Divorce can be an overwhelming and stressful process. Fortunately, going through a divorce with an experienced divorce attorney can ensure that your rights and interests are respected and preserved during the process.
If you are facing a divorce in Pennsylvania, here is what you need to know about the process.
There is no law barring you from divorcing in Pennsylvania if you were married in another state. There are, however, residency requirements for divorce in PA — which is uniquely flexible compared to the residency requirements in many other states.
In order to establish residency in Pennsylvania for divorce purposes, either one or both spouses must have at least six months of residency within the state before filing the papers.
Residency is established by maintaining a physical residence within the state and having the intention to reside there indefinitely. Additionally, your divorce filing must take place in the county of residence of your spouse.
Fulfilling the residency requirement is of utmost importance in divorce cases. Failure to meet the residency requirement will result in a case dismissal due to the fact that divorce courts need residence jurisdiction in order to make legal judgments.
There are certain exceptions to the residency requirements for PA divorces. For example, members of the military who are residents of other states may seek a divorce in Pennsylvania if they have been stationed in the state for six months prior to the filing of the divorce.
Also, the six-month residency requirement allows one or both parties to be out of the state for business or travel within the six months prior to the divorce filing, as long as they have the intention to continue residing in the state.
Pennsylvania offers spouses three types of divorce: mutual consent, uncontested, and fault-based divorces. For the first two types, no grounds for the divorce need to be given, as they are considered no-fault divorces.
However, you may also file for divorce based on fault because Pennsylvania offers residents the option of fault and no-fault divorces.
For fault divorces, the person filing for divorce in PA must list a reason, or grounds, for the divorce. There are various legal grounds for divorce in PA, including:
Indignities that ruin one spouse’s ability to enjoy life are also considered valid grounds for divorce.
Uncontested and mutual divorces are no-fault divorces. Spouses need not give a reason for filing for divorce in these cases. All that must be demonstrated is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which is not difficult compared to what must be demonstrated in an at-fault divorce.
For at-fault divorces in Pennsylvania, the spouse seeking the divorce must use evidence to prove the allegations of fault found in the divorce petition. They must also show that:
Once they demonstrate these elements and have proof of fault, a spouse can then seek an at-fault divorce.
Filing for a divorce in Pennsylvania begins when one or both spouses decide to divorce. Whether you decide to proceed with a no-fault or at-fault divorce, an experienced divorce attorney is critical. Your attorney can also determine which type of divorce filing would be most appropriate for your circumstances.
To start the divorce process, one spouse will need to file a divorce complaint. Various forms and documents must accompany this complaint, including but not limited to:
You will also need a copy of your marriage certificate and an appropriate family court cover sheet.
All forms and paperwork must be completed and submitted properly and within the time constraints set by law. Failure to do so leads to delays, wasted resources, and undesirable judgments. However, working with a seasoned divorce lawyer will help you avoid these issues.
After filing the complaint, the spouse must then serve notice on the other spouse. What this spouse does next determines the course of the divorce. They can either contest, decide not to contest the divorce, or fail to answer.
The timeline for a Pennsylvania divorce depends heavily on whether the divorce is an at-fault or a no-fault divorce and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Additionally, the presence of children also affects the timeline for divorces in Pennsylvania.
For uncontested and mutual divorces, the timeline is typically much shorter than the timelines for contested divorces and at-fault divorces. In all cases, there are timing requirements that control the timeline for divorce, including a 30-day period to serve the other spouse after filing divorce papers.
This time limit is extended to 90 days when the party to be served does not live in Pennsylvania. Additionally, a 90-day waiting period for no-fault divorces is also in effect.
Issues relating to marital property and child custody are handled once the divorce gets underway. Depending on the complexities of a particular case, a divorce can take anywhere from 90 days to over a year to complete.
Pennsylvania family law consists of a range of laws that cover all topics related to family issues, such as:
Family law in Pennsylvania seeks to define the roles and relationships in families and to define and protect the rights of every member, some of whom receive more protection from the courts than others, such as children.
When it comes to divorce, family law often applies to matters involving children.
Minor children are among the most vulnerable members of any family. Hence, when family law issues arise that involve children under the age of 18, including divorce, the courts make their decisions based on the best interests of the child. Some of these issues include:
To handle these issues, how does a judge determine precisely what the best interests of a child are?
They consider a series of factors, such as:
In a nutshell, Pennsylvania family law, as it pertains to divorce, will seek to protect the children when there are children involved.
Pennsylvania divorce laws and requirements are complex. That is why it is crucial that you hire the services of an experienced divorce lawyer to handle your case. Doing so relieves you of the pressure of having to learn the proper steps and procedures involved in divorces and having to devote an immense amount of time to finalizing the process.
Additionally, with a divorce lawyer representing you, you can focus on dealing with and adjusting to all of the aspects of what is and will be your new life, while your attorney takes care of protecting your interests and the interests of your family.
With so many divorce lawyers out there, choosing the right attorney to represent you may seem like a daunting task. However, by considering these key factors, you can easily find the right professional to represent you in this difficult time in your life:
And as with most other important decisions, it is worth the effort to consider more than just one attorney. Take the time to shop around a bit so you can make comparisons between potential attorneys.
With the right Pennsylvania divorce attorney representing you, you can expect every legal aspect of your case to be handled and managed in a way that seeks the most optimal results for your circumstances.
Results are never guaranteed in divorce cases, but an adept divorce lawyer will put up an effective fight for their client throughout the entire proceedings. You can also expect your attorney to keep you abreast of the progress of your case and attend to your questions and concerns in a timely manner.
Several forms are used during the divorce process. Knowing what these forms are and their purposes beforehand can help make the divorce process flow more smoothly. These forms include:
Spouses can find most of the forms necessary for divorce proceedings on the website of the Pennsylvania Court system. However, keep in mind that each county in the state has its own requirements and may have its own forms to fill out.
Your divorce attorney will be able to advise you on how to complete these forms for the best results.
PA divorce laws are unique in that they allow for both at-fault and no-fault divorces. But just like in every other state, divorce proceedings are complex matters that can determine the course and trajectory of your life.
A professional can safeguard your rights and interests during these proceedings to help you avoid the risk of being saddled with legally binding decisions that can have permanent effects.
If you are facing the prospect of a divorce, reach out for help from an experienced divorce lawyer who will fight for your interests. With over 30 years of experience in the courtroom, the divorce attorneys at McCormick & Vilushis LLC have a proven track record of protecting the rights and well-being of clients throughout Pennsylvania.
Contact us today for a free consultation with a skilled divorce lawyer.
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