Seperating from Husband

Updated on August 02, 2010
A.G. asks from Folcroft, PA
16 answers

Hi there
Do any of you know the laws in PA about how it works with separation/divorce? How do they figure out child support, etc? My situation right now is that I have no job (just lost it due to health issues, I have applied for disability but it has not yet been decided if its been approved or not), so I have NO income and my husband just left me. Right now we are living in "our" house, off of his money (we have a joint bank account and he has not yet screwed us over). I do have a savings account that he doesnt have access to and I know my family will help me out in the short term, but I am trying to think ahead. What happens in this situation? How much of his income is allocated as child support that he'd have to pay? Also does anyone know what services and benefits are available? I know of WIC, which I plan on applying for ASAP (but again not sure how that works considering our income was WAY above what it takes to qualify last year, so I dont know how I will "prove" that I have no income since my husband just disappeared and hasnt been in touch since he left -- he left a NOTE saying he cheated and was leaving because he didnt think the stress of me and my health problems plus our two wonderful children was "worth it").

Anyway, has anyone been through this and have any advice on what to do? If he does show up, I am having him sign a document giving me permission to leave the country with the kids so that I can go stay with my sister in Canada if need be... but of course he needs to show up here for t hat. He will have to at some point though considering all his stuff is here.


EDIT to add: My husband has income. Lots of it. He is an architect. Its me who has no income right now because I lost my job since I was spending so much time in the hospital. Also, my kids actually dont know whats going on yet. They are young (3 and 1) and havent even figured out that anything is wrong. Hubby has always been sort of absent.. more interested in work than being at home so I have basically been single parenting all along. Thanks for all the advice so far

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm so sorry you're going through all of this.

I can't help with the particulars of PA, but I just wanted to tell you to KEEP THAT NOTE!!!! Put it someplace safe and never let go of it. You'll need it someday if he tries to come back and litigate for custody of the kids!!

Best of luck to you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lancaster on

what you need to do is go down to domestic relations and file paper work for child support and possibly spousal support. There is a scale they use on how much he is responsible for, etc. They can send the papers to his work (if you don't know where he is staying) and the money can be taken out directly byhis employer.

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answers from New York on

first of all, take that money out, and put it on your name.
second, the letter he left you admitting to cheating, save it.
third, get a lawyer asap.
this is abandonment and you will use it when you file for divorce.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

In ALL states there is something called "emergency child support order" that goes into effect the day the spouse leaves. And it's backdateable. (I know, not a word). It's a temporary order that is changeable later, but it's to protect families that are in the process of divorce, so that they don't lose everything during the 6mo-2years that divorce can take.



Get the money allocated, as well as money for the mortgage.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I disagree with the advice to drain the joint account. Bad idea. It doesn't sound like he's not paying the bills, mortgage, or trying to force you out of the house or anything. I would, however, use that joint account to pay a locksmith to change all of the locks/key code pads, etc. After all, he left, he will now need to consult you if he needs access to the home for any reason.
Your divorce agreement will most likely advocate the selling of the house with equity to be split 50/50. Then you can take the cash & kids and head North.
I, personally, would not leave the country permanently right now until you get the divorce/child support started.
Aren't you entitled to unemployment? If you are, open a claim immediately.
Check out for some money saving, monthly food packages and there is NO minimum income requirements.
I think it's time for you to lawyer up and get the ball rolling. Don't worry about paying the attorney, your hubby's income will cover that.
Good luck.

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answers from New York on

You really need to find a divorce attorney. The court will determine child support and/or spousal support - but if he has no income, he cannot pay. Find out from your lawyer if you can transfer the money from the joint account into your private account. The first thing you must do is get an attorney, which is, of course an expense but that is how things will be settled legally. Your attorney can advise you on whether it's best for you to get a job and make an income or whether that could negatively affect your financial settlement. You will probably also need to find the husband, so that he can be served with papers, so that he can turn the bank account over to you, turn the house over to you if he is going to do that so that you can sell it, etc. Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I'm just kinda thinking out loud here (after reading a few of the responses) and if the money in the joint account is technically "his" (because he is the only one earning an income), wouldn't it be in your best interest to withdraw the funds into cash? Cash is untraceable (in this case). If you go to an ATM and withdraw the money and bleed the account dry, you would have all the funds and he would have nothing...and then his lawyer would have a hell of a time proving that you were the one who took the money.

Just a thought and like I said...I'm just thinking out loud.

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answers from Sacramento on

Do you know of a good divorce attorney? IF so I would make and appointment and see what sh/she suggests and what your options are as far as separation and getting the paperwork signed to allow you and the children to move bk to Canada if that is decided. You may also want to look into some counseling for you and the children with all of this happening, I imagine the children are afraid and confused. With the start of school just around the corner too I would inform the school guidance counselor in confidence what is happening in the family now and he/she can let their new teachers know in case they need to see the school counselor or suddenly have problems in school. I am sorry for what is happening to you and the children but be proactive to protect yourself and the children by seeing the attorney. Hugs 2U and the kids

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answers from Columbus on

My mom went through something like this, but she didn't know there was another women involved. My step dad then ended up commiting suicide while the divorce proceedings were just starting up. So, though they were not yet divorced but going through the seperation and there was another women involved - per the state of PA, there was something called "lack of interest" and my mom lost everything. Even though my step dad had my mom listed as the beneficiary on the life insurance policies and her name on the bank accounts and the house the court said that b/c he was in the process of divorcing her she was not entitled to the "property" and life insurance. My brother and I ended up getting an attorney and at least got the life insurance policy but the other woman got the house and his bank acct. So, I would definitely get a lawyer and get yourself protected. It took us almost 2 years after his death to get just the life insurance policy.

