On the wedding day, no one ever envisions getting a divorce. However, the unfortunate truth is that between 40 and 50 percent of Americans get divorced. Many of these couples aren’t sure how the divorce procedure should be handled. There may be some changes, but most states have a similar set of laws when it comes to divorce. For instance, filing fees may be more in some states than in others.
One or both partners must have resided in Pennsylvania for at least the previous six months in order to initiate a divorce in this state. The person seeking a divorce (the plaintiff) submits a petition in which they explain to the court why they should be granted a divorce from their spouse (the defendant). A court must rule and issue a divorce decree before the divorce is considered to be final.
This article will provide you with all the necessary information about the process of divorce in Pennsylvania if you reside in Pennsylvania and want to get a divorce. With the help of this simple, step-by-step manual, you may quickly begin the divorce process.
Types of divorce in PA
Divorce in Pennsylvania falls into one of four categories. The first two are no-fault since you are not required to demonstrate that your spouse was to blame for the breakdown of your marriage.
Mutual consent divorce
The most typical kind of divorce is this one. Both parties can submit an affidavit consenting to the divorce as well as other documentation ninety (90) days after the defendant has been served with the divorce lawsuit. The divorce might then be approved by the judge.
The attorneys may attempt to negotiate a written settlement agreement regarding matters including child custody, maintenance, alimony, and property division within the 90-day period. The judge may approve a Separation Agreement that the parties have signed in writing as an Order of Court. If a resolution to these difficulties cannot be achieved, a hearing may be held, after which the court will make its decision.
You can forfeit your ability to request alimony, property division, or other equality of opportunity if the divorce is finalized before you formally and in writing ask the court for those items.
A one-year separation divorce
This divorce is also without fault. If one of the parties does not provide an affidavit consenting to the divorce, the other spouse may delay until the parties have been apart because of two years. The other party can then sign an affidavit declaring that the marriage is irretrievably shattered and that the parties have been apart for at least two years.
The other party must receive notice of the affidavit. The court has the authority to approve the divorce if that party doesn’t reply. A hearing may be held, and the court will decide if the parties are eligible for a divorce, but if a counter-affidavit is submitted disputing the validity of the two-year separation or the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Although this is a traditional divorce, the records still reflect it. The plaintiff must provide proof that the complainant committed adultery, endangered the plaintiff’s life, neglected the plaintiff for at least a year, had been incarcerated for at least two years, or had “offered indignities to,” which is legalese for victimizing the plaintiff, in order to prove the defendant’s guilt and the plaintiff’s pureness.
Due to two factors, the majority of people do not divorce on the basis of adultery.First of all, a fault divorce is quite expensive so because parties are obligated to pay for the master who hears the case, the stenographer who must record every bit of testimony, and the attorneys’ fees for the meeting. The plaintiff must also demonstrate that they are innocent of any misconduct. The court may reject the divorce if the defendant can show that the plaintiff mistreated him.
It is determined that your spouse is mentally ill or insane and needs to be institutionalized. Before filing for divorce, your spouse had to have spent at least 18 months in a mental facility, and there couldn’t have been any justifiable expectation that they would be released within the subsequent 18 months. A divorce may be granted in the following situations without a judicial hearing.
How To File Divorce In Pennsylvania
- First, you must fulfill the state’s residency criteria.
- Second, you need “grounds” (a justifiable reason) to dissolve your marriage.
- Third, you need to file divorce documents and send copies to your partner.
- Fourth, your spouse will have the chance to submit documents outlining his or her position if he or she disagrees with anything in the divorce paperwork.
- Fifth, you must negotiate an out-of-court settlement if you need to divide property or if your husband needs to provide you with financial assistance.
Residency and Where to File
Either you or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months before filing for divorce there. The following counties’ Court of Common Pleas is where you can file:
- If the adversary is not a Pennsylvania resident, where do the plaintiff and defendant reside?
- While you were married, you lived with your spouse,
- If neither party lives in the county where you previously shared housing, or where either party resides if neither party has been separated for six months and agrees
- If you have been separated for at least six months, where either party resides.
Grounds for Divorce
The legal justifications for getting a divorce are known as grounds for divorce. This serves as the rationale for ending the marriage. Like most states, Pennsylvania includes a number of traditional fault-based reasons for divorce in addition to what is known as no-fault grounds.
In Pennsylvania, one of the two no-fault reasons must be included in the divorce petition in order to obtain a no-fault divorce. One of them would be that “both spouses agree to a divorce” and “the parties’ marriage is irretrievably destroyed.” Affidavits of consent to divorce must be filed by both parties, and the judgment cannot be issued until 90 days have passed since filing.
The second justification is that “the spouses have lived away and apart for at least two years and the parties’ marriage is irreversibly altered.” If the accused disputes this, the judge must reach a conclusion. Additionally, the judge may order marriage counseling and adjourn the case for a further 90 to 120 days.
Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
In a fault-based divorce, one or both spouses must provide the judge with proof that the other committed acts that satisfy one of the fault-based grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania judges grant “innocent and damaged spouses” fault-based divorces when the other spouse has:
- Committed intentional and malicious desertion—absence from the home of the damaged and innocent spouse for a period of one or more years without a valid excuse
- Sinned by adultery
- Endangering the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse via cruel and barbaric treatment
- Intentionally got married to someone while a previous marriage was still going on.
- Been given a sentence of two years or more in jail
- Given the innocent and damaged spouse such humiliations as to make the injured spouse’s life unbearable and difficult,
You will need to file your complaint.
