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What you need to know about divorce in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2024 | Family Law

Most couples intend for their marriage to be a permanent arrangement. The benefit of the union is that it legally and financially protects both parties, as well as their children. In fact, the latest data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health found that nearly 59,000 couples took this significant step.

At the same time, almost 29,000 married couples went through a divorce or annulment because the reality is that every marriage does not work out. Just as marriage is a weighty step with major implications, so is a legal separation. For that reason, the State of Pennsylvania sets specific guidelines for anyone filing for divorce.

Eligibility criteria for filing for divorce in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law stipulates that at least one of the spouses must have residency in Pennsylvania. One only establishes residency after having lived in the state for a minimum of six months.

Furthermore, residency is not merely a physical presence. The individual must intend to reside here indefinitely. Also, the divorce filing must occur in the county where one of the spouses resides.

Fault vs. no-fault divorces

A no-fault divorce is where one party or both believe the marriage is impossible to save and neither side pins the blame on the other. A person may file for either a mutual consent divorce, where both agree to the split, or a separation divorce, where the parties have lived separately for at least a year, regardless of mutual agreement.

On the other hand, fault divorces are when one spouse alleges specific misconduct against the other that is grounds for the split. Such grounds can include desertion, adultery, cruel treatment, bigamy or other indignities. In such cases, the plaintiff must prove the accusations in court. However, the court may require up to three counseling sessions when the grounds for divorce are other indignities.

The division of property

Another key factor is the division of property. If the couple can agree on asset division, they can submit an agreement for the approval of the court. The couple can proceed with their agreement if the court accepts it as fair.

Otherwise, the court decides on the division of marital property. The court follows the principles of “equitable distribution.” This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split. Rather, it is an allocation that is fair and just in the court’s eyes.

Even when a divorce is amicable and the couple agrees on various issues, handling the paperwork and officially finalizing the agreement can become complex. Anyone considering a divorce should take sufficient time to ensure the process leads to an outcome that meets their needs, which often means working with a divorce attorney.