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UNDERSTANDING DIVORCE IN PENNSYLVANIA

Unlike some jurisdictions, Pennsylvania does not offer a summary or simplified divorce, and it offers both fault and no-fault divorce.

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, and alimony may be awarded.

Familiarize yourself with the requirements and processes below before filing for a no contest divorce in Pennsylvania.

Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania

The appropriate lawful ground is one the spouses agree to and can substantiate or one the filing spouse proves in court.

There are two types of no fault divorce in PA: mutual consent, when the spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed since the filing, and two-year separation, when one of the spouses refuses to consent to the divorce and the parties live separate and apart for at least two years.

Fault grounds include adultery, endangerment, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years, and indignities.

Pennsylvania Residency Requirements for Divorce

Either spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months before a divorce complaint is filed. The plaintiff may file in the county where either spouse lives or in the county where both spouses agree to file.

Pennsylvania Divorce Filing Process

Pennsylvania online divorce process The plaintiff begins the action by filing two copies of the complaint in the county court and paying the filing fee. The clerk keeps one set and returns the other other to the plaintiff who arranges for the divorce papers to be served on the defendant. Here is more information regarding the process of filing uncontested divorce papers in Pennsylvania.

An indigent plaintiff may avoid fees by filing a In Forma Pauperis petition.

The divorce papers must be served within 30 days of filing. If the defendant agrees, the papers may be mailed by regular mail. The defendant signs an Acceptance of Service form that is filed with the clerk.

Of the two types of no-fault divorce, the mutual consent is fastest. In this regime, the couple resolves financial issues before filing, and they divorce in three to four months, not two or more years, as can be the case in other divorce actions. When spouses do not agree on the divorce, it can be nevertheless effected under the two-year rule.

Fault actions -- adultery, endangerment, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years, and indignities - often are contested and normally take much longer to resolve and cost much more due to legal expenses and additional court fees.

The divorce is finalized 90 days after the filing when both spouses sign the Affidavit of Consent. The plaintiff also sends a Waiver of Notice to the defendant. The plaintiff files a Praecipe to Transmit Record and a Final Decree of Divorce, which the judge signs after a review of the papers. The couple is then divorced. Learn the best ways to save money when doing your own divorce in Pennsylvania.

Do It Yourself Online Divorce in Pennsylvania

Our online divorce makes it easy to file your own divorce in the state of Pennsylvania. In as little as 20 minutes you can have all your completed divorce forms and filing instructions ready for signing and filing. Instantly access your completed divorce forms after a short online interview. It is that easy, no lengthy completion or delivery times. See if you qualify below:

Pennsylvania Property Division

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution, dual-classification state. Unlike almost all jurisdictions, the appreciation of separate property is marital. The court accepts any fair and reasonable property division that the spouses reach.

In dividing property, the court generally does not consider marital misconduct, but economic misconduct - hiding sets in support of a girlfriend, for example - may result in off setting compensation to the victim spouse.

When couples can agree on a fair and equitable solution, courts consider several factors, including "the contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party"; "the contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker"; and "whether the party will be serving as the custodian of any dependent minor children."

All marital property is divided equitably unless the spouses agree otherwise. Normally, the court values assets and liabilities at the time they are divided but the court may select any valuation date it deems to be appropriate.

Pennsylvania, like most states, does not consider advanced degrees as marital property.

As in other jurisdictions, divorcing couples normally sell the marital home and divide the profits, or sell the home to one party and refinance, or the custodial parent occupies the house until the last child leaves school and then they sell it.

Retirement benefits are marital property when the worker meets all the requirements for payout. This is called vested. They are either Defined Contribution Plans (DC), such as a 401(k), or Defined Benefit Plans (DB), which is the company pension. That part of a pension accumulated during a marriage is community property and subject to distribution. When spouses share in each other's pension plan, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) must be prepared. The QDRO spells out the terms and conditions of the pension distribution.

Pennsylvania Alimony and Spousal Support

The court awards alimony only when it is necessary; it is discretionary. The court considers several relevant factors, including "any marital misconduct or fault"; "whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment"; and "whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property."

Courts award alimony pendente lite to needy spouses after a divorce has been filed and up until the divorce is finalized, regardless of any misconduct. This type of alimony is awarded on an emergency basis.

Alimony may be ordered for a limited period of time or a longer period of time "depending in the circumstances an the interest of justice." The court may change alimony based on a change in circumstances, such as a sudden increase or decrease in either party's income.

Pennsylvania Child Custody

Unlike many jurisdictions, Pennsylvania statutes do not include a best interest of the child standard, but courts apply specific factors, including "the mental and physical health of the parents and child" the adjustment of a child to home; "the ability of each parent to see the child's well being"; and "in some cases, the desires of the child."

In Pennsylvania, "shared custody" is used in lieu of "joint custody," and can refer to shared legal and physical custody (or both) that insures frequent physical contract with both parents. Courts permit a variety of custody regimes, but must consider all relevant factors in determining whether joint custody is workable.

Divorcing parents with minor children may be required to complete a parenting class unless the court waives this requirement.

Sometimes a third party, such as grandparents, may be awarded custody when the court determines that both parents are detrimental to the best interests of the child. If the court determines that the biological parents are detrimental (for example, the parents are sex offenders), they may be granted supervised visitation.

Courts enjoy wide latitude in determining visitation. The court may order supervised visitation when the court has reservations about the child's safety with one parent alone.

Pennsylvania Child Support

Pennsylvania uses the Income Shares model to determine child support. In this routine, a child receives the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have be receiving if the parents had not divorced because in an intact household, both parents pool their income and spent it for the benefit of all household members, including any children. Income Shares, which is based on a principal in the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, considers the gross income of both parents and then establishes the proportion each contributes and divides it among their minor children.

If the noncustodial parent earns more than the custodial parent, the visiting parent assumes a higher share of the child's support, but if the visiting parent earns less than the custodial parent, he or she pays a smaller share of the support. Courts can decide support guidelines are unjust based on any "relevant factor."

Sometimes, after calculating support, courts permit adjustments up or down that are called deviation factors. Courts may consider extraordinary expenses, independent income, seasonal fluctuation in parents' income, special needs as well "any other reason that should be considered to make child support more equitable." Likewise, extraordinary expenses can be either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment paid by the noncustodial parent, or a deduction, where it is subtracted.

A parent may be ordered to include a child on medical insurance, particularly when the visiting parent receives health insurance.

Courts order temporary child support during custody and support actions, and either parent may be order to pay.

Pennsylvania Service of Process for Divorce

Original service of process must be completed with 30 days of filing the complaint. Service of process outside the Commonwealth must happen within 90 days of filing, and is guided by the same rules for service of process in Pennsylvania.

In a divorce, the server delivers the summons and complaint to the defendant, and completes an Affidavit of Service that identified the recipient, time, address and manner of service.

After service, the process server completes an Affidavit of Service.

When a spouse is missing, service by publication permits constructive notice, which, after a diligent search, permits publication of the action for three successive weeks in a newspaper.

A Simple Divorce Process
Step 1 See if you qualify & create account!
Step 2 Answer the questions at your own pace.
Step 3 Print, sign and file your divorce forms with your local court (instantly review & print your forms online or have them sent US Priority Mail at no additional charge).

START HERE

Only $299 (flat-fee)

or 2 monthly payments of $157
or 3 monthly payments of $109
or 4 monthly payments of $84
Payment Options Do Not Delay Divorce
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100% Guarantee of Court Approval
or Your Money Back
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