By Mike Stetzer
Pennsylvania divorce laws cover all aspects of divorce, including alimony, property division, child support and child custody. Pennsylvania divorce law can be complex and hard to understand, so if you have any questions speak with a local Pennsylvania divorce attorney about how Pennsylvania divorce law may affect you and your family.
For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Pennsylvania's divorce laws:
Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. If you would like more information about divorce law or your divorce options, connect with a local divorce attorney today by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out the divorce case review form below. Protect your rights during the divorce process with legal advice from a divorce lawyer near you.
Pennsylvania divorce courts accept both no fault and fault ground for divorce. In a no fault divorce, the divorce petition states that the marriage is irretrievably broken. An affidavit is filed along with the divorce petition, alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least two years.
In a no fault divorce, the couple must also recognize Pennsylvania divorce waiting periods. After filing for divorce, at least 90 days must pass from the filing date or when the marriage is irretrievably broken before a divorce is granted.
If one spouse is filing for a fault divorce, there are a few grounds he or she can file under, including:
Before filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, one spouse must meet the Pennsylvania residency requirement. A Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can help you understand other Pennsylvania divorce laws and state requirements that may affect the length of the divorce process for you.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the marriage, some couples may be able to petition for an annulment. In a Pennsylvania annulment, it's as if the marriage never existed because it wasn't a legal marriage, according to Pennsylvania law. Either party is able to bring an action for annulment in Pennsylvania. An alleged marriage will be automatically void and will be annulled when:
A marriage that is voidable, may be annulled if:
The state of Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. The Pennsylvania divorce courts determine what is considered fair when making the property distribution. When making a property award in divorce, the Pennsylvania divorce court factors in:
Since Pennsylvania property division depends on the circumstances of the divorce, a local Pennsylvania divorce attorney can further explain how property distribution might be affected in your case.
Under divorce law, alimony may also be called maintenance or spousal support. When determining Pennsylvania alimony, the divorce court may consider:
Pennsylvania alimony will be terminated if the spouse receiving alimony remarries. It is also possible to modify or terminate alimony awards if there is a substantial and continuous change in circumstances for either spouse.
Pennsylvania divorce law doesn't have a waiting period to file for divorce. As long as you meet the Pennsylvania residency requirement, you can file a divorce petition at any time. Once the divorce petition is filed the divorce waiting period depends on the Pennsylvania grounds for divorce you file under. If you and your spouse agree to a no fault divorce, there is a 90 day waiting period before the rest of the divorce process can begin. There isn't a set waiting period if you file for a fault divorce.
The Pennsylvania divorce courts don't require either spouse to require either spouse to recognize a remarriage waiting period, unless the divorce court feels the circumstances of the divorce call for a waiting period.
The Pennsylvania divorce courts use the income share model when determining child support. Pennsylvania child support is calculated by estimating the amount of support available to the child if the family had remained intact. The estimated amount is then divided proportionally between the parents, depending on each parent's income. Pennsylvania divorce law uses the Pennsylvania child support worksheet with past pay stubs or W-2s.
Pennsylvania child support may vary from the Pennsylvania child support worksheets, depending on certain circumstances. The Pennsylvania divorce court will consider the following issues:
Once a child support order has been issued, it may be possible to modify child support if there is a change in circumstances. A local Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can explain the circumstances that may allow for Pennsylvania child support modification.
The Pennsylvania divorce court will order child custody or visitation to either parent. The key determining factor in child custody decisions is what is in the "best interest of the child". Typically the divorce courts like to ensure reasonable and continuing contact between both parents and the child by ordering joint child custody, as long as it's in the best interest of the child.
Pennsylvania divorce courts consider many factors when awarding child custody. Major contributing factors are any issues that impact the child's overall well-being, such as the child's preference and which parent is the most likely to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the child and noncustodial parent. Pennsylvania divorce law also takes into account each parent's and adult household member's present and past domestic violence record.
The combinations of different types of child custody can depend on the circumstances of the divorce. A local Pennsylvania divorce attorney can discuss how child custody might be determined in your divorce.
Pennsylvania divorce courts don't automatically grant visitation rights for grandparents, but Pennsylvania divorce law does allow grandparents to petition for child visitation.
If an unmarried child has resided with his or her grandparents for a year or more but is then removed from the home by his or her parents, the grandparents can petition for partial child custody or child visitation rights.
When determining visitation rights for grandparents, the Pennsylvania divorce court will apply the best interest of the child standard to decide if granting child visitation will interfere with the parent-child relationship.
If a grandparent petitions for physical child custody and legal child custody, the Pennsylvania divorce court will use the best interest standard and may award child custody if the grandparent:
Learn more about visitation rights for grandparents by speaking with a local Pennsylvania divorce attorney to get advice on your child visitation case.
Pennsylvania divorce courts order child support to ensure a child's financial security after the parents divorce. Child support provides the child with a standard of living he or she would have enjoyed if his or her parents stayed together.
Unpaid child support is an issue Pennsylvania divorce court must deal with like all other 49 states. To help collect unpaid child support, states establish child support enforcement agencies. Pennsylvania divorce court have the right to garnish wages if there is outstanding unpaid child support.
The divorce courts have an employer take out a portion of each paycheck to cover unpaid child support. Child support enforcement in Pennsylvania may also include suspension of licenses and being help in contempt of court. If a deadbeat parent is help in contempt, he or she may be:
The above synopsis of Pennsylvania divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Pennsylvania divorce lawyer in your area.
This "Pennsylvania Divorce Laws" page was last updated April 2009.
Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.