News & Events

How to File for Divorce in PA – Part 1

This article is the first in a series that will give a
basic overview of Pennsylvania’s divorce process.

If you are considering a divorce, it is important for you to know the process and what rights and duties will change by ending your marriage. To be legally divorced, you must file a divorce action with the correct court and follow that process to its end in order for the court to enter a divorce decree.

In Pennsylvania, you begin a divorce action by filing a divorce complaint with a Court of Common Pleas (“Court”). The party who files the divorce complaint is called the “plaintiff,” and the other party is called the “defendant.” There are rules that identify the appropriate county for a plaintiff to file the divorce complaint, and after it is filed, a copy of the complaint must be served on the defendant. Service must be done in a certain way, and written proof of the service must be filed with the Court within a certain period of time.

Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Divorce Filings

In order to finalize the divorce case and obtain a divorce decree in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff must establish legal grounds for the divorce. Pennsylvania’s two most common no-fault grounds for divorce are as follows: (1) both parties agree to the divorce and 90 days have passed since the service of the divorce complaint; or (2) the parties separated and remained separated for a period of one year. There are specific documents that need to be filed and served for each of these no-fault grounds for divorce.

Common Questions Regarding Divorce in PA

One question that is frequently asked is how to establish a date of separation which will begin the one year time period. One way of doing this is for the plaintiff to serve the divorce complaint on the defendant. However, a party can also establish a date of separation based on other factors that show they were not acting as a married couple.

Another question that is frequently asked is if you are “divorced” in Pennsylvania after you have been separated for one year without needing to do anything else. The answer is no. You are still legally married until you have filed the divorce complaint with the correct court and have gone through the entire divorce process ending with the Court entering a divorce decree.

Protecting Yourself

It is very important that you obtain legal advice before a divorce decree is entered by the Court because the divorce decree ends your marital status and can mean, at a minimum, changes in your legal rights and possibly a complete loss of certain legal rights. In order to protect our client, we work with him or her through the divorce process, including the division of property and whether one party will pay financial support to the other party or will pay the other party’s attorney fees, etc. We will address these topics in more detail in future articles.

If you have questions about divorce or about any other domestic issues, please contact the attorneys in our family law practice group.

**This update is provided for informational purposes only
and should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an
attorney-client relationship where one does not already exist.**