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Inmates face particular property division challenges

When a Pennsylvania resident is incarcerated, he or she is largely cut off from the outside world. That can pose a problem in cases where the inmate wishes to seek a divorce. Very often, divorce, child custody and property division are matters that are nearly impossible to navigate while behind bars.

A large part of the problem lies in limited access to the court system. While convicted criminals often have ready access to resources related to the appeals process, they very rarely receive support or assistance in matters of civil or family litigation. That means that they can effectively become barred from pursuing a divorce.

Very often, courts require that an individual appear in person to file the initial paperwork required to open a divorce case. Inmates have no ability to obtain transportation to the courthouse for such matters. That means they may not be able to even initiate their own case until they are released. During that time, an estranged spouse may have taken considerable measures to deplete marital assets, leaving very little left to divide once the incarcerated spouse is able to address the matter.

For those in Pennsylvania who would like to pursue divorce while serving a prison sentence, it is important to try and secure the services of a family law attorney. An attorney can work on one's behalf to file any necessary paperwork, and can even attend hearings on one's behalf in certain circumstances. For many inmates, this is the only clear path to a fair child custody or property division outcome.

Source:, "It's Almost Impossible for Inmates to Get a Divorce", Kim Bellware, Sept. 1, 2017

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