Your Same-Sex Divorce Attorney in Pennsylvania
Yes, there is now same-sex divorce in Pennsylvania, and there are experienced same-sex divorce lawyers to help you through your divorce.
May 20, 2014 will be remembered by many as a watershed date in the history of Constitutional and social justice in Pennsylvania. On that date, the very definition of “marriage” changed in Pennsylvania when a Pennsylvania judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.
Now that Pennsylvania is among the same-sex marriage legal states, Pennsylvania law must also recognize same-sex divorce.
Are you looking for a same-sex divorce lawyer in PA? The Philadelphia divorce lawyers at the Schwartz Law Firm stand ready to help you. We have practiced on the cutting edge of same-sex marriage law and are familiar with all same-sex divorce Pennsylvania requirements, as well as post-divorce issues such as custody and support modification. We invite you to call us to schedule your consultation.
What are the Same-Sex Divorce Requirements in PA?
Same-sex divorce law is the same PA divorce law that governs heterosexual married couples. In other words, all marriages are treated the same in Pennsylvania. For example, if a same-sex married couple has children, whether natural children or adopting, the same custody considerations apply. Where the couple has a disparity in income and the parent with physical custody of the children earns less than the other parent, both child support and spousal support are available when appropriate.
What is the Process of Same-Sex Divorce in PA?
A marriage between same-sex partners is no different from a traditional marriage in Pennsylvania. Divorcing same-sex couples now have access to the Pennsylvania courts just as opposite-sex couples, with the same rights and obligations under the Pennsylvania law, including filing for divorce.
Same-sex couples must file for a divorce to terminate the marriage and all property rights, including equitable distribution of marital property and alimony. One spouse also may be responsible for supporting the other spouse during a period of separation, and may be responsible for debts incurred by the spouse during the marriage.
The process of filing for a divorce is the same. To divorce in Pennsylvania, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to the date of the filing. You also must file in the appropriate county.
Same-sex couples have the same opportunity as heterosexual couples to file for different kinds of divorce in Pennsylvania, including:
At-Fault Same-Sex Divorce in PA
An at-fault divorce is a form of “contested” divorce in that the spouse alleged to be at fault will likely defend against those allegations. First, filing spouse filing for same-sex divorce makes one of several allegations that his or her spouse committed a bad act or mistreated him or her in some way. Those allegations include, among others:
- Cruelty, such as domestic violence or emotional abuse such as humiliation;
- Conviction of a crime and incarceration for at least two years;
- Abandonment without cause for at least a year.
Contested Same-Sex Divorce in PA
When there is no fault alleged by the filing spouse but the couple disagrees about any of the issues that must be resolved in a divorce proceeding, this is another form of contested divorce in PA. The most common points of contention include:
Contested divorces take much longer than uncontested divorces, and the length of time it will take to resolve all contested issues and finalize the divorce will depend upon the contentiousness of the couple, the skill of their attorneys in negotiating solutions and compromises, the number of issues to be resolved, and the court’s docket.
No-Fault Same-Sex Divorce in PA
No-fault divorce is a form of “uncontested” divorce and is the easiest, least expensive, and quickest way to get divorced. If both parties in the same-sex marriage want to divorce, they can file a petition and then file affidavits that affirm that they give mutual consent for the termination of their marriage. After 90 days from the date they file, the court then grants the divorce decree. No court hearings are required.
Collaborative Same-Sex Divorce in PA
Also known as “friendly divorce,” collaborative divorce in PA is a form of uncontested divorce where the parties agree to the marriage termination and then meet with their attorneys to negotiate the distribution of marital assets. Often collaboration is part of a no-fault divorce, and again, there is no trial or court hearing required.
Our Same-Sex Divorce Lawyers Can Help You Resolve Post-Judgment Family Law Issues
Once all issues have been temporarily resolved and the judge enters a divorce decree, the parties move on, operating under the child custody and parenting time order and the property settlement agreement. Weeks or months or years later, one or the other of the parties may wish to:
- Change the child custody arrangements;
- Modify the amount of child support paid;
- Modify the amount of parenting time;
- Modify the amount of spousal support;
- Move to another state with the children.
We have helped our divorced clients apply to the Court to get the changes they seek. We have also represented the responding party in defending against those changes.
If one party is not adhering to the terms of the child custody or support orders, we can help the other party file a motion and get enforcement of the order from the Court. If one party is abusive or harasses the other or the children, we can help the innocent party file a Protection from Abuse Petition in PA. We have also represented parties who must respond to these petitions.
We have helped many, many same-sex divorcees solve post-judgment problems as efficiently and as effectively as possible. We can help you too.
The History of Same-Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania
In a court case captioned Whitewood v. Wolf, The Honorable John E. Jones, III, from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in a well-reasoned and lengthy decision, found that it is unconstitutional to prevent same sex couples from marrying, since allowing heterosexual couples to do so would deprive same sex couples of the rights and privileges enjoyed by others. In legal terms, the Court found that denying same sex couples the right to marry deprived them of Equal Protection and Due Process rights under the United States Constitution.
Once that decision was announced, Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania then had the opportunity to appeal this ruling. However, he announced one day later that he would not do so. Hence, Whitewood is now the law in Pennsylvania.
Legal Issues with LGBTQ Divorce in Pennsylvania
Now that we have same sex marriage in Pennsylvania, it follows that we would have same sex divorce both for couples married outside of Pennsylvania and now living in PA, and couples who were and will be married in Pennsylvania and reside here. There are many questions, however, which have had to be addressed since 2014.
One very important question is whether assets and debts will be valued as of the date of marriage or at the date same-sex marriage was created in Pennsylvania, i.e., May 20, 2014.
For example: In 2010, a same sex couple resides in Pennsylvania and this couple travels to Massachusetts to marry. Thereafter, they return to Pennsylvania to live. Of course, since this marriage occurred before Whitewood, this marriage would not be recognized in Pennsylvania at that time. The issue is, will marital assets be valued as of 2010, the date of marriage, or May 20, 2014, the date of the Whitewood decision?
We believe that they will be valued as of the date of marriage wherever and whenever that took place, however, this is just our opinion. We will have to await further guidance from the Court.
Your Pennsylvania Same-Sex Divorce Attorneys
Since the Whitewood case in 2014, our gay divorce lawyers and lesbian divorce lawyers have helped LGBTQ families resolve their family law issues.
Specifically, we have helped gay couples and lesbian couples during their divorces and after their divorces, and have successfully tackled and resolved the thorny issues of child custody, parenting time, division of marital assets, child support, and spousal support.
We can help you during this difficult time. Leave your concerns in the hands of the Philadelphia divorce attorneys who are experienced in serving the LGBTQ community. Call us or email us to schedule your consultation.