Getting Divorced in Pennsylvania

Getting divorced in Pennsylvania? Here are the first things you'll need to learn about.

If you’re considering a divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s important to understand the legal requirements you must meet in order to end your marriage, the approved grounds for divorce, and how long it takes to get a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Is There a Residency Requirement for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Yes. One or both spouses must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months before filing for divorce. And, the spouse that files for divorce must file the paperwork in the county where the other spouse resides. However, if the other spouse lives in a different county than where they lived together while married, the divorce can also be filed in one of the following counties:

  • county where they resided while married, if the filing spouse has lived there continuously since the separation
  • county where filing spouse lives if other spouse agrees, or
  • county where either spouse lives if neither spouse lives in the county where they lived during the marriage.

If the non-filing spouse has moved outside of Pennsylvania, the filing spouse may file in the county where the filing spouse resides. Pennsylvania has several filing options and exceptions to minimize the possibility that either party has to travel a long distance to obtain a divorce. If you have specific questions about this, you should contact a local family law attorney for help.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

When filing for divorce, you must identify the reasons you want to end your marriage, or the grounds for your divorce. Pennsylvania allows couples to divorce based on no-fault or fault grounds.

What is a No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?

With a “no-fault” divorce you don’t need to identify a specific reason for your divorce or claim that it was your spouse’s fault the marriage ended. Instead, you can request a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences,” which means you and your spouse don’t get along anymore, and the marriage cannot be saved.

If you and your spouse both agree to a no-fault divorce, the court must wait 90 days from the date you filed for divorce, after which it may grant the divorce without a hearing.

Is Adultery a Ground for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

In a “fault” divorce, you need to give a specific reason for the divorce and prove that your spouse’s bad conduct led to the break-up. Adultery, or the claim that your spouse cheated on you, is one of the fault-based grounds for divorce. Other fault-based grounds in Pennsylvania include:

  • abandonment without cause (your spouse left you and has not resided in the home for one or more years)
  • cruelty, including domestic violence
  • bigamy (your spouse married you without divorcing his or her first spouse), and
  • imprisonment for two or more years.

For a complete list of the fault grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania, see 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3301.

Does Fault Impact the Divorce?

Property division is not based on fault

Pennsylvania courts divide property “equitably” (fairly) without regard to marital misconduct or any of the fault factors listed above. Instead, courts look at many other factors when deciding how to divide property, including:

  • the length of the marriage
  • prior marriage of either spouse
  • the age, health, education, employability, liabilities and needs of each of the spouses
  • any contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • the economic circumstances of each spouse, and
  • whether one spouse will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children.

Alimony may be based on fault

When determining whether to award alimony, how much to award and for how long, Pennsylvania courts may consider either spouse’s marital misconduct or fault among other factors, including:

  • the spouses’ earning capacities (ability to earn income based on education, skills, job history, and local employment opportunities)
  • each spouse’s age, and physical and emotional condition
  • all sources of income
  • the length of marriage
  • the standard of living established during the marriage, and
  • any marital misconduct of either spouse during the marriage.

In other words, when it comes to alimony, fault does play a role. For example, a finding of fault can result in an increase to the amount of alimony awarded to the innocent spouse.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Pennsylvania?

If you file for a no-fault divorce, and both spouses consent to the divorce and file affidavits (written declarations) showing their consent, there is a 90-day waiting period which must be met before the divorce can be granted.

If one spouse is trying to get divorced based on an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, that spouse will also have to show that the couple has lived apart for at least two years.

There is no waiting period for a fault-based divorce.

If you have questions about getting divorced in Pennsylvania, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

Resources

Read up on the details of getting divorced in Pennsylvania, and the legal issues you'll encounter in Pennsylvania Divorce & Family Laws.

For a complete list of the residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and the impact of fault on alimony, see 23 Pa.C.S.A. § §3301(a)-(3) and 3104.

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