## Step 1 – Child Custody

## Child Custody

Do you want custody of one or more children or a change in an existing custody arrangement? If not go to **Step 2 – Child Support**. At the end of this process, you will have a draft custody agreement and understand the basic issues with your case.

**NOTE: Before you start, we recommend that you review our Delta Guide to Child Custody Definitions and Concepts. Note that this guide only applies to children under the age of 18 years old or under special circumstances such as disabled individuals 18 years or older in age.**

- Identify the details of the new custody arrangement that you want. Be specific because this is your GOAL. See our handy Delta Sample Custody Agreement Form.
- Identify why this new arrangement is in the best interest of the child(ren). (E.g. better school, better learning environment and more time with a caring parent, etc.). See the Pennsylvania statute, 23 CSA Section 5328 Chapter 53. – Title 23 – DOMESTIC RELATIONS (state.pa.us) that identifies a list of the factors that courts use to decide custody arrangements.
- Review all custody court order(s) that currently govern your child(ren)’s custody rights.
- Consult with an attorney to review your proposed agreement to ensure that it gets you what you want.
- Try to negotiate with the other parent/custodian to see if they agree with your new custody arrangement. We highly recommend that you use the same attorney that reviewed the agreement to continue to advise you during negotiations. If the other parent agrees with your proposal then write it up on paper and both of you sign it and keep a copy. See our handy Delta Sample Custody Agreement Form. If you can’t agree, then go to Section 7 below.
- Carry out the terms of the custody agreement.
**Note that deviations from the agreement can be ruled by a court to be a change of the custody agreement and the deviations can create a new custody agreement that is enforceable in court**. - If you can’t reach an agreement with the other parent/custodian then prepare a child custody petition/complaint and related forms. Most counties have a website where these forms are provided. However, filling out these forms strategically and properly usually requires the skill of an experienced attorney. Therefore, we highly recommend that you retain an attorney before you file.

If you want an experienced and confident attorney to review your situation, then contact Delta via email at help@deltalalwgrp.com or call **412-349-0938** for a free consultation.

## Step 2 – Child Support

## Child Support

Do you need money to support your children? If not go to **Step 3 – Divorce**. At the end of this process, you will have a rough value for child support and understand the basic issues with your case.

**NOTE: Before you start, we recommend that you review our Delta Child Support Definitions and Concepts.**

- Are you
**separated**from the other parent/custodian?**Separated**means that you pay for your bills yourself and are living in separate residences or, in cases where the other parent/custodian spouse lives in the same residence, you are sleeping in a separate part of the house and have separate finances. - How many children do you have with the other parent? Include children under 18 years old or are still attending high school and disabled children over 18 years old.
- Calculate your
**earning capacity**. Usually this is the amount you earn each month on average after taxes are taken out. See more on**earning capacity**in Delta Child Support Definitions and Concepts. - Calculate the other parent’s
**earning capacity**. - How many
**overnight periods**does the child/children stay with you (i.e. How many times out of 365 nights does the child sleep over with you at your residence during the year?). Usually, the parent who has the majority (i.e. over 50%) of overnight periods receives support. As mentioned above, this is why the amount of custody time is important to determine who gets support and how much. The exceptions to this rule are discussed in Delta Child Support Definitions and Concepts. - Calculate the
**basic child support amount**: Plug in the number of children and each parent’s**earning capacity**into a child support estimator program to get an idea of the**basic child support amount**. See the Pennsylvania State estimator Pennsylvania Child Support Program (state.pa.us) here. The Pennsylvania child support estimator is not perfect and does not account for a number of exceptions and issues but it is a good start.**NOTE: If you earn more than the other parent and have custody less than 50% of the overnights then this amount is negative indicating that you owe support.** - Identify the percentage of the total
**earning capacity**of the other parent. This percentage is the other parent’s**earning capacity**calculated in Section 4 divided by the total**earning capacity**of the other parent and you (i.e., the amount in Section 3 + Section 4). So, the other parent’s percentage of the total earning capacity = Section 4/ (Section 3 + Section 4). - Are there
**child care costs**? (i.e. day care, private school tuition, sport and other activities fees.) Add these up and identify an average amount spent each month for the child/children at issue. If the other parent pays for this then the amount is negative. - Do you have
**medical insurance**for the child/children? Identify the amount you pay for this each month. Usually this amount is a percentage of the total amount paid so as to calculate only what is paid for the child/children. If the other parent pays for the medical insurance then the amount is negative. (Example: If you pay $300 a month for medical insurance and this covers you, your child and the other parent, then you have to divide the number of children covered by the total number of people covered multiplied by the cost. In this example, the total number of children is 1 and the total number of people covered is 3, so 1/3 x $300 = $100 is the child’s insurance cost). - Calculate the other parent’s share of
**child care costs**and**medical insurance**. Multiply Section 7 by total child care costs (i.e., Section 8 + Section 9). - Add up the
**total child support obligation**owed to you by the other parent. This is the**basic child support**amount plus the other parent’s share of child care costs and medical insurance (i.e., Section 6 + Section 10). - Do you have
**unreimbursed medical costs**for the child (i.e., copays and costs not covered by insurance)? Identify the total cost for the year. Multiply this number by the other parent’s percentage of the earning capacity calculated in Section 7. You can get most of this this paid for if you provide copies of the receipts and ask for payment from the other parent after the end of the year. - Ensure that you are entitled to support. The worst-case scenario is when a person files for support and the court rules that the person owes support!

