How Do I File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

By Bernadette A. Safrath
Half, the marriages, the United States, divorce

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Nearly half of all marriages today end in divorce. In Pennsylvania, if you meet the residency requirements and have grounds for divorce, you may file within the state. It is best to seek the advice of an attorney prior to filing, because preparing divorce papers can be a difficult task.

If you plan to get divorced in Pennsylvania, first you must make sure you or your spouse meet the residency requirements. To file for divorce in Pennsylvania one party must be a Pennsylvania resident for at least six months before filing. You may file for divorce in your county of residence, your spouse's county of residence or the county in which the marital residence is located.

Pennsylvania requires grounds to file for divorce. The filing party, the Plaintiff, must state a reason why the marriage should end. Pennsylvania has both fault grounds and no-fault grounds.

No-fault grounds include institutionalization, where one spouse has a mental disorder that requires confinement. The confinement must already be in progress for at least 18 months and be likely to continue for at least an additional 18 months. Another no-fault ground is mutual consent, where the parties agree that their marriage is irreparably damaged with no possibility of reconciliation. A judge can grant the divorce, without a hearing, 90 days after papers are filed. Lastly, irretrievable breakdown is a no-fault ground used when parties have already been separated for two years and agree that their marriage is irreparably damaged.

Valid grounds for fault divorce in Pennsylvania include: (1) abandonment, meaning the other spouse has left the marital home for at least one year, with no intent to return; (2) cruel and inhuman treatment, meaning the filing spouse has been the victim of domestic violence; (3) adultery; (4) imprisonment, meaning the spouse has been found guilty of a crime and was sentenced to at least two years in prison; and (5) bigamy, your spouse is already married to another person.

You should have an attorney prepare your divorce papers, as the process can be difficult and it is important that everything is accurate. Pennsylvania requires that several documents be included in the divorce papers. They include: (1) a complaint for divorce; (2) a verification affidavit; (3) an income and expenses statement; (4) financial affidavits, including a net worth statement; (5) any petitions regarding child custody; (6) any petitions regarding child support; and (7) the uniform support petition, requesting spousal support or alimony.

Once you or your attorney have prepared the required documents, you must file the papers in the proper county with the Court Clerk for Pennsylvania's Court of Common Pleas. Once you have been assigned a case number you must have copies of all the divorce papers served on your spouse, now the Defendant.

About the Author

Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.

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