Sommer & O'Donnell - Attorneys at Law
Sommer & O'Donnell - Attorneys at Law
With over 15 years of experience, the Attorneys at Sommer & O’Donnell are seasoned and excited to support you throughout your time of Family Legal needs. They understand that needing a lawyer for matters of the heart can be overwhelming and stressful, but they strive to make the process as smooth and simple as possible.

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Divorce

For all of your family law needs.

Divorce is tough.  Whether or not a divorce is amicable is always a matter of choice. If you have decided to divorce, but your spouse is not in agreement, you should first seek legal advice from Attorney Sommer or Attorney O’Donnell regarding your rights and the Divorce Process.

 

Even if you have both agreed the marriage is over and both want a Divorce, you will still need to consult with an attorney at Sommer & O’Donnell regarding the process and legal ramifications of your Divorce.

 

Your first step is to learn what your legal rights are – since every divorce is different and each divorce is looked at on a case-by-case basis. Knowledge is the key to protecting yourself, your financial future, and your children. We are hopeful the following information will be helpful to you as you are contemplating divorcing your spouse.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Pennsylvania?

You and/or or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six (6) months immediately prior to filing for divorce.  23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3104(b)

Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania allows you to either file a no-fault divorce or a fault based divorce action against your spouse.  It is always best to consult one of our experienced attorneys in order to determine the best course of action for you.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce:

The fault based grounds for Divorce are statutory and contained in 23 Pa.C.S.A. section 3301(a).  The following are the fault based grounds a person may file under in Pennsylvania:
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 burdensome.
(b) Institutionalization: The court may grant a divorce from a spouse upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months immediately before the commencement of an action under this part and where there is no reasonable prospect that the spouse will be discharged from inpatient care during the 18 months subsequent to the commencement of the action. A presumption that no prospect of discharge exists shall be established by a certificate of the superintendent of the institution to that effect and which includes a supporting statement of a treating physician.
(c)  Mutual consent:
(1)  The court may grant a divorce where it is alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date of commencement of an action under this part and an affidavit has been filed by each of the parties evidencing that each of the parties consents to the divorce.
(2)  The consent of a party shall be presumed where that party has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party.
(d)  Irretrievable breakdown:
(1)  The court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year and that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the defendant either:

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

 

The no fault based grounds for Divorce are statutory and contained in 23 Pa.C.S.A. section 3301(b)-(d).  The following are the no fault based grounds a person may file under in Pennsylvania:

3301(c) Mutual consent

1.    The court may grant a divorce where it is alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date of commencement of an action under this part and an affidavit has been filed by each of the parties evidencing that each of the parties consents to the divorce.
2.    The consent of a party shall be presumed where that party has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party.

3301(d) Irretrievable breakdown

1.    The court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year and that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the defendant either:
(i)  Does not deny the allegations set forth in the affidavit.
(ii)  Denies one or more of the allegations set forth in the affidavit but, after notice and hearing, the court determines that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

3301 (b) Institutionalization

The court may grant a divorce from a spouse upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months immediately before the commencement of an action under this part and where there is no reasonable prospect that the spouse will be discharged from inpatient care during the 18 months subsequent to the commencement of the action. A presumption that no prospect of discharge exists shall be established by a certificate of the superintendent of the institution to that effect and which includes a supporting statement of a treating physician.

Divorce in a nutshell:

 

Once you have made the important decision of filing for divorce, it can be scary.  The Attorneys at Sommer & O’Donnell can help you through that process.  Divorce is essentially the division of your marital property in an equitable manner and dissolution of your union.

Marital Property:

 

In Pennsylvania law, marital property is defined in 23 Pa.C.S.A. 3501(a).  Marital property means all property acquired by either party during the marriage and the increase in value of any nonmarital property during the marriage.

Marital Property does not include the following:
  1. Property acquired prior to marriage or property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage.
  2. Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties entered into before, during or after the marriage.
  3. Property acquired by gift, except between spouses, bequest, devise or descent or property acquired in exchange for such property.
  4. Property acquired after final separation until the date of divorce, except for property acquired in exchange for marital assets.
  5. Property which a party has sold, granted, conveyed or otherwise disposed of in good faith and for value prior to the date of final separation.
  6. Veterans’ benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure pursuant to the act of September 2, 1958 (Public Law 85-857, 72 Stat. 1229), as amended, except for those benefits received by a veteran where the veteran has waived a portion of his military retirement pay in order to receive veterans’ compensation.
  7. Property to the extent to which the property has been mortgaged or otherwise encumbered in good faith for value prior to the date of final separation.
  8. Any payment received as a result of an award or settlement for any cause of action or claim which accrued prior to the marriage or after the date of final separation regardless of when the payment was received.

Can I get alimony?

 

In Pennsylvania, alimony is never guaranteed.  A Divorce Master will use statutory factors in considering if alimony is warranted in a particular case.

Those factors are codified at 23 pa.c.s.a. 3701 and include the following:
  • The relative earnings and earning capacity of you and your spouse;
  • The age and physical, mental and emotional conditions of you and your spouse;
  • The source of income for you and your spouse (including medical, retirement, insurance and other benefits);
  • Any inheritance or other form of money you and your spouse expect to receive;
  • How long the marriage lasted;
  • The contribution you or your spouse made to each other’s education, training or “increased earning power”;
  • How the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of you or your spouse will be affected by having custody of a minor child;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The relative education of you and your spouse and the time it may take the spouse seeking alimony to get education or training to find employment;
  • The age and physical, mental and emotional conditions of you and your spouse;
  • The assets and liabilities of you and your spouse;
  • The property brought to the marriage by you and your spouse;
  • Contributions that you or your spouse made as a homemaker;
  • The relative needs of you or your spouse;
  • The “marital misconduct” of you or your spouse before the final separation date;
  • Abuse of one spouse to the other during the marriage, including after the final separation date;
  • The tax ramifications that may come with awarding alimony;
  • Whether you or your spouse, whomever is seeking the alimony, lacks enough property to pay for your “reasonable needs; and
  • Whether the party seeking alimony cannot self-support through employment.

After weighing the various factors, a Divorce Master will determine if alimony is necessary, how much alimony will be paid and for how long it will be paid.  It’s best to consult with our attorneys to ascertain if alimony is appropriate in your case.

What is Collaborative Law?

 

Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution model in which both parties to their family law dispute retain separate, specially trained lawyers whose only job is to help them settle the dispute.  All participants agree to work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to try to find “win-win” solutions to the sincere needs of both parties.  Collaborative Law incorporates the strength of legal representation with the strength of mediation to provide greater potential for creative problem solving in obtaining the goals of the family. Attorney Sommer is a member of the International Academy for Collaborative Professional and is active in the local collaborative group, Collaborative Professionals of Central Pennsylvania.  Please contact Attorney Sommer if you would like to have more information on this approach to resolving your family law disputes.

In order for something to be considered collaborative law, it must have the following elements:

(i) each party must have retained an attorney; (ii) there must be a written participation agreement; and (iii) the participation agreement must include a disqualification clause.

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