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Pennsylvania Divorce Law

Pennsylvania had a relatively low divorce rate of 2.6 divorces per 1,000 residents in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. While statistics may not comfort you if you’re in the midst of a failing marriage, it should be comforting to know that you are not alone and you don’t have to go through the divorce process alone.

LawInfo’s Pennsylvania Divorce Law articles can help relieve some of the stress of the process. You’ll learn about the state’s divorce prerequisites, how property is divided and many other divorce topics. Whether you need assistance in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or Allentown, LawInfo can help connect you with a Pennsylvania divorce attorney.

Pennsylvania Divorce Timeline

Prior to filing for divorce, you and your partner must have been living separately and apart for one or more years. Once Pennsylvania’s separation requirement is fulfilled, there’s a mandatory 90-day waiting period between filing a divorce complaint (a “commencement of action”) and the point at which both parties may submit affidavits of consent.

How long until the court issues its final divorce decree depends on both parties’ willingness to cooperate. If you and your spouse mutually consent to the divorce and its terms, the court could issue its decree in as little as a few weeks to a month after the waiting period’s expiration. If you need to involve the court to iron out the details of the divorce due to disagreements with your spouse, the process could extend to months or years.

In total, you could possibly have your divorce finalized within four to five months at a minimum from the day the divorce complaint was first submitted.

Pennsylvania Divorce Residency Requirement

Pennsylvania law has a residency requirement that a couple needs to meet before they earn the right to file for divorce in the state. At least one spouse must have been a resident of Pennsylvania for six or more months before a divorce petition is filed.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorces in Pennsylvania

You can get a divorce in Pennsylvania based either on specific fault grounds or due to an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage (often called the “no-fault” divorce ground).

A no-fault divorce can be filed by either both parties or one party depending on whether both parties mutually agree that a marital breakdown occurred. On the other hand, only one party needs to file a divorce complaint based on the following fault grounds:

  • The respondent (the spouse who receives the complaint) committed adultery.
  • The respondent willfully and maliciously abandoned the petitioner (the “injured and innocent” spouse) for one or more years.
  • The respondent was sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years.
  • The respondent committed bigamy and their former spouse was still alive at the time of the subsequent marriage ceremony.
  • The respondent made the petitioner’s life burdensome from intolerable conditions and indignities.
  • The respondent cruelly endangered the petitioner’s life or health.
  • The respondent was confined to a mental institution for a serious mental disorder for 18 months prior to the complaint and there’s no reasonable prospect that they’ll be discharged within the following 18 months.

If your divorce is based on a fault ground, the court may consider adjusting an alimony judgment based on marital misconduct. Marital misconduct isn’t usually a deciding factor for calculating alimony in a no-fault divorce case.

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