The overall divorce rate in the United States is dropping, according to the United States Census Bureau. However, the numbers show part of this is because of the decrease in divorce for younger adults. A 2015 study by Pew Research says that “gray divorces,” adults 50 and older, are on the rise.
A report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Health states there were 33,412 divorces and annulments in 2018 an increase from the year before. For those contemplating a divorce or starting the process, researching the divorce guidelines in Pennsylvania may help make the procedure a little less disconcerting.
The Divorce Master
A part of Pennsylvania’s Family Law Division, the Divorce Masters Office deals with divorce cases where the couple cannot resolve issues such as property distribution, alimony or fault. The court appoints a Divorce Master, or Hearing Master, to conduct hearings or settlement conferences and make recommendations concerning these problems.
The Divorce Master is an attorney with experience in family law who carries out hearings with the same formalities as a hearing conducted by a judge. The process aims to help parties decide their issues without paying costs for a trial.
The hearing process
The hearing includes the lawyers of both parties. Once the trial begins, the Master will review all filed financial information and may request additional financial documents, testimony or other evidence. He or she may provide recommendations to the couple to begin negotiations. If they can find a resolution, the Master will make a record of the agreement.
If the couple cannot agree, the Master will file a report with the court. When the divorce reaches this point, either party can ask the judge to review the recommendations for errors. The judge may rule differently from the Master’s report if he or she does not approve. In most cases, the judge may review the entire report, not only look at the errors.