As you can see, calculating child support can be confusing. If you want an experienced, skilled and confident attorney to review your situation, then contact Delta via email at help@deltalalwgrp.com or call **412-349-0938** for a free consultation.

## Step 3 – Divorce

## Divorce

At the end of this process, you will understand the basic issues with your divorce case.

**NOTE: There are a number of definitions and concepts that we recommend you review before you proceed through this guide. See Delta Divorce Definitions and Concepts.**

- Do you want to get a divorce in Pennsylvania? Review the
**Divorce Jurisdiction Requirements**in Delta Divorce Definitions and Concepts to see if there are possible issues with the court having power to deal with your case. - Do you need financial support or are concerned about paying it? If so, evaluate the filing for
**spousal support**or**alimony**in**Step 4 – Spousal Support****and Alimony**.**NOTE: If you are married, you do not need to file for divorce to get spousal support**. - Do you want to divide up the assets and debts created during the marriage (i.e. split the
**martial estate**)? If so, go to**Step 5 – Equitable Distribution**. - Do you need help with your
**attorney’s fees**? If so, estimate how much you will need each month and add it into your**spousal support**calculated in**Step 4 – Spousal Support and Alimony**. - Create a draft
**Marriage Settlement Agreement**or**MSA**. A**MSA**is a contract between you and your spouse and lays out the terms and conditions for divorce. All of the issues related to the divorce (i.e. alimony, equitable distribution, child custody and other issues) are dealt with in this contract. It also includes dates when actions must be completed. It is a good idea to write up a wish list dealing with these areas in a bullet point form. Then you can use this list as a basis to form the final contract and helps ensure that you don’t miss anything. Also, this contract is enforceable by the court in the event one party violates the contract. - At this point it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to review the
**MSA**to ensure your rights are fully protected and that the claims can be negotiated with your spouse. There are MSA forms on the internet however, due to the important issues, the finality of the outcome, and the need to get it right, Delta does not provide an MSA form here.

If you want an experienced, skilled and confident attorney to review your situation, then contact Delta via email at help@deltalalwgrp.com or call **412-349-0938** for a free consultation.

## Step 4 – Spousal Support and Alimony

## Spousal Support and Alimony

At the end of this process, you will understand the basic issues related to **Spousal Support** and **Alimony** and calculate an estimated amount for these.

**NOTE: Spousal Support** is financial support that one spouse pays to the other spouse after separation but before a divorce complaint has been filed. **Alimony** is financial support that one spouse pays to the other in order to ease the transition from marriage to divorce and afterwards. **Alimony** is called **Alimony Pendente Lite (APL)** during the divorce process and then is called Alimony after the divorce is complete. Confusingly, these two types of **Alimony** are calculated differently. There are a number of factors that the court considers when awarding **APL** but usually it is calculated the same way **Spousal Support** is calculated so these are referred to in this guide jointly as **Spousal Support/APL**.

**NOTE: There are a number of definitions and concepts that we recommend you review before you proceed through this guide. See Delta Spousal Support and Alimony Definitions and Concepts.**

### Are you Separated from your spouse?

To the court, **Separated** means that you are living in a separate residence or, in cases where your spouse lives in the same residence, you are sleeping in a separate part of the house and have separate finances. **Separation** can be presumed after a party files a divorce complaint. **NOTE: You do not need to file for divorce to get Spousal Support but you do need to be separated.**

