Pennsylvania does not recognize legal separation in that there’s nothing you would file with the court to establish separation. Instead, it is a date established between the parties that later becomes relevant in establishing grounds for divorce or valuing assets that need to be divided. Separation does not mean the parties have to live separately. Separation is defined as the termination of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not. At the latest, it shall be presumed that the parties commenced to live separate and apart on the date that the divorce complaint was served. However, the date of separation can be an even earlier date if one party moves out of the marital home or makes it clear to the other party that the marriage is over by stating so clearly or even reducing it to writing. The effect of establishing “separation” goes toward starting the clock on a two-year separation divorce as well as establishing a cut-off date for valuing the marital estate.

New Jersey does recognize legal separation in the form of divorce from bed and board. Both parties must consent to a divorce from bed and board. The parties will still be legally married but are able to achieve separation financially. Just as with a divorce, the parties can enter an agreement to divide all their marital property or submit to the court for a decision on division. Alimony may also be awarded where appropriate. Health insurance may continue if covered by the other spouse and legal separation is not specified as a reason for termination. A divorce from bed and board can be converted to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if the parties elect to go through with a full divorce. It can also be revoked such that the parties resume their marriage.

Click here to read more on separation.

The Possibility Coaches are hosting a free lecture titled “How to Emotionally Thrive During & After Divorce!” at our Langhorne office on January 29, 2014. Jon Sattin and Chris Pattay are the partners behind the Possibility Coaches and focus on empowering men and women alike to lead meaningful lives and engage in healthy, successful relationships. Sattin and Pattay started coaching together in 2002 and have labeled themselves as relationship, divorce, and life coaches. As it relates to relationships or divorce, their goal is to help in navigating through the emotional aspects as well as provide a framework for rebuilding to achieve a happier, healthier life. The lecture will be held from 7 AM – 8 AM. Please contact our office for additional information and to reserve your spot for this free event!

Click here to read more about the Possibility Coaches.

It can be difficult to catch up on support if a large arrears balance accrues. Unfortunately, sometimes the party paying support has good intentions to pay support but due to circumstances out of their control, end up falling behind. It may be possible to arrange a settlement to clear up an arrears balance. The settlement will generally involve a reduced total in exchange for a lump sum payment. Such an arrangement can be agreed upon between two private parties at any time. There is more gray area when the debt is owed to the State.

The majority of the states either have a fully implemented debt compromise plan or make a decision on debt compromise proposals on a case-by-case basis. The rationale in even allowing debt compromise is to increase the likelihood the states will receive some of the debt owed as opposed to no payment at all. Pennsylvanian and New Jersey both consider debt compromise plans on a case-by-case basis. In Pennsylvania, by rule of the Supreme Court, any compromise on debt owed to the state must be approved by court order.

Click here to read more on child support.

There are some differences in procedure among the different counties even though the same law applies. One example is as it relates to support proceedings. Bucks County uses a two-tier system for handling support matters. The first step involves a conference before a court officer. At the conference level, both parties are required to bring proof of their income in the form of pay stubs, tax returns, W-2’s, etc. The officer presiding over the conference will use the income information provided to determine the net income of the parties and subsequently run a calculation based on the state-wide guidelines for support. If the parties are agreeable to the support number generated by the calculations, they can sign a final order for support in that amount. If either party is not agreeable, the next step is a hearing before a Judge.

Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties use a three-tier system in support cases. The first step is a conference as is the case in Bucks County. The second step is a Masters Hearing. The Master is not a Judge but an attorney specially trained in support matters. The Master will hold a hearing where they can hear testimony from both parties and review exhibits. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Master will make a report outlining recommendations for support. The parties receive a copy of the recommendations and are advised that if they do not file exceptions to the recommendations within the time frame allotted, the recommendation becomes a Final Order. If exceptions to the Master’s recommendation are filed, then the matter proceeds to the third-step which is a hearing before a Judge.

Click here to read more on support.