Maybe you've been thinking about getting divorced for a while. Maybe something has pushed you over the brink. Maybe your spouse just informed you they would like a divorce and you're not sure what to do. No matter what brought you here, we can help.
There are four different types of divorce in the state of Pennsylvania. You or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months to file for divorce here.
Mutual consent divorce: This is the most common, least expensive, and fastest kind of divorce in Pennsylvania. Both parties sign an affidavit (a notarized and sworn written statement) that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There is a 90-day waiting period before the divorce can be finalized. Many couples can settle all of their business, such as making and signing a divorce settlement agreement, in that 90-day period. Sometimes a mutual consent divorce can take longer if the couples can't agree about their divorce settlement agreement or if the courts are especially busy. A mutual consent divorce also allows couples to spare themselves the trial process, which can be expensive and emotionally daunting.
No-Fault Divorce: Sometimes, one spouse does not want a divorce and refuses to sign an affidavit stating the marriage is irretrievably broken. In the old days, you could not obtain a divorce in this situation unless you could prove one spouse was at "fault" because they engaged in infidelity, physical abuse, etc... Today one spouse can unilaterally petition the court for divorce, without needing to prove "fault", under the No-Fault statutes.
In Pennsylvania, you can get a No-Fault Divorce if you and your spouse have lived "separate and apart" for at least 12-months. There is no one single factor that determines when you are separated. The court instead looks at the entire circumstance to determine when you stopped acting as a married couple. It is not unusual for the couple going through the divorce to disagree on the date they started living "separate and apart" and for their lawyers to present evidence for the court to make a decision. If you or your spouse still contest the divorce after the one-year separation period, you will attend a hearing in which the court will determine whether or not there is a "reasonable prospect of reconciliation". If they determine there is, you will attend reconciliation counseling and go to another hearing after 90 days-120 days. If the court determine there is still no chance of reconciliation, then your divorce will be granted.
Fault divorce: Fault divorces are the most expensive because the court must review and decide if the fault was actually committed. Sometimes, people still want to pursue a fault divorce because their spouse does not agree to the divorce and they don't want to wait for the year-long separation period. Also, it is possible that the judge would award more of the marital settlement to the innocent party if fault is proven.
In Pennsylvania, there are six methods to be granted a fault divorce:
Bigamy, or being married to more than one person at a time .
Desertion, or your spouse abandoning you for longer than one year.
Cruel and barbarous treatment, in which the life or health of the innocent spouse is endangered.
Adultery, or having a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse
Imprisonment, if your spouse has been convicted and sentenced for longer than 2 years.
"Indignities" that render the innocent spouse's life "burdensome" and "intolerable", which includes things like substantial debt, physical abuse, and humiliation.
Institutionalization: You can be granted a divorce if your spouse has been institutionalized for mental health issues for at least 18 months and it is unlikely they will be released from their institution for the next 18 months.
It is possible to get divorced in Pennsylvania by filing the paperwork yourself, but we would strongly encourage you to hire an attorney to ensure that the correct paperwork is filed on time and that the division of property, alimony or spousal support, custody, and/or child support is all in your best interest.
If you need help figuring out which kind of divorce is best for your situation, filing for divorce, drafting a divorce settlement agreement, or mediating your divorce, please contact us at Ruppert Law Firm today. We know that no two divorces are the same. We'll fight when we need to, and compromise when the time is right. Most importantly, we have the wisdom to know the difference.