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Getting a divorce can have serious, long-term effects, both emotionally and legally. There are also strict legal requirements that cover everything from choosing a method of legal separation to selecting where and how to file, to deciding how the property should be divided. The divorce process can be confusing, especially without legal assistance. FindLaw's directory can connect you with trusted divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania to guide you through the divorce process and minimize the stress you experience during this difficult time.

What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?

There are several distinctions between divorce and separation.

First, legal separation may be a court-mandated step of the divorce process, with some states requiring that potential divorcees spend some time living apart in a form of legal separation before proceeding to formal divorce.

Outside of this requirement, legal separation is reversible, while divorce is not. Once you have been declared divorced from a former spouse, there is no going back. Legally separated spouses retain the right to inherit property as well, and may not remarry (as they are still considered married, despite separation).

Do You Need a Lawyer in Pennsylvania?

There are a variety of reasons you might need to find a lawyer in Pennsylvania, from facing criminal charges to filing a lawsuit or even just buying a house.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is extremely important to be represented by skilled legal counsel. Not only can retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney increase your chances of a favorable outcome if your case does go to trial (improving your odds of attaining an acquittal), but also if you opt to negotiate a plea deal or to plead guilty, a lawyer can ensure you are treated fairly within the boundaries of the law.

On the other hand, if you are looking to file a legal claim of any sort, it is equally advisable to find a Pennsylvania lawyer familiar with your type of legal matter. Attorneys have spent years (if not decades) of their lives in pursuit of the knowledge and skills necessary to best represent their clients in court proceedings. Legal jargon, obscure precedent, existing and newly passed statutes and other elements of the legal process demand that a professional lawyer is always capable of seeking the best possible outcome.

Can I Represent Myself in Pennsylvania?

While representing yourself in court can sound like a good idea on the surface, particularly given the relative cost of retaining legal counsel, it is almost universally considered to be a poor idea. No amount of quick research can act as a substitute for the skills and experience that lawyers attain through working several years in the court system.

Do You Have to Have a Reason for Divorce?

A no-fault divorce allows a court to enter a divorce decree without one party having to legally prove the other party did something wrong in the marriage. Instead, one spouse may simply allege that the marriage has broken down and there's no reasonable hope it can be preserved, and a divorce can be granted with or without the other spouse's consent. Every state in the United States, including Pennsylvania allow "no-fault" divorce, though the requirements to apply for and obtain such a divorce can vary by jurisdiction.

Steps in a Divorce or Divorce Proceedings

Though divorce is quite common, those who are filing for divorce for the first time may not be familiar with the process.

The first step in divorce proceedings is for one spouse to file the divorce petition, the contents of which — as well as the general eligibility to file in the first place — may be dictated at the state level. Broadly speaking, the divorce petition must contain an affirmation that the filing spouse is eligible to make a legal divorce petition, the grounds for the divorce and any other particulars required by each jurisdiction.

Next is requesting any temporary orders concerning custody (legal or physical) and any necessary economic or housing support that is applicable during the divorce proceedings. Status quo orders concerning payments of financial support monies, property restraining orders protecting a shared estate from being looted by one partner or another prior to the split, and other such temporary orders may be requested by the filing spouse and judged in court.

The filing spouse must serve papers to the receiving spouse, along with proof of having done so. Once that's happened, it is the receiving spouse's responsibility to respond, including any disputes (particularly in the case of a fault divorce, versus a no-fault divorce) within a timely manner.

Any negotiations or settlements that can be laid to rest before a trial are then typically worked out, particularly when both sides have retained legal counsel. A trial ensues over the remainder of the disputed items if necessary, and then a judgment is rendered.

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