What Is A Contested Divorce In Pennsylvania?

Divorce is often seen as a solution when a married couple decides that staying together is no longer an option. However, this process can be complex and emotionally challenging, especially when both individuals cannot agree on the terms of their separation. In Pennsylvania, a contested divorce occurs when spouses find themselves at odds regarding one or multiple aspects of their divorce.

Before delving into the intricacies of contested divorce, it is crucial to comprehend the grounds for divorce recognized in Pennsylvania. The state acknowledges both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds enable a couple to terminate their marriage without attributing blame to either party. The only requirement is that the marriage is deemed "irretrievably broken." Conversely, fault-based grounds necessitate one spouse accusing the other of misconduct, such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty.

Distinguishing between contested and uncontested divorce sheds light on the complexity of the situation. In an uncontested divorce, both individuals effortlessly agree on all aspects of their separation, including property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. They may even prepare and sign a comprehensive written agreement, known as a property settlement agreement, outlining their decisions. Compared to a contested divorce, uncontested ones tend to be faster and less expensive.

However, in a contested divorce, the spouses are unable to reach a consensus on one or more critical issues, despite attempts to negotiate or mediate. Consequently, the only recourse may be to take the divorce to court, where a judge will ultimately determine the outcome.

Contested divorces typically arise due to various issues that couples cannot resolve in Pennsylvania:

  1. Property division: The division of marital property in Pennsylvania follows an equitable principle, meaning that the judge strives for fairness rather than an exact 50/50 split. Disputes may arise when couples struggle to agree on which assets constitute marital property versus separate property, or when they have differing opinions on what constitutes a fair division.

  2. Spousal support: In contested divorces, disagreements often revolve around whether one spouse should provide alimony to the other, as well as the amount and duration of such payments.

  3. Child custody: The custody of children frequently becomes the most emotionally charged and contentious issue in a divorce. Couples may find themselves at odds regarding legal custody (the right to make decisions for the child), physical custody (where the child resides), and visitation rights.

  4. Child support: Parents may also dispute over the amount of child support to be paid and which parent should bear the responsibility of providing it.

When a couple fails to find common ground on these matters, the next step would be to proceed with a contested divorce in court. Each spouse will need to secure the representation of their own attorney to advocate for their rights and interests. The judge will meticulously consider testimony from both parties and review evidence before arriving at a decision on the contested issues.

It is essential to note that contested divorces often consume significant time, financial resources, and emotional energy. If you find yourself facing a contested divorce in Pennsylvania, it is highly recommended to seek the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney who can skillfully navigate the process and safeguard your rights throughout this challenging ordeal.

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