Part 2: Getting a divorce in Pittsburgh

Continued from Part 1: Getting a divorce in Pittsburgh, including Pennsylvania update

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Pro se assistance

For those who have no attorney and also meet financial eligibility requirements, the court also provides help with forms and so on through its Pro Se Assistance Program. Please notice, however (emphasis added): “Volunteer attorneys from the Family Law Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association, law students and other volunteers offer assistance with preparing, serving and presenting motions and petitions.  Family Division staff will not give legal advice to those utilizing this assistance.”

FAQ from local bar association

The Allegheny Bar Association describes the simplest divorce, but also warns that changing a divorce settlement after the fact can be difficult. First the bar’s explanation of no-fault divorce:

A “no-fault divorce” is granted in Pennsylvania in one of two (2) ways. In both instances‚ a complaint must be filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If ninety (90) days after the date of service of the complaint‚ both parties file an affidavit of consent and waiver of notice to the divorce‚ a divorce may be granted. Alternatively‚ where a party files an affidavit with the complaint alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two (2) years‚ the marriage is irretrievably broken and the other party does not deny these allegations‚ a divorce may be granted. Neither party is required to prove that the other has done anything wrong or is at fault.

However, here’s the bar’s take on risking a settlement that has not been vetted by your own attorney.

Can the settlement be changed?

Generally, the division of property cannot be changed after the Divorce Decree is final. Depending upon the wording of the settlement agreement, provisions for alimony, child support, and custody can be modified through a Court proceeding if changed circumstances warrant.

That’s one reason the bar, in its FAQ, recommends hiring an attorney; here’s an excerpt: “Family law is a complicated area of the law which requires the services of an attorney. Family problems are often emotional in nature, and your lawyer can provide a valuable service by helping you understand your rights and obligations‚ and by helping you negotiate a settlement that will meet your needs now and in the future . . . . There are many complex legal questions involved in obtaining a divorce‚ and it is advisable that you consult with an Attorney. Where both sides are represented by counsel‚ the parties and their Attorneys generally try to reach an agreement on child custody and support, alimony‚ and division of property and debts.”

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