Good luck.

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answers from New York on

KEEP THAT NOTE AND MAKE COPIES!!!!! Give one to your sister, the lawyer, and keep one for yourself (just in case one goes "missing"). Hang in there. You're better off without someone like that. Stay strong and find joy in your children.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First of all let me commend you on your strength and bravery. Second of all I am from a different state so I do not know those laws. But I do have a few thoughts and comments. If I were you I would get the money that you can into your name only unless he froze it somehow, so he cannot take it out and you and your children are left totally stranded. Or at least some of it...I know he needs to eat, too. 2) Do not leave your home. That is abandonment as far as anywhere goes. I did so at the advice of a lawyer some years back and found myself and 2 children in a tiny apartment while my ex lived in 3 bathroom house that had a mortgage smaller than the apartment's rent. I am waiting for the the roof to fall in on the lawyer who happened to be the mayor of our town and let him know what it feels like to have life completely altered by a greedy you know what....well that's my hostility and I went on to get remarried so I am happy. Next, and I don't know what your disability is so I don't know how quickly you can move around but you need to get child support ASAp which means getting a lawyer or some other way file papers and get a 'legal' separation.
As far as any public aid goes, since you already filed for disability they might be able to provide you with temporary assistance until they find Mr. Wonderful. And my last tip. Do not take him back. I do not understand a lot of women who are treated this way and then the guys moves back in next week. Take his things and put them in the trash. Anyone who could do something like that is a monster.

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answers from Detroit on

The best thing that you can do is find yourself a good divorce attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state. Contact one tomorrow. I would even put a post on this website today asking moms in your area to recommend a good divorce lawyer--the sooner, the better for you and your kids. Generally, laws in every state are different depending on your personal circumstances. An experience divorce attorney is your best bet.

Good luck to you,


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answers from Houston on

Have him sign the affidavit for you to leave the country but I would NOT leave the country until you've consulted with a lawyer. It may make it more difficult to file for support and services. If you are Canadian, make sure the lawyers knows that and is experienced with international custody law.

Leave a few hundred dollars in the bank account and take the yesterday. Open an account at a different bank. Keep a record of what was there before you clean it out. Watch your expenses carefully.

Also, if you have any credit cards together, call the companies and ask that they suspend spending privileges. You don't want him charging them up and being held equally reponsible for them later.

Child support in PA isn't a straightforward calculation--such as a percetage of pay. Here is one website with a calculator where you can input all the factors and get an estimate.

Photocopy the letter and keep the original in a SAFE place.

Good luck. None of this is easy.

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answers from Reading on

I am more familiar with the process in NJ, less so in PA. I have not been through an experience like yours, but did work in the family court system, so I have some idea of what you are dealing with. Regardless of the status of the marriage, your chidren are entitled to financial support. If you want a court to issue a formal separation agreement which would include specific financial obligations, you should call your county courthouse and ask them to direct you to the dept. that deals with child support payments. I'm not familiar with PA's family services bureaucracy, so I can't be more specific than that. Courts make these determinations based on the income of the supporting spouse, but the more specifics you can provide (bills, supporting paperwork for expenses, etc.), the stronger your position will be. You can represent yourself thru this part of the process. That will depend on many factors, including how comfortable you are dealing with bureaucracy, courts, etc. However, if you intend to seek a divorce, you really should plan to engage an attorney on your behalf.

I have so much sympathy for you and your situation. The emotional stress and pressure are quite intense and the added element of dealing with paperwork and a bureaucratic system compounds this. However, to ensure that the children's rights and entitlements are protected, I strongly encourage you to use the system, rather than rely on financial support from your extended family. God bless them for their help, but it can only be a short term solution and all it does is allow the possibility for your husband to shirk his financial responsibilities and obligations.

As far as taking your children out of the country, go to the US State Dept. website. There is a lot of information there regarding the documents and certifications you will need in a situation like yours. As you can imagine, the paperwork aspect will be tedious, but certifying your husband's absence could possibly grant you more mobility with your children.

I wish you the best as you navigate this difficult situation.



answers from Philadelphia on

Dear AG
I suffered a similar situation...My husband left and was hiding from me...First u need to go to court for child support if this is what u want to do....however if u dont know where he is is almost impossible to serve him with court papers, which the court will not help u find him...if you can afford an attorney do so...for child support is used a calculator which screw me up...leaving me with 26.00 a week in child support from my husband...(I was better without the court order), but in your case you dont have an income... so try the court first if not a lawyer..
Ur husband my get upset but is not about him is about your children and the time that u gave him.
If you have assets together thats another story.....



answers from Philadelphia on

Well in pa it isnt always 50/50 split!! But with everything going on, you will need a lawyer for the seperation/divorce. You need a lawyer because since he moved you can file to have exclusive possession of the home. If you do not file that he can come back whenever he wants, regardless of whether he left or not. Although what he did is abandonment. You still need to file for exclusive possession of the home. The joint acct is simply that (regardless fo whether he is sole breadwinner or not) it is a joint acct therefore you have every right to do what you want with it as he does. You only need 1 person to close it, you do not need both signatures. You also need to go to domestic relations and file for support for you and the kids and have it wage attatched, they do go by a scale but if he is making good money i am sure you will be set. To file for support you can do on your own, you do not need a lawyer for that. Also file for custody and explain he has left and you have no address for him, that is called abandonment as well. You also can ask the judge when you have a court hearing about moving to canada with your sister but do everything legally. You need to get a lawyer for the divorce/equitable distribution of property cause there is much more you need to know. Good luck

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