to cooperate, has been reduced from two years to one.

If you are thinking of giving up property claims or alimony because you have been told by your spouse that you will be “charged” or “sued” for abandonment or adultery, you need to know that such issues rarely matter.

You should never plan a wedding for a new marriage until your divorce is complete. Unexpected complications which can cause delays can occasionally happen.  This is especially true if your current spouse is not completely cooperative.

The issuance of a Divorce Decree ends the right to spousal support or alimony pendente lite.  If you are receiving spousal support or alimony pendente lite, be aware that you will be giving this up.  If you are paying spousal support or alimony pendente lite, you should take your Divorce Decree to your local Domestic Relations office so that they can terminate your order.

The division of assets and debts, called Equitable Distribution, is not automatically 50/50.  There are a variety of factors that are considered.  Long-term marriages where one spouse makes significantly more than the other generally result in a division of assets favorable to the income-inferior spouse.

If you own a house (or any other asset) jointly with your spouse and you get a divorce without having a Property Settlement Agreement, you and your spouse become automatic 50/50 owners of the property. One spouse can force the other to sell the home and the court would most likely divide any proceeds from the sale equally, no matter who has been paying the bills.

If you and your spouse have joint debt which your spouse agrees to pay, unless you have a Property Settlement Agreement, there will probably be nothing you can do if your spouse fails to pay and the creditor comes after you for payment.

If your spouse has a pension, 401k, IRA or any other asset titled in his/her name alone, if you get divorced without a Property Settlement Agreement, you will lose your right to the marital portion of the asset.

It doesn’t matter if an asset is titled in your spouse’s name alone, even if it was acquired prior to the marriage.  Any value gained during the marriage is marital property.  “Value gained” could be the result of increased market conditions, pay down of a lien (such as mortgage), accumulation of interest or improvement of the property or any other factor which makes the asset worth more.  The same principle applies to debts.

Divorce, equitable distribution and alimony are completely separate issues from child support and custody.  You do not have to resolve child support and custody in order to get a divorce.

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