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Can I be sure I'll get a fair shake in a divorce settlement?

Divorce can be very painful to go through. That has always been true. It may be even more so these days when notions of what the typical American family are hard to define. The relational investment that all parties have in the situation means that there is a personal stake at the emotional level. But there is a financial component that needs to be addressed, as well.

It is not uncommon in Pennsylvania for individuals to be somewhat in the dark about what their rights are where marriage and divorce is concerned. Religious traditions often have something to say about the structure of the family, but that doesn't mean the traditions and state law is always aligned.

Individual rights can be put at risk when uncertainty exists. In some instances, ignorance of one's rights and fear of being financially shipwrecked can result in a spouse staying in an unhealthy marriage situation. For safety's sake and the protection of rights in family law matters, an experienced attorney should be consulted.

In Pennsylvania, the standard for divorce is one of no-fault. What that means is that if the parties have been separated for more than two years and consent to the divorce, the matter should be able to be settled with relative ease. And to allay concerns over financial derailment, the courts make decisions based on a standard of equitable distribution of all marital assets.

Regardless of whose name any marital property may be under, if it was acquired during the marriage and prior to separation, it is subject to division.

This should not be taken to mean that the assets will be split in half. Rather, it means that the courts must strive to come up with a balance of value that is equitable. What one spouse might consider to be fair might be considered unfair by the other, and resolution may require negotiation.

The objective is to ensure spouses get that fair shake as called for by the law.

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