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Divorce Laws in Pennsylvania – FAQs

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Pennsylvania grant divorces based on marital fault?

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

What qualifies for a no-fault divorce in PA?

A divorce based on no-fault grounds must assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In this case, neither party is guilty of any severe marital misconduct. A no fault divorce also requires that the couple have been separated for at least two years, or that they both agree to the divorce.

What is a fault divorce in Pennsylvania?

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.

How long do you have to be separated in PA to get a divorce?

Fault-based divorces do not have time constraints, as they are based on more extreme situations and call for a special hearing. No-fault divorces require there to have been either (1) written and mutual consent by the parties that is made 90 days after the divorce complaint is served or (2) one year of separation (if the separation was on or after December 5, 2016).

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.

Who pays for a divorce in PA?

Pennsylvania courts can order one spouse to pay all legal fees for the divorce if the situation requires it. Factors such as difference in income and whether or not parties are acting in good faith can be used to make this decision.

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.

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.”

Is alimony mandatory in PA?

No, alimony is not mandatory in all divorces in PA. Alimony is determined by the court on a case by case basis and a spouse must meet a number of requirements in order to be eligible for alimony payments.

What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in PA?

The wife is not automatically entitled to anything that is not her direct property or assets in a divorce in PA. Alimony payments may be required based on the wife’s situation and any division of property will also be determined based on other factors.

Is PA a 50/50 divorce state?

No, Pennsylvania is not a 50/50 divorce state. PA courts divide property in divorces based on the equitable distribution approach, which attempts to divide property in the fairest way possible based on each spouse’s unique situation.

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 a divorce in PA?

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.

Is there common law marriage in PA?

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not recognize “common law” marriages where a couple becomes legally married by living together as man and wife, that were entered into after Jan. 2, 2005.

Frank Murphy

Edited By Frank Murphy

Chief Compliance Officer
Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is the Chief Compliance Officer and an Executive Partner at Cordell & Cordell. His responsibilities include oversight of the Firm’s compliance with Legal and Ethical obligations as well as contributing to the day-to-day operations of the Firm as an Executive Partner.

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