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Starting a Divorce in Pennsylvania

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 15-Feb-2016

Are you considering filing for divorce in Pennsylvania? If so, do you know what needs to be done in order for the process to get started? If you will be the one to initiate the divorce, you will be called the "plaintiff" and your spouse the "defendant."

To begin, a legal document called a Complaint of Divorce will need to be filed at your local courthouse. The complaint will provide the name and address of both you and your spouse, and it will indicate which type of divorce you are seeking.

Your complaint may also say that you are seeking something else, such as custody of your children, spousal support, and a property settlement. A copy of your divorce complaint must be served upon your husband or wife, the defendant.

Will you have to serve the divorce complaint upon your spouse in-person? No, you will not. Usually, complaints are served in-person by the sheriff, or via certified mail.

In order to file a divorce in Pennsylvania, at least one of you must have lived in PA for six months or longer.

Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there are four types of divorces: mutual consent, two-year separation, fault divorce, and mental hospital. The first two fall under "no-fault" grounds because with these, you are not required to prove that one spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage.

1. Mutual consent divorce. This is by far the fastest and simplest way to divorce. As soon as 90 days after the complaint is served upon the defendant, the spouses can file an affidavit agreeing to the divorce. During this 90-day period, the spouses' attorneys try to reach an agreement regarding property and debt division, spousal support (where applicable) and child custody.

2. Two-year separation option. This is a no-fault divorce where the defendant is refusing to consent to the divorce. In this case, the plaintiff has to wait until they've been separated from their spouse for at least two years before the divorce can be granted.

3. Fault-based divorce. This is the old fashioned "fault-based" option where the plaintiff has to prove that they are innocent and their spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Such grounds include but are not limited to adultery, domestic violence and abandonment for at least a year.

4. Spouse is in a mental hospital. If a spouse has been in a mental hospital for at least 18 months and he or she is expected to stay there for another 18 months or longer, the court can grant the defendant a divorce.

To file a no-fault divorce, contact a Pennsylvania divorce attorney from Cairns Law Offices. We would be glad to discuss your affordable divorce options!