Why spend all the time and energy trying to reach a “fair” agreement of your own when you can just rely on the Divorce Code? I can give you a laundry list of reasons, but I only have so much time to write so I’ll narrow it down to three reasons.
First, the Divorce Code is a one-size-fits-all (or none) solution. It’s not individualized and couldn’t possibly be articulated to address each person’s specific circumstances. By its very nature, the Divorce Code is designed to apply to every divorce situation within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It’s meant to be a “default” set of rules if couples are unable to reach agreements. And this may surprise some people, but the Divorce Code was also influenced by outside forces, commonly known as lobbyists. Some outside groups think certain provisions should or shouldn’t be included in the Divorce Code and push hard to have their voices heard. Most of those voices are not from individuals actually experiencing a divorce.
Second, the Divorce Code is constantly being revised and interpreted by the legislature and court systems. The Divorce Code was not handed down to the Pennsylvania Legislature from the heavens as some divine law. It was created by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1980 after reviewing other states’ divorce codes and picking and choosing which parts the legislators wanted to include. Since it was adopted in 1980, the Divorce Code has been constantly revised by the legislature and interpreted by the court system. That means what the Divorce Code determines is fair today may not be the same as what was fair 10 years ago or what will be fair tomorrow.
Third, the Divorce Code doesn’t consider everything that many people think should be considered in making decisions about their divorce. The guidelines, rules and lists of factors in the Divorce Code are not all-inclusive and aren’t the same standard many people would use if the Divorce Code didn’t exist. So why be bound to that standard?
In some ways, the Divorce Code is really the easy way out because it provides a set of rules and skips the decision-making step where you and your spouse talk about what’s important to each of you and how you should determine jointly what’s fair. You just look at the rules and figure out a solution. But it’s not usually that easy. Two people looking at the same list of factors for how to divide property or how to decide whether one spouse should receive alimony may not interpret those factors and how they apply to their specific situation in the same way. That’s why lots of people using the Divorce Code as their standard for fairness end up in court, asking a divorce master or judge to interpret the Divorce Code in the most favorable way for them.
The bottom line is that you and your spouse can rely on the Divorce Code as much or as little as you want, assuming you are making the decisions on your own. If you’re asking a divorce master, domestic relations conference officer or judge to make the decisions, you don’t have a choice about the rules.