Pennsylvania Divorce Laws
The state of Pennsylvania has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how Pennsylvania addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of Pennsylvania divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our Pennsylvania online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
Either spouse must be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to filing. A proceeding for divorce or annulment may be brought in the county: A. Where the defendant resides; B. If the defendant resides outside of this Commonwealth, where the plaintiff resides; C. Of matrimonial domicile, if the plaintiff has continuously resided in the county; D. Prior to six months after the date of final separation and with agreement of the defendant, where the plaintiff resides or, if neither party continues to reside in the county of matrimonial domicile, where either party resides; or E. After six months after the date of final separation, where either party resides. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3104)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Pennsylvania the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
Mutual consent.--The court may grant a divorce where it is alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date of commencement of an action under this part and an affidavit has been filed by each of the parties evidencing that each of the parties consents to the divorce.
Irretrievable breakdown.-- The court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3301)
Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Complaint for Divorce with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: Court of Common Pleas, __________ County, Pennsylvania. All divorce cases in the state of Pennsylvania are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Pennsylvania clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Court of Common Pleas.
Property and Debt Division: Pennsylvania is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.
The court will consider all relevant factors when making a property award, including: A. The duration of the marriage. B. Any prior marriage of either party C. The age, health, station, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties. D. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party. E .The opportunity of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income. F. The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits. G. The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the marital property H. The value of the property set apart to each party. I. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. J. The economic circumstances of each party, including Federal, State and local tax ramifications, at the time the division of property is to become effective. K. Whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3501, 3502, 3505)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
The court shall consider all relevant factors when determining support, including: A. The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties. B. The ages and the C. The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits. D. The expectancies and inheritances of the parties. E. The duration of the marriage. F. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party. G. The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child. H. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage. I. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment. J. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties. K. The property brought to the marriage by either party. L. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker. M.The relative needs of the parties. N. The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. O. The Federal, State and Local Tax ramifications of the alimony award. P. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property Q. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 3701, 3702, 3704, 3706)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Pennsylvania courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
In making an order for custody, partial custody or visitation to either parent, the court shall consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the noncustodial parent and the child. In addition, the court shall consider each parent and adult household member's present and past violent or abusive conduct which may include, but is not limited to, abusive conduct as defined under the act of October 7, 1976 (P.L.1090, No.218), known as the Protection From Abuse Act.
The court shall award sole custody when it is in the best interest of the child.
An order for shared custody may be awarded by the court when it is in the best interest of the child: 1. upon application of one or both parents; 2. when the parties have agreed to an award of shared custody; or 3. in the discretion of the court.
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Pennsylvania child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
Child support shall be awarded pursuant to a statewide guideline as established by general rule by the Supreme Court, so that persons similarly situated shall be treated similarly. The guideline shall be based upon the reasonable needs of the child seeking support and the ability of the obligor to provide support. In determining the reasonable needs of the child seeking support and the ability of the obligor to provide support, the guideline shall place primary emphasis on the net incomes and earning capacities of the parties, with allowable deviations for unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors, such as the parties' assets, as warrant special attention. The guideline so developed shall be reviewed at least once every four years. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes - Title 23 - Sections: 4322)
Copyright Notice: These Pennsylvania divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
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