Berman & Asbel, LLP

State divorce laws differ

Pennsylvania residents who are considering ending their marriage should be cautious when well-meaning friends and family start offering advice on the divorce process. Why? Because divorce laws are different in all 50 states. If the person offering the advice is from a different state, the information that is offered may not apply to a Pennsylvania divorce.

While a divorce in one state is recognized in the rest of the country, there are several aspects of the process that can differ significantly from state to state. These include acceptable grounds for filing, child custody practices, how property division is handled and whether or not a spouse will have an easy time getting alimony.

In fact, the differences can be so significant that individuals who maintain more than one residence in different states may be able to choose where to file. While this sort of arrangement can have its drawbacks, it sometimes makes sense in a high asset divorce if the laws are particularly favorable.

In many cases, an individual who is facing the end of a marriage may want to discuss the matter beforehand with a family law attorney. This can be particularly important in cases where the couple have been married for a long time and thus have accumulated significant assets such as investments and retirement accounts. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, and thus a court will divide marital property in a manner that is deemed to be "fair", which does not necessarily mean equal. In many cases neither party will be happy with the decision, and thus it may be preferable to have the attorney start negotiating a settlement agreement.

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