### Spousal Support/APL with no children:

- Calculate your
**Earning Capacity**. Usually this is the amount you earn each month on average after taxes are taken out. See more on**Earning Capacity**in Delta Spousal Support and Alimony Definitions and Concepts. - Calculate your spouse’s
**Earning Capacity**. Please note that in most cases in order to receive**Spousal Support/APL**, you must have an**Earning Capacity**that is less than your spouse. If your**Earning Capacity**is more than the other spouse’s**Earning Capacity**, then you will be calculating how much you will owe in**Spousal Support/APL**and this amount is negative. - Plug in each spouse’s
**Earning Capacity**into Delta Spousal Support and Alimony form to get an estimate of the**Spousal Support/APL**amount. This calculation is not perfect and does not account for a number of exceptions and issues but it is a good start. - Using the form, identify the other spouse’s percentage of the
**Total Earning Capacity**. This percentage is the other spouse’s**Earning Capacity**calculated in Section 2 divided by the total**Earning Capacity**of the other spouse and you (i.e., the amount in Section 1 + Section 2). So, the other spouse’s percentage of the**Total Earning Capacity**= Section 2/Section 4. - Using the form, calculate the
**Preliminary Spousal Support/APL**amount. - Do you have
**Medical Insurance**for yourself? Identify the amount paid for your coverage only each month. If the other parent pays for the**Medical Insurance**for you then the amount is negative. If the monthly**Medical Insurance**payment covers multiple people then calculate the amount attributed to you by multiplying the monthly cost by 1 divided by the number of people covered. Enter this amount into the form. (Example: If you pay $300 a month for**Medical Insurance**and this covers you and the other spouse, then divide 1 (representing you) by the total number of people covered, multiplied by the cost. In this example, the total number of people covered is 2, so 1/2 x $300 = $150 is your**Medical Insurance**cost). - Using the form, calculate the other spouse’s share of
**Medical Insurance**. Multiply Section 4. by the medical insurance cost in Section 5. - Calculate your
**Final Spousal Support**amount by adding the amount of**Preliminary Spousal Support/APL**calculated in Section 5 plus the portion of the**Medical Insurance**your spouse is responsible for paying for you calculated in Section 7.

### Spousal Support/APL with children:

This calculation can be complicated and for this reason Delta does not provide a form for this. However, the process is to first calculate **Preliminary Spousal Support/APL** and then add this amount as income to the spouse receiving it and subtract this from the income of the spouse paying it. These adjusted incomes are then used to calculate the monthly **Child Support** amount. Then the **Preliminary Spousal Support/APL** and Child Support are added together to arrive at a **Final Support/APL and Child Support Award**.

Please note that in order to receive **Spousal Support/APL**, in general, you must have an** Earning Capacity** that is less than your spouse. Also, to receive **Child Support**, you must have more than 50% of the custody time (i.e. the child must spend more than ½ of the overnights in a year with you). If you share custody time 50/50 with the other parent, then you do not owe child support if your **Earning Capacity** is less than the other parent’s **Earning Capacity** (i.e. they earn more than you).

## Alimony

### Calculate Alimony:

There are a number of factors that the court considers when awarding **Alimony**. See the Delta Spousal Support and Alimony Definitions and Concepts. A good place to start is to make a list of monthly expenses and subtract that from your expected net earnings. If you have a shortfall then this shortfall is **Alimony**. Then you have to decide how long that you want to receive **Alimony**. There is no formula for this but a good estimate is the time it will take you to be self-sufficient and living a similar lifestyle to when you were married. Most spouses do not receive **Alimony** but many who need time to adjust to a new life do. Some spouses get lifetime **Alimony** in cases where they cannot attain their married lifestyle due to age or disability.

### Acquiring Spousal Support and Alimony is not easy.

If you want an experienced, skilled and confident attorney to review your situation, then contact Delta via email at help@deltalalwgrp.com or call **412-349-0938** for a free consultation.

## Step 5 – Equitable Distribution

## Equitable Distribution

At the end of this process, you will understand the basic issues related to **Equitable Distribution** of the **Marital Estate** and identify a proposed division of the estate.

**NOTE: There are a number of definitions and concepts that we recommend you review before you proceed through this guide. See Delta Equitable Distribution Definitions and Concepts.**

**Identify the Marital Estate**(i.e. assets and debts accumulated during the marriage) by making a list of all of the assets and liabilities (aka debts) that you accumulated from the date you were married until the**Date of Separation**. Identify the value/amount of each item on the day you separated and the current date.- Make a list of all of the assets and debts that your spouse accumulated during the marriage. Identify the value/amount of each item on the day you separated and the current date. See a handy list of common assets and debts.
- Make a list of assets that you had on the day before the marriage. Estimate the increase in value of the assets during the marriage.
- Make a list of assets that your spouse had before the marriage. Estimate the increase in value of the assets during the marriage.
- Add together the items in Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is the value of the
**Marital Estate**. Identify the value for the date of separation and the current date.

**NOTE: The marital estate does not usually include pre-marriage debt or a decline in value of pre-marriage assets. Note that it does not matter whose name the asset or debt is associated with.**

**NOTE: The valuation of assets can be challenging for certain assets such as a business or a partial interest in a tangible asset like a vintage car. Sometimes experts are hired to value the assets.**

There is no specific formula for division of the marital estate. The court will review the Equitable Distribution Factors to determine what is fair. A good start is to divide the estate 50/50 and go from there using the Equitable Distribution Factors as a guide.

**NOTE: Post-Divorce Alimony and other miscellaneous issues are lumped in with Equitable Distribution. See Step 4, Spousal Support and Alimony to calculate Alimony and Delta Equitable Distribution Definitions and Concepts for miscellaneous issues.**

### Completing Equitable Distribution is not easy.

If you want an experienced, skilled and confident attorney to review your situation, then contact Delta via email at help@deltalalwgrp.com or call **412-349-0938** for a free consultation.

**“Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare today.”**

–*Unknown*