Depending on the individuals involved, as well as assets and debts, divorce in Pennsylvania can be a simple or a complex process. The end goal of any divorce is the equitable distribution of any and all marital assets such as houses, retirement accounts, vehicles and stocks, as well as marital liabilities, such as credit cards, loans and mortgages whether the assets/debts are titled jointly or separately. Once this distribution is finalized, the court will issue a decree in divorce.
Pennsylvania law provides for both a fault and no-fault divorce to persons residing in the state for at least six months prior to a divorce action being commenced.
The less common form of divorce, fault divorces, are often time-consuming and more expensive. At the outset, you must prove the following two things: the plaintiff is the “innocent and injured spouse” and that the defendant has committed one of the six enumerated forms of marital misconduct listed below:
- Willful and malicious desertion without reasonable cause for at least one year
- Cruel and barbarous treatment
- Sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years
- Offered such indignities as to render the innocent and injured spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
In Pennsylvania, no-fault divorces are more common. They require both of the following:
- Proof that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”
- Consent to the divorce from both parties or a lapse of two years since the parties separated if separation occurred before December 5, 2016; or a lapse of one year if the parties separated after December 5, 2016
Timeframe for divorce
If both individuals consent to the divorce, including the terms of their separation which are usually outlined in a Marriage Settlement Agreement (MSA), the initiating party can request that the court issue a divorce decree once 90 days have elapsed from the service of the divorce complaint to the other party. The court will then issue the decree in divorce as long as all of the procedural requirements have been met.
Alternatively, if one of the parties does not consent to the divorce, the person initiating the divorce cannot force the other spouse to proceed through the court system unless two years have elapsed from the date of separation (if separation occurred before December 5, 2016) or one year has elapsed if the parties separated after December 5, 2016. It should be noted that while Pennsylvania does not recognize “legal separation,” the establishment of a “date of separation” is important in a divorce matter.
Whatever method you decide, attorneys of the Burns White Family Law Group can walk you through all the necessary steps required to finalize a divorce in Pennsylvania in the most cost efficient, straightforward and swiftest manner possible.