When I mention to people that I'm a divorce lawyer, they usually joke about how they hope they'll never need me. But then, privately, they pull me aside and ask me the questions that they have clearly been carrying around with them for some time -- questions about child support, alimony, property division and child custody. It's understandable, considering that the divorce rate in America is already about fifty percent. That probably means that about half of the married people you meet in any given day are at least thinking about divorce.
These people are wrestling with the question, "Should I stay or should I go?" and need help in weighing the consequences of divorce with the positive changes in their life that they obviously are seeking.
"Every case is different," I tell them, because the issues embedded in the "stay or go" dilemma are never simple and there are many factors that should be considered and weighed before making one of the biggest decisions of your life. And not all of these factors are legal considerations. There are mental and emotional health issues for individuals and their children. Indeed, "divorce is not a simple act," states Laura Roman, LCSW, a Relationship Coach in Wexford, PA.
"Marriage is complicated. I liken it to an underground cable, you can cut the main cable, but then you find these fine wires that link you together. Sometimes it takes months or years to sever those connections," says Roman. Being able to understand how all of these factors are impacted by divorce is critical before making the decision to pursue the legal process in divorcing a spouse.
While there's no substitute for sitting down with a divorce attorney for a complete assessment of your situation, there are some truisms that apply to most situations across the board:
- Your divorce may take longer that you anticipated. In Pennsylvania, unless both parties consent to the divorce, in which case there's a 90-day waiting period, they must be separated at least two years before the court will even begin looking at dividing the marital property. Often, even if the lower income earner wants the divorce, they will not sign a consent because Pennsylvania provides for alimony pendente lite (APL), a temporary form of alimony that may be awarded while the divorce is pending that is up to forty percent of the difference of the net incomes of the parties. Even in states with shorter waiting periods, such as Georgia, which has only a 31-day waiting period, the divorce often takes as long as the slower party wants it to go.