Pennsylvania is unusual among states in that it still has both no-fault and fault divorce options on the books. The many issues regarding divorce in PA are defined in Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations, Part IV.

Uncontested Divorce

There are two no-fault, or uncontested, options: Mutual Consent and Irretrievable Breakdown.

Mutual Consent: In Mutual Consent Divorce, both spouses file affidavits requesting a divorce. There is a 90-day minimum waiting period, and then if they still both agree, the divorce can be finalized.

Irretrievable Breakdown: When a marriage has severely deteriorated, under the “irretrievably broken” grounds for divorce, spouses must live “separate and apart for a period of at least one year.” After separation, only one party needs to file an affidavit, indicating the date at which the separation began and that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The affidavit must be filed in court and served to the spouse, who has 40 days to contest or to argue for economic relief. If the served spouse does not respond in time, the divorce can be finalized by only one party.

Contested Divorce

Pennsylvania Law cannot force a spouse to sign divorce papers. If a spouse contests the divorce or denies separation, then the other spouse may be forced to file a “fault” divorce. The grounds under which such a claim can be made in Pennsylvania are defined in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a) and (b):

1.       Willful and malicious desertion

2.       Adultery

3.       Cruel and barbarous treatment, endangering life or health of injured and innocent spouse

4.       Bigamy

5.       Imprisonment for more than 2 years

6.       Intolerable and burdensome indignities to spouse

7.       Institutionalization in a mental institution at least 18 months prior to and

expected subsequent to filing

If your spouse will not leave the family home and thus initiate the separation, under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3502(c)  you can file for exclusive possession of the family home.

Talk to a trusted advisor who is an expert in divorce and family law to help determine what steps you need to take. We help people every day to get through this difficult process and start fresh. Call us for a consultation.

The procedures outlined below are suitable for an amicable divorce where there are no ancillary issues such as equitable distribution, custody or support. First, a Complaint in Divorce must be filed with the court. This may be your local county court or another county courthouse within the Commonwealth provided you consent to their jurisdiction. The difference in filing fees is a reason why you may look into filing outside of your county. Second, the Complaint in Divorce needs to be served on the opposing party. This can be done informally by having the other party execute an Acceptance of Service. Other options include service via certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery or personal service by a process server of the Sheriff’s office.

Third, you must establish grounds for the divorce. For a no-fault divorce this would be either mutual consent of the parties after ninety (90) days or one or more year(s) of separation. If pursuing mutual consent, both parties would need to sign an Affidavit of Consent as well as Waiver of Notice for the divorce. If doing a divorce on the basis of separation, one party would file an Affidavit of Separation with the court and then serve it on the other party with a counter-affidavit to make sure they don’t object to the date of separation. The final step is filing a Praecipe to Transmit for Divorce Decree. This motion details all the prior steps for a divorce have been properly completed and includes the actual form of decree for the court’s signature if the motion is satisfactory.

Click here to read more about divorce.