Many couples believe that divorce in Pennsylvania is always long, expensive, and stressful. However, while it is an emotionally difficult experience no matter the family situation, there are ways to make the process quicker, simpler, and cheaper.
To understand your options, you need to know which Pennsylvania divorce laws govern the marriage dissolution process. Your ability to cooperate with your spouse and the legal requirements you need to meet determine the steps you will have to take when filing for divorce in Pennsylvania.
In order for the state court to review your case, you need to meet the residency requirements. According to Pennsylvania divorce laws, one of the spouses (or both) should live in PA for at least 6 months to be state residents and start the filing process. If you have minor children and want the court to make custody and child support decisions, make sure Pennsylvania is your kids’ home state.
Step 2: Discussing the Type of Divorce
There are several types of divorce the couple may file for depending on specific details of their case.
- The easiest and fastest one, a Pennsylvania uncontested divorce, can be filed without a lawyerand does not require considerable expenses. It does, however, require that you and your spouse agree on major family and financial decisions.
- For those spouses who don’t want to hire an attorney but need help with paperwork preparation, a PA online divorce service is the best option. On our website, you can get a full packet of forms for only $139, along with instructions on the next steps to take.
- A contested divorce in PA is the type of divorce where a court makes decisions on matters disputed by spouses. A contested process is much longer than an uncontested one and is also quite expensive since lawyers and sometimes other experts, such as child custody evaluators or real estate appraisers, may be involved.
- The spouses may also file for a divorce after legal separation in PA. If the couple has been separated for more than 1 year, they may file for a no-fault divorce due to ‘an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.’
- Even though Pennsylvania laws do not formally recognize a domestic partnership in PA, people who believe they are in a civil union may need help entering into an agreement about children or joint finances after they split. In such instances, it is always best to get a legal consultation to understand which options are available.
Step 3: Preparing the Paperwork
It is impossible to define the amount of divorce paperwork in Pennsylvania without knowing all the details of the case. Since there is a variety of forms, spouses who file for a marriage dissolution have to identify the right papers to file. Some of the common divorce forms the courts require are:
- Divorce Complaint
- Notice to Defend
- Affidavit of Non-Military Service
- Entry of Appearance of Self-Represented Party
- Affidavit of Acceptance of Service
- Affidavit of Consent
- Divorce Decree
You may find and fill out most of these forms on your own. However, as easy as it may sound, you are actually looking at filling out about 40-80 pages of text. Some questions are repetitive, legal terminology is confusing, and it takes time to figure out which documents should be notarized and how it is done properly.
Additionally, t is no specific Settlement Agreement form adopted by the PA courts, even though it is required. Spouses often ask their lawyers to prepare this document for them and detail all their agreements. If you are filing on your own and don’t want to increase your expenses, you may be looking for a Marital Settlement Agreement template online, but it is unlikely you’ll find a credible website to just download it from.
If you get your paperwork from our service, none of the above will be an issue. Our simplified questionnaire can help you answer all the necessary questions in as quickly as 30 minutes and receive all the necessary filled-out forms, including the Marital Settlement Agreement.
Step 4: Filing for Divorce
The petitioner (a person who is initiating a divorce) must file the paperwork in the court of the county they reside in. When in court, they will also have to pay filing fees that range between $300 and $400.
Even though you can get paperwork help without going to court, you cannot file for divorce online in Pennsylvania since all the documents must be signed manually and handed to the court clerk. If you need an alternative filing option, it is best to contact the clerk with an inquiry.
Step 5: Serving the Divorce Papers
As soon as you file the paperwork with the court, you have to officially notify your spouse that the marriage dissolution proceedings have commenced. The process of serving divorce papers in Pennsylvania can be performed by a petitioner via certified mail. Alternatively, you can hire a sheriff or process server or ask someone you trust who is over 18 years to deliver the paperwork to your spouse. Such a person will have to sign an affidavit proving they have handled the service.
Step 6: Filing the Response
Being served with divorce papers, the defendant (the second party who is being notified about the divorce) may provide an official answer to the court. They will have 20 days to do it after receiving the paperwork. If there is nothing to dispute, you can file an Affidavit of Consent.
Step 7: Waiting Through the Settlement Period
Even if your case is uncontested, there is a mandatory 90-day divorce waiting period before the couple gets the final hearing. This time provides spouses with the opportunity to reconcile and not to proceed with the marriage dissolution.
Step 8: Presenting Financial Disclosures
In Pennsylvania, you and your spouse might be required to complete financial disclosure. This is the process of showing each other all assets, incomes, debts, etc., on paper. The spouses must provide various pieces of financial information, including tax returns, credit card information, insurance data, a list of properties, and anything else of monetary value.
Step 9: Final Judgment
If you are filing for a mutual consent divorce, you may not need to come to the court for a final hearing. However, if the judge needs more information from your or your spouse, you may be required to come to answer some questions.
If your presence is not needed, the judge will review the paperwork and issue the Final Decree. After it is sent to you, your divorce is finalized.
Step 10: Resolving the Post-Divorce Issues
Even though your divorce may be final, you may still face some problems. This is especially frequent in cases with children. The most common post-divorce issues are:
- Changes in employment necessitating child support adjustments
- The need to modify the custody order due to some reasons
- Cases when one of the parents plans to move
- When one of the spouses does not comply with the orders
In any of these cases, the parties have to file requests or complaints with the court and potentially hire lawyers.
Alice Lafountain is an author of books about divorce, marriage, and relationships. She is a widely known relationship expert with a family law and psychology background. Alice has contributed to many popular blogs, and her work can be seen on websites such as Divorce Magazine and Women’s Divorce. Her articles cover her personal advice and support for couples seeking a divorce. In her free time, she enjoys photography, traveling, and trying new restaurants.