Divorce in Pennsylvania

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.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Pennsylvania

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. 

Establishing Residency in Pennsylvania

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. 

Exceptions to the Residency Requirement

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. 

Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania

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.

Grounds for Divorce in a Fault Marriage

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:

  • Desertion lasting a year or longer
  • Adultery
  • Bigamy
  • A jail or prison sentence of two or more years for any crime
  • Dangerously cruel treatment

Indignities that ruin one spouse’s ability to enjoy life are also considered valid grounds for divorce. 

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

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:

  • One spouse refuses to go along with the divorce
  • The couple has not been legally separated for more than one year
  • The spouse looking to divorce does not wish to delay the proceedings for one year

Once they demonstrate these elements and have proof of fault, a spouse can then seek an at-fault divorce. 

Pennsylvania Divorce Process

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.

How to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania

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:

  • Notice to Defend: A standard form that must accompany all divorces in Pennsylvania
  • Counseling Notice: A form that attests to the fact that the spouse filing for divorce understands their legal counseling options for divorce filings
  • Complaint in Divorce: This form is necessary to get your divorce on the record
  • Verification Form: The verification form verifies that it is truly the intention of the spouse to seek the divorce

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. 

Timeline for a Pennsylvania Divorce

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

Pennsylvania family law consists of a range of laws that cover all topics related to family issues, such as:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Annulments
  • Child custody
  • Adoption
  • Abortion rights
  • Criminal matters related to the family, such as child abuse and domestic violence

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.

Children in Pennsylvania Divorces

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:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Visitation
  • Parenting plans and schedules

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:

  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child contact with the other parent
  • The history of and current state of abuse in the household
  • Whether there is a continued risk to the child by living with a certain parent
  • The parental duties of each spouse
  • The need for stability for the child relating to community, schooling, and family life
  • The relationship of the children with other siblings
  • The preference of the child, if well-reasoned 
  • Which spouse is more likely to sustain a loving relationship with the child
  • The mental and physical condition of each parent
  • Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • The level of strife between the spouses and their willingness and ability to cooperate for the best interests of the child

In a nutshell, Pennsylvania family law, as it pertains to divorce, will seek to protect the children when there are children involved. 

Hiring a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney

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.

How to Choose a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney

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:

  • Ask Friends and Family: Friends and family members who have used divorce lawyers can give you direct reviews on the lawyers who have served them, and because they know you as a person, they may be able to provide guidance on whether a particular attorney is a right fit
  • Use the Internet: Most law firms and legal practitioners have websites that highlight their areas of service and strengths, so make sure to take the time to peruse the sites of potential choices 
  • Client Reviews: Search for reviews outside of the website of any lawyer you are considering, as client reviews found on attorney websites are bound to be positive and glowing — a review service like Google Reviews, however, contains the good and the bad
  • Attorney Questions: When you meet with an attorney for potential representation, they will have many questions for you, such as questions relating to your marriage, but you should also have questions for the attorney relating to their competency, experience, and track record of success with past clients

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.

What to Expect From a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney

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.

Pennsylvania Divorce Forms

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:

  • Notice to Defend and Divorce Complaint
  • Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP)
  • Acceptance of Service
  • Affidavits of Service
  • Waiver of Notice for Plaintiff
  • Divorce Decree
  • Counseling Notice
  • Marital Settlement Agreement

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.

Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney and Get All Your Options

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.

Practice Areas

Reliable Solutions From Experienced Attorneys

Speak With Us

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.