You can file your complaint with the court once you’ve determined what kind of divorce you’ll have. The court must receive six distinct documents in total before your divorce case may be started. These are what they are:
- A Notice to Defend Form – This is a typical form that is submitted to the Pennsylvania court system.
- Counseling notice form – By checking this box, you confirm that you are aware of your options for legal counseling when you submit your divorce paperwork.
- A Complaint for Divorce form – This is the official paperwork that details your request to dissolve your marriage.
- Family court cover sheet
- Marriage certificate
Where to File Your Divorce Case
Your divorce case may be filed in the county:
- the place of residence of the appellant (the non-filing spouse)
- If the defendant resides outside of the state where the plaintiff (the filing spouse) resides
- If the plaintiff has consistently lived in the county where the spouses lived together as a married pair.
- Before six months have passed since the date of the final separation, where the plaintiff resides OR, if no party stays in the county where the parties lived together as a married couple, where either party resides—and with the defendant’s permission.
- Where either party resides after six months from the final separation date.
Divorce Filing Fees in Pennsylvania
You must pay court filing fees and submit the appropriate documentation in order to start your divorce. You must speak with the Prothonotary’s office to learn the filing costs at the court where you intend to file because they differ from county to county in Pennsylvania. Divorce filing costs typically range between $200 and $300 in most counties.
You can ask the court to eliminate the filing fees if you are unable to pay them. By submitting a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, you can ask for a fee waiver. You didn’t have to spend any court costs throughout your divorce if the judge determined your petition to waive fees.
Serving Your Spouse in Pennsylvania
Once the documentation is submitted, you must “serve” (give) copies of it to your spouse in order to notify them of the divorce. Within 30 days of submitting the complaint, you must serve the divorce petition on your partner if they reside in Pennsylvania.
Within 90 days of submitting the complaint, you must process the divorce petition on your partner if they don’t reside in Pennsylvania. You can utilize one of the following strategies to assist your partner:
Mail with an Acceptance of Service form- Only employs this technique if you believe your spouse will voluntarily accept service.
Certified mail with a return receipt requested- When you obtain a receipt, fill out the Acceptance of Service of Original Process by Mail form and submit it to the judge.
Personal service- To personally serve the papers on your partner, you can engage a sheriff or certified court summons.
Publication- Request the judge for authorization to deliver your partner by placing a notice in a newspaper but in another method that the judge permits if you are unsure of their whereabouts.
The defendant needs to answer the complaint.
After receiving a divorce petition from the plaintiff, the defendant must complete an Affidavit of Service. This will demonstrate that they have the paperwork. Their name, address, and the time and manner of service of the papers upon them must all be included in the affidavit.
Finalize your divorce
You can submit an application for your divorce decree following the 90-day waiting period. On the day the court issues the divorce decree, it is legally finalized.
Property Division During Divorce In Pennsylvania
Assets and debts are divided between you and your partner during a divorce in Pennsylvania. In general, each spouse will keep their separate property, which includes:
- Whether it was obtained before marriage or in return for such assets,
- Excluded by a genuine party agreement,
- Obtained through an inheritance, non-spousal gift, or trade for the required for a particular
- Acquired between both the separation date and the divorce date,
- Irrespective of when it was obtained, it constitutes payment from a lawsuit or claim that was filed before the marriage or after the date of ultimate separation.
All other assets belong to the couple. Without a settlement, the judge will divide the marital estate “equitably” after taking into account all pertinent criteria, such as:
- The marriage’s duration,
- Any previous unions between the parties,
- Each party’s age, health, station, income and revenue sources, employment prospects, skill set, estate, liabilities, and needs
- Any party’s assistance with the education or boosted the income of the other,
- The potential future acquisition by each party of capital assets and income,
- The sources of income for each party, such as medical, retirement, or other benefits;
- Contributions made by each party to the purchase, upkeep, depreciation, or appreciation of the property, including any homemaker contributions,
- The worth of the assets allotted to each party,
- The living conditions created throughout the marriage,
- The state of each party’s finances at the time the property partition takes effect,
- The tax consequences of each asset that will be divided,
- The cost involved with selling, transferring, or liquidating a certain asset,
- Whether the party intends to act as the guardian of any minor dependent children.
The waiting period before requesting a no-fault divorce is one year. According to Pennsylvania law, either spouse must wait one year from the date of separation before filing for divorce if the pair is seeking a divorce without proving blame.
Many of the forms you’ll need for a DIY divorce are available on the website for the Pennsylvania courts. If you’re working with a lawyer, they will evaluate your case and complete, file, and serve all the required paperwork.
There is no mandatory waiting period in Pennsylvania before you could even petition for divorce, according to law. But deciding on a separation date is essential. The start date of your legal separation from your marriage is the day you start living separately.
There is no real benefit to filing first if you and your partner already live in the state. The Court of Common Pleas in the defendant’s county or the county where you got married will often preside over the case even if you file it first.
You should budget about $300 for the divorce paperwork filing fee. If you choose to employ the assistance of online service, there may be an additional charge of between $150 and $1,500.
Depending on whether it is a fault or no-fault divorce, the length of the process in Pennsylvania can range from 90 days to 12 months on average. A 90-day waiting period is required before a no-fault divorce can be granted. Uncontested divorces typically take 4-6 months, whereas contested divorces can take anywhere from 5 to 12 months.
A mutual consent divorce can be finalized more quickly than a typical divorce—in three to four months as opposed to the usual two to more years. However, in order to benefit from a mutual consent divorce, both spouses must consent to the divorce and sign documents confirming their mutual consent.