PA Divorce Process

By Amy R. Stern, Esquire

I find that many people are very confused about the actual divorce process in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of misconceptions and myths out there so I thought it might be a good idea to clear some of them up.

First, Pennsylvania is a no fault state. So even if you have grounds to be divorced, i.e. adultery, abuse, abandonment, etc., most people end up getting a no fault divorce because the court will not hear fault grounds unless one spouse refuses to consent to the divorce. Consent forms cannot be signed until 90 days after service of the divorce complaint, and even if both parties sign consents the divorce will not be final until all assets and debts are divided either by agreement or by the court.

Assets are not automatically divided 50/50 in PA. Rather, we have Equitable Distribution, whereby assets are divided based upon what is considered to be fair in a particular case. Things such as length of marriage, ages of the parties and incomes are looked at in dividing assets. Whether the divorce is caused by one spouse is not a factor in how assets are divided. So even if someone cheated and now is leaving and wants the divorce that will not make a difference in how assets are divided.

Finally, if one party will not agree to the divorce they can make the other wait for 2 years to move the process ahead. This does not mean the divorce is going to be final in 2 years. It just means that once the 2 year separation period is up, the moving party can ask the court to move the divorce along and schedule a hearing to discuss equitable distribution.

Hopefully this helps explain the divorce process and clears up some misconceptions. This is not always an easy or amicable process, and the assistance of an attorney is often needed.