Divorce Laws in PA

When you get married, you probably think that you’ll live a happy life together with your spouse forever after. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes marriages result in a breakdown of the relationship with no possibility to restore it.

Handling divorce is never easy, regardless of where you live, and Pennsylvania is no exception. On top of all the stress you may face, you might have to deal with multiple legal problems, and you may have many PA divorce law questions that need to be resolved before the procedure starts.

If you a permanent resident of Pennsylvania and want to divorce, the first thing you should do is find out more about the divorce laws for PA residents to make sure you meet the legal requirements. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the middle of this process or are only thinking of getting a divorce in this state, as it’s always useful to learn what the divorce law for Pennsylvania citizens requires of you. This will help you deal with the procedure more easily and avoid unwanted troubles.

Before filing for divorce, you need to find out more about the respective divorce law in PA. The laws may include such essential points as the residency demands and various others. And you should also make sure you know all about the types of divorce in the given state.

Basic facts about Pennsylvania divorce laws

The party who applies for the divorce is considered the plaintiff and is the one who must explain to the court why he/she wants to get divorced. The other party is therefore known as the defendant. According to the divorce laws in Pennsylvania, the process is finalized only when the special decree is approved and validated by the judge.

If you want to divorce in PA, it is worth learning more about Pennsylvania divorce law to know where exactly you need to file for the breakup in this state. PA residents should submit the documents to the local court, and this is possible only if you meet certain requirements. If you fulfill all the demands, the court will accept your request. If not, your case may not be accepted or will be canceled.

More details about PA divorce laws

Local regulations in every state tend to change and evolve over time. Since the time when the state of Pennsylvania legally approved same-sex marriages back in 2014, the new divorce law in PA has the same demands for couples of any gender composition. The first thing you must do is to check if you fulfill the residency requirements. They include:

  • Divorce law in Pennsylvania states that at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least half a year before filing for divorce. The case can be initiated only after it is proven that either one or both spouses are residents of the state.
  • To prove that you are a resident, you must give testimony to the court that you have physically resided within the borders of the state for the last six months and have a firm intention to continue living in the state. Your driver’s license, voter’s card, ID or some other document can serve as proof of your residency.
  • If only one of the spouses lives in PA, the decree for breakup can still be provided to the other spouse who resides outside the state. The dissolution can take place and continue even if it’s impossible to give notice to the other party. However, notifying the other spouse and negotiating with the defendant are still necessary if the couple needs to divide shared possessions.
  • Documents must be provided to the court in the county where:
    • The defendant lives
    • The filing party lives (if the other party is not a PA resident)
    • Both parties resided during marriage
    • Either party resides if you have lived separately for half a year at a minimum
    • The plaintiff resides (if you haven’t lived separately for 6 months and the other party gives consent)
    • Either party lives if neither of you currently resides in the county in which you lived together as a couple.
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What’s more, as stated in PA divorce law, there is a 90-day waiting period which applies to the termination of marriage in this state. It starts when the defendant gets the petition from the plaintiff. Basically, it means you’ll need to wait for a specific period before the case becomes final.

What you should know about PA divorce laws on adultery

Every couple that is about to split up in PA should know that there are three major categories of divorce here:

  • By mutual agreement
  • Without agreement
  • Based on fault-related reasons that may include desertion of one’s spouse for a long-term period, adultery, cheating, posing a danger to one’s life, imprisonment and others.

Keep in mind that the reasons for these types of divorce may vary depending on the specifics of each situation and one’s individual circumstances. As for the fault-related grounds, according to the PA divorce laws on abandonment, the “guiltless and injured” spouse may file for divorce if his/her partner deserted the family without any adequate reason for one year or more.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania divorce laws on alimony require one of the spouses to support the other financially whenever it is proved necessary. The questions of when alimony is required and what the amount and duration of spousal support would be are determined during PA divorce procedures where the judge needs to take into account the following points:

  • The ages and health of both partners
  • The length of the marriage
  • The level of earnings
  • The contributions of both partners to the family income and wellbeing
  • Any wrongdoings that one of the spouses might have committed before separation.

Before the judge makes the final decision and the PA divorce process comes to an end, it is often very hard or even impossible to predict what the amount of alimony will be and how long the spouse will have to provide support.

What are the exact grounds of divorce in PA?

As mentioned previously, the grounds for divorce may be different in each case. On the whole, there are fault-based and no-fault reasons for divorce. The fault-related reasons require you to prove your partner guilty of serious misdeeds. They include:

  • One of the spouses committed serious wrongdoings against the other which were so intolerable that the offended party found it impossible to maintain their relationship.
  • One of the spouses willfully deserted the other one for a period of one year or longer.
  • Either spouse committed adultery.
  • One spouse treated the other cruelly or posed a danger to the health and wellbeing of their spouse.
  • Either spouse committed bigamy (initiated the marriage when a previous marriage was still in effect)
  • The spouse was convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to over a year in prison.

On the other hand, the no-fault reasons presuppose that you don’t need to blame your spouse for anything but it is still impossible to save your marriage. These grounds include:

  • Either spouse sought treatment in a mental hospital where he/she stayed for 18 months at the very least and there is no chance that he/she will be released from the hospital for the following 18 months.
  • Both spouses agree that they should get divorced and provide a complaint to the court stating that their marriage cannot be saved.
  • The spouses have lived separately for one year or more and there is no possibility to restore their marriage (if the defendant doesn’t deny this statement, the judge will grant the dissolution).

All these reasons are serious enough to prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

How is the divorce process in PA conducted?

The divorce process in this state is carried out based on certain rules and the actual procedure consists of several steps. To start the Pennsylvania divorce process, the plaintiff should submit the formal petition called the “Complaint” to the court. Among other things, this document should contain the details on one’s expectations regarding alimony, child support, distribution of belongings, and other aspects. A copy of this document must be provided to the defendant. This may be done by mail, by a county sheriff or another adult.

When does the PA divorce procedure become final?

All states, including Pennsylvania, have their own regulations for couples who are getting divorced just as there are laws intended for everyone who is getting married. If it is a no-fault breakup and the spouses agree on all aspects regarding their relationship, they just need to wait for 90 days after submitting the papers until their breakup is finalized. If, however, it’s a fault-based divorce, the couple may need to undergo a hearing before their paperwork is approved and the case becomes final.

If you seek support with the completion of paperwork for your divorce in PA, you may reach out to our experts to learn how you can get divorced in this state as easily as possible.

States divorce law