Some Questions to Ask

I’m thrifty (some would say cheap) about a lot of things. I don’t like paying a penny per galleon more than I need to for gas. I won’t pay $5.00 for a fancy, name brand cup of coffee. When I buy something, I like to shop online, so I can compare prices, and make sure I’m getting the best deal.

Why not shop for the cheapest divorce? The internet is full of ads for cheap divorces. One problem is that if I’m looking for a new TV, I can compare the price for a given model from one store to the other, and know that the price they are quoting is for the same thing. With divorce, and most other legal services, what you get is not always the same.

Some ads that can be found on the internet offering do it yourself divorce kits, which help with the paperwork, but require you to file the case on your own. These places are selling you the forms, hopefully with a few instructions, but are not offering to provide any assistance or representation by a divorce lawyer. By the way, the forms themselves, along with the procedural rules, are contained in the Pennsylvania Rules of Court, which are available for free:

PA Code, Divorce Rules

Pa Code, Divorce Forms.

If, after reading the Rules and reviewing the forms, you are confident that you understand how to do this, you might try representing yourself. Understand the old adage: An attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client.

There are law firms who compete for business by quoting very low fees for no-fault divorces. They keep costs down by filing in the counties that offer the lowest filing fees, usually Potter or Cameron County and Potter County (compared to Blair County, this only saves about $50.00 – the difference in costs is greater in other parts of the state, particularly Philadelphia). If you obtain a divorce decree in this way, it will be legal in Pennsylvania. These courts will not handle the case if anything becomes contested, unless one of the parties resides there. If there is any type of problem with the case, you’ll have to do one of two things: discontinue the case, and start over in your home county, or have the case transferred to your home county. Doing either of these things will end up costing you more.

Some questions to ask before filing for divorce:

Am I sure that my spouse will cooperate fully?

In many situations, both spouses want the divorce, and will cooperate. But it often happens that one spouse gets mad (not unheard of when people are getting divorced!), and decides that they won’t sign anything. In other cases, despite promising cooperation, the spouse will later on decide that he or she is entitled to something, and will demand it before signing anything.

Will my Divorce Attorney be there to help me if a problem develops?

If your spouse doesn’t cooperate, it may still be possible to get a Divorce. Perhaps all that is needed is a simple agreement about some of the issues. Perhaps you’ll need to wait until you’ve been separated for two years. Your Divorce Lawyer should be able to advise you about the situation, and find the best course of action.

Am I sure that there are no issues other than the Divorce?

Marriage brings both rights and responsibilities. Some things must be claimed in court, or established by a written agreement, before the divorce is final. This includes most economic claims, such as support, alimony, continuation of health insurance coverage, division of property, or division of marital debts. Some people are unaware of rights that they may have in their spouse’s pension plans. Even without any court order, there are some circumstances where spouses who have been married for 10 years or more can claim social benefits – something to think about before finalizing a divorce for someone who was married for 9 ½ years.

At a minimum, a consultation with an experience Divorce Attorney will help you to review some of these issues.

Who will be handling my divorce at the law firm I choose?

High volume firms (less charitably known as divorce mills) are set up so that the lawyer does as little of the work as possible. The actual work will be done by a support person. While there is nothing wrong with having support staff do much of the paperwork (which happens in my office, and almost every other firm I am aware of), the client should expect at a minimum that their divorce attorney is familiar with their case, and can be reached if you have a question about your case.

Will I get to review the divorce paperwork before it is filed?

A Pennsylvania Divorce Complaint must be verified: the person seeking a Divorce signs a paper saying that the facts contained in the Complaint are true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge. If you are asked to sign a verification before you have been given the Complaint, know that you could be verifying something that isn’t true.

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