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What Is The Difference Between Divorce And Annulment?

There are two types of ways to end a marriage in Pennsylvania – divorce and annulment. Divorce is the ending of a valid marriage, ordered by the courts after the proper pleadings are filed. An annulment deals with the possibility that a valid marriage never existed and is more difficult to obtain in Pennsylvania.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce is broken down into two areas in Pennsylvania – no-fault and fault. A no-fault divorce occurs when both parties mutually consent to ending the marriage due to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, also stated as irreconcilable differences. The parties involved have both agreed to get a divorce. Obtaining a no-fault divorce in Central Pennsylvania can be a relatively painless process because the parties involved are not trying to prove which spouse was in the wrong. There is usually enough emotional pain involved in a divorce without trying to prove who was at fault. A no-fault divorce has a ninety (90) day waiting period and can be finalized shortly after the waiting period when there are truly no contested issues between the parties.

In Pennsylvania, if both parties do not agree to the divorce, or the divorce is contested, the spouse seeking the divorce may be forced to live separately for two years before being able to compel his or her spouse to go through with the divorce. The party seeking this type of divorce still alleges irretrievable breakdown or irreconcilable differences; however there will obviously be a longer period to wait since one party is not agreeable to the divorce.

Although fault divorce is not as popular as it once was in Pennsylvania, our divorce attorneys can handle your fault divorce expertly while reducing the stress put upon you as much as possible. To obtain a fault divorce, the party seeking the divorce must prove one of the following:

  • Divorce based on imprisonment for two or more years
  • Divorce based on bigamy
  • Divorce based on indignities, or a course of conduct that makes a spouse’s life burdensome or conditions intolerable
  • Divorce based on adultery, or voluntary sex with a non-spouse
  • Divorce based on cruel & barbarous treatment, or physical abuse
  • Divorce based on desertion, or willful and malicious absence from home without justification for a year or longer
  • Divorce based on Insanity, or a situation where a spouse is institutionalized

A fault-based divorce requires the parties to have at least one hearing before the court, while a no-fault divorce does not usually require any type of court appearances by the parties. No matter how you have decided to obtain a divorce, there are many other issues that need to be worked out. Some of these areas include: property division, spousal support, alimony, alimony pendente lite, custody, visitation and child support. All of these areas can cause emotions to flair and can be very difficult to deal with on your own. The knowledgeable attorneys at Coover & Associates will take you through the process of divorce step by step and will work their hardest to alleviate the tension caused by situations like this.

We work our hardest to resolve your legal matters with your best interest in mind. We will always try to handle your case without court intervention by attempting to negotiate with the opposing counsel and/or party. Successfully negotiating with the opposing party will keep your costs down and will lessen any stress the situation is causing. However, if there is a need to take your case to court, we will expertly and forcefully fight hard for what you deserve. Our firm does not push our clients into court and will give you an honest assessment of your case. Contact Coover & Associates today to discuss the best way to handle this difficult time in your life with one of our family law attorneys.

Knowing Your Spouse’s Address Regarding Divorce

An address for your estranged spouse is necessary so that the divorce complaint can be served on him or her.  The three main ways that a divorce complaint is served are:

  1. By your estranged spouse signing for receipt of delivery of a copy of the divorce complaint by certified mail, restricted delivery
  2. By having a qualified individual hand a copy of the divorce complaint to your estranged spouse
  3. By having your estranged spouse sign a document saying that they have accepted service of the divorce complaint

Every courthouse in Pennsylvania requires proof of service of the divorce complaint upon the filing party’s estranged spouse before they will process the divorce. However, there are cases where the spouses have lost touch and have not been in contact for a long period of time. People who have been separated for a long time, may not have an address for their estranged spouse and may not know a way that we can find their estranged spouse to have them served with the divorce complaint. In those cases, our attorneys draft and file a special motion to request that the Court grant them permission to have service on the missing spouse accomplished by publishing a notice in the newspaper. Obtaining permission for service by publication is a complicated process. The attorneys at Coover & Associates are familiar with the service process and can assist you with making sure that service is properly accomplished on your estranged spouse so there is no delay in the divorce process.

What Is Annulment?

In order to obtain an annulment in Pennsylvania, it must be proven that a marriage is either void or voidable. A void marriage is one that had no legal legitimacy since its inception. A voidable marriage occurs when the legal legitimacy of the marriage may be challenged.

Void Marriages

The following are reasons to have a marriage declared void – as if the marriage never occurred:

  • Either party has a current husband or wife at the time of the marriage in question.
  • A marriage between certain relatives such as brother and sister, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece or first cousins.
  • If a party is not capable of consenting to the marriage due to a mental disorder or insanity.
  • When, if a common-law marriage is alleged, either party is under 18 years of age.

A marriage that is considered void can be declared valid if the parties involved live together as husband and wife, or cohabitate, and if whatever made the marriage void is resolved, such as a prior marriage being terminated.

Voidable Marriages

  • At least one party is under 16 years of age at the time of the marriage and did not obtain the courts approval prior to the marriage.
  • At least one party was 16 or 17 at the time of the marriage and did not obtain the court approval or parental consent prior to the marriage and an action for annulment is stated within 60 days of the marriage ceremony.
  • If either party was intoxicated by alcohol or drugs and an action for annulment is started within 60 days of the marriage ceremony.
  • Where at least one party has a natural and incurable impotence which was unknown to the other party at the time of the marriage.
  • Where one party was under the influence of fraud, duress, coercion or force to enter the marriage.

A voidable marriage is still considered valid until an annulment decree is obtained from the court.

There is no real economic advantage in trying to obtain an annulment instead of a divorce decree. Pennsylvania law states that equitable distribution, alimony and alimony pendente lite are available in both divorce and annulment actions.

In order to find out which is the best way to proceed with the termination of your marriage, contact our experienced family law attorneys so that they can discuss your options with you. Our divorce attorneys practice throughout South Central Pennsylvania.

Types Of Divorce

Most divorces in Pennsylvania are filed under the “no fault” divorce provisions of either §3301(c ) or §3301(d) of the Divorce Code. There are limited situations in which a party can file for a fault divorce, including when the other spouse has abandoned them or committed adultery. Parties rarely file under the fault provisions of the Divorce Code because at least one hearing (and possibly several hearings) would need to be held by the court to determine which party is indeed at fault for the ending of the marriage. These hearings are usually very difficult on the innocent spouse who has already been through an emotional experience in the marriage and are often very costly because they require a lot of time and effort to properly present in court. More importantly, in Pennsylvania, even if one of the parties is found to be at fault, the finding of fault plays no factor in the court’s determination on how to divide the property or what percentage of marital property that each of the parties receives.

A divorce can be obtained under §3301(c ) of the Divorce Code, if both of the parties are able and willing to sign paperwork authorizing the Court to issue a divorce decree. The earliest that the parties can sign the paperwork to finalize the divorce is ninety days after the Divorce Complaint has been served upon the non-filing party. Typically, the parties have either reached an agreement on the distribution of marital assets and marital debts and support obligations or else the court has decided the property and support issues prior to the signing of the paperwork to finalize the divorce, although there are limited situations where the court may allow a bifurcation of the case to allow the divorce decree to be issued and for the parties to address the property and support issues at a later time.

A divorce can be obtained under §3301(d) of the Divorce Code where one of the parties is unwilling to sign for the issuance of the divorce decree.  A divorce under this section of the law can only be obtained after the parties have been separated for two years. The process to obtain a divorce under §3301(d) requires several steps and you should contact an attorney with Coover & Associates for assistance via email or by calling us at 717-461-7789.