Pennsylvania Divorce Laws FAQ - Divorce in PA | Cordell & Cordell

Pennsylvania Divorce Laws – FAQs

Pennsylvania divorce laws

Pennsylvania men’s divorce attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions about divorce in Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania divorce laws.

What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, divorce is divided into two categories: “fault” and “no fault.” A divorce on fault grounds requires that the plaintiff prove that he or she is the innocent and injured spouse and that the other spouse is guilty of one of six categories of marital misconduct: adultery, desertion, cruel and barbarous treatment, bigamy, imprisonment for a crime, and indignities.

A divorce based on no-fault grounds must assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

What is a divorce in PA going to cost me? Can I afford it?

It depends. The cost of divorce is entirely case specific. If the parties have many assets and debts to evaluate for distribution, it can be a fairly long, complicated and expensive process.

Additionally, Pennsylvania employs a trifurcated system, meaning that divorce, custody and support can be handled at different times. If your case involves all three, it will be more expensive to litigate.

Do I really need to hire an attorney for my PA divorce?

Although a non-attorney could theoretically handle their own divorce, it is usually best to let a licensed professional handle the matter. Domestic litigation and Pennsylvania divorce laws are rife with legal nuances that, if unknown or not understood, could put a non-attorney at a disadvantage when handling their own case.

Does Pennsylvania grant divorces based on marital fault?

Yes, Pennsylvania divorce laws allow divorces based on marital fault. Please see above.

Can I get maintenance or will I have to provide maintenance to my spouse?

In Pennsylvania, maintenance is available to the financially dependent spouse at different stages of the divorce proceedings. Prior to the divorce being filed it is termed “spousal support.”

After filing and during divorce proceedings, support is termed “alimony pendente lite,” a Latin phrase meaning “alimony pending litigation.” After the entry of a final divorce decree, support is available in the form of “alimony.”

Can I change my name at the time of divorce in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Written notice of resumption of a prior surname may be filed in the divorce case during pendency or subsequent to entry of final decree.

Can I get an annulment in Pennsylvania?

Yes. In Pennsylvania, annulment is the manner in which invalid marriages are terminated. A marriage is invalid, for instance, if either party was incapable of consenting to marriage by reason of insanity, or if either party was, at the time of the purported marriage, validly married to another person.

When is my Pennsylvania divorce case going to be over?

It depends. In Pennsylvania, a simple, one-count divorce with no ancillary issues will still take a minimum of three months to finalize. More complex cases will obviously take even longer.

If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?

If one party cannot obtain valid service on the other party, an additional option would be to wait the statutorily required period of two years and then file for a unilateral divorce.

At what point during the process can a spouse remarry or start dating?

A party may remarry as soon as a final divorce decree is entered. However, there is a three-day waiting period in Pennsylvania for an application for a marriage license.

What if my spouse does not want the divorce?

According to Pennsylvania divorce laws, a party must wait for two full years of separation from their spouse and then may proceed with filing a unilateral divorce.

Do the other issues – child support, child custody, alimony, and property – have to be decided before the divorce is final?

No. In Pennsylvania these issues are trifurcated and may be dealt with at different times.

How long do I have to live in Pennsylvania to obtain a divorce?

Parties wishing to initiate a divorce action in Pennsylvania must establish residence in the state at least six months prior to the initiation of the action.

After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in Pennsylvania?

No. Once the divorce is filed in PA, you do not need to retain residency in the state. 

What if I am in the military and out of state?

Physical presence in the state is not required to obtain a divorce decree.

How do I prove fault for divorce in PA?

A party must establish grounds for fault divorce under one of the six enumerated categories outlined in question 1. The party moving for divorce must also establish themselves as an innocent and injured party.

Can a couple become legally married by living together as man and wife under the state’s laws (common law marriage)?

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not recognize “common law” marriages entered into after Jan. 2, 2005.