How Child Support is Calculated in Pennsylvania

Child support in Pennsylvania is calculated by a mathematical formula set forth in law. There are, however, many nuisances to the formula. The court may also deviate from the formula based on special or unusual circumstances. However, in general, child support in Pennsylvania is calculated as follows. (more…)


How Alimony and Spousal Support is Calculated in Pennsylvania

How Alimony Is Calculated in Pennsylvania: Updated for 2019

In Pennsylvania, there are three types of support: Spousal Support, Alimony Pendente Lite, and Alimony. Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite are calculated pursuant to a mathematical formula based on the parties’ monthly net incomes. Alimony is calculated pursuant to a list of factors. (more…)


How Long Does It Take To Get Divorced In Pennsylvania?

How long does it take to complete a Pennsylvania divorce? This is one of the most frequently asked questions here at Cooley & Handy.

The shortest answer is that the average divorce in Pennsylvania takes two years.

The more optimistic answer is that it all depends on you and your spouse.

Theoretically, you could be divorced in just over three months if the matter is simple and you are both extremely motivated and cooperative. In Pennsylvania, there is a 90-day waiting period after the filing of a divorce complaint before you can apply for a divorce decree. So if you:

  1. file a divorce complaint and serve it on your spouse on day one;
  2. both file Affidavits of Consent and Waivers of Notice on day 91;
  3. file a praecipe for a decree on day 92;

and if the court promptly issues your decree, you could conceivably be divorced in about three months.

You may be unaware how unlikely all of this is. In reality, four months – with the full, determined cooperation of both spouses and the court – is the shortest length of time to get a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Cooley & Handy has noticed that one of the biggest complicating factors to an efficient divorce is the spousal relationship.

Each argument, each disagreement, each petition filed out of anger will add weeks if not months to the length of your divorce. Here are additional factors that add more time:

  • custody and custodial schedules;
  • the division of assets and property, including appraisals;
  • division of pensions, 401k plans and other retirement plans; and
  • the determination of support and alimony.

When you add it all up, it is easy to see how the average divorce can take up to two years to process. And as we said, that is simply the average.


What Steps Do I Need to Take If I Want to Move or Relocate With My Child?

woman reading map to symbolize where to modify alimony when neither party lives in state initiating order


If you have a child subject to a custody order in Pennsylvania and are considering moving or relocating, you need to be aware of a child custody law that went into effect in January 2011. This law requires that you obtain court approval for your move.

The law provides for a mandatory notice that must be provided to the other parent and factors that the court must consider in deciding whether to approve the move or relocation.

1. Notice is required when relocating with a child.

The party seeking to move or relocate must provide notice to every person who has custody rights to the child by certified mail, return receipt requested. This notice must be given no later than 60 days before the date of the proposed move. However, notice given on the 10th day after the day the party knows of the move is also acceptable in certain circumstances. In that situation, the party must show they did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60 days notice, AND it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of relocation so as to comply with the 60 day notice.

The notice must also provide comprehensive information about the new residence. This includes the new address and phone number, name of the new school district and school, reasons for the proposed relocation, a proposal for a revised custody schedule, and a counter-affidavit. The counter-affidavit must include a warning to the non-relocating party that if he or she does not file an objection with the court within 30 days after receipt of notice, that party loses his or her right to object to the move. If the relocating part fails to notify the non-moving parent with proper notice, the court may draw a negative inference from this failure.

2. The court must consider factors in determining if relocation is permitted.

list of relocation factors

If the non-relocating party objects to the move, a hearing will be held to determine if the relocation is in the best interest of the child. The burden is on the party proposing the move to show the court that relocation is in the child’s best interest. However, each party has the burden of establishing the integrity of his or her motives for relocation or for prevention of the move. The court may also consider the following factors during a relocation hearing (among others):

  • The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationships with each parent, siblings, and other significant people in the child’s life;
  • The age, development, needs of the child and the impact relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development;
  • The feasibility of maintaining the relationship between the child and non-moving parent;
  • The child’s preference;
  • Whether the move will enhance the quality of life for the parent and child (e.g., financial and/or educational opportunities); and
  • Any other best interest factor.

Thus, if a parent is considering a move during the pendency of a child custody action, the new custody law provides the requirements and framework that must be followed. The family law attorneys at Cooley & Handy can help you navigate through this process.


Can I Withdraw Money From A Retirement Account In A Divorce?

Spouses involved in divorces frequently have an immediate need for cash at the time their divorce is finalized. This may be prompted by the need to pay bills or make a down payment on residence. Often, the only significant assets of parties at the conclusion of divorce are funds in employer-sponsored qualified retirement accounts. These include 401(k)s or other defined contribution plans. A lack of any significant non-retirement assets often leads spouses to seek a withdraw from a retirement account.

In these instances, the 401(k)s or other qualified retirement accounts will be divided between the parties. The party receiving funds from a spouse’s retirement account is known as the “alternate payee.” There are no tax consequences or penalties at the time of the transfer, provided conditions are met. The parties must obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) from the court. The funds must also be rolled into an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) in the name of the alternate payee.

A QDRO allows the withdraw of money from the qualified retirement account penalty-free.

This is a one time-opportunity for the alternate payee spouse only. Generally, the owner of a qualified retirement account must wait until the age 59½ to receive distributions. A withdraw prior to that date will yield a 10% penalty, in addition to the federal and state taxes owed.

In divorce cases, however, the Internal Revenue Code carves out an exception to the 10% penalty rule.

Prior to rolling funds into an IRA, an alternate payee only can request a partial or total cash distribution of their share of the qualified retirement account. The alternate payee is still required to pay taxes on the distribution, but will not incur the 10% penalty. It is important to note that each financial institution drafts its own rules and regulations governing its retirement accounts. Therefore, this option might not be available with every retirement plan.

The attorneys at Cooley & Handy can help you investigate this and other options to help secure your financial future following your divorce.