How to file for a divorce in PA?

September 10, 2021

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Divorces have never been an easy task. It requires a person to be both mentally, physically, and financially strong. No one ever thinks of divorce on their big D-Day. But apparently, things change with time. Almost 40 to 50 % of marriages don’t evolve or flourish in the US. Divorces can be a result of multiple reasons like infidelity, abusiveness, toxicity, etc. 

Therefore, if you live in Pennsylvania and would like to file for a divorce, this plain, straightforward guide will give you a complete insight into all the information required for filing for divorce in PA. Also, once you know all the information, you can speak with your attorney very smartly as you have all the essential points in your mind. It can help you understand the situation and how to file for a divorce in PA?

File Your Divorce Online In Simple Steps.

Types of Divorce in PA

Before filing for divorce in PA, it’s essential to identify what type of divorce category your case falls under. Thus, to determine the kind of divorce, we have written below the divorce types in PA. Have a look from below – 

  1. Faulty Divorce 

Faulty divorce comes under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a). A faulty divorce is usually granted when one spouse can prove that the other spouse did something, which leads to the failure of the marriage. Six fault-based grounds for divorce are following – 

  • Adultery 
  • Bigamy
  • Imprisonment for two years 
  • Indignities
  • Barbarous treatment
  • Cruelty

It’s considered a contested divorce. It requires the couple to be moved to court for the case proceedings. Moreover, these types of divorce cases are lengthy and expensive.

2. Institutionalization Divorce

This type of divorce is separate from the fault divorcee and comes under 3301(b). This is for anyone whose spouse has been confined to a mental institution for 18 months. In addition, there’s no plan that the person will get a discharge within 18 months.

3. No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce is the type of dissolution of marriage when the one spouse filling the divorce case doesn’t have to prove that the other spouse does something.  

In Pennsylvania, two types of divorce come under the category of no-fault divorce authorized under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(c). They are mainly Mutual consent and § 3301(d) – Irretrievable breakdown.

  • Mutual Consent Divorce

A mutual consent divorce under § 3301(c) is the type in which both the parties file an affidavit – an assigned agreement that they both agree for the dissolution of the marriage. Also, there are 90 days in case any part changes, and after the completion of this time, the divorce gets finalized.

  • Irretrievable Breakdown Divorce
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This type of divorce is when the marriage is broken and can’t be mend at any cost, even after the court directs the counseling sessions. Also, both the spouses have been living separately for at least two years.

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Divorce Eligibility in PA

Now, before we move into the process of filing for divorce in PA, it’s essential to know whether you’re eligible to file for divorce or not. To be suitable for non-faulty or mutual consent, check the eligibility form below – 

  1. From the two of you, at least one of the people must be a resident of PA. Moreover, it must be for more than six months before filing for a divorce.
  2. The party must be filing for divorce in a country where at least one of them lives.
  3. Both parties must agree to the terms as written in the optional Marital Settlement Agreement.

Divorce Process in PA

After checking the eligibility for filing a divorce and the category in which your current situation or we should say case falls. Next, you can proceed simply by checking the steps below on How to get a divorce in PA?

Step 1 – File a complaint

To begin your case, you first have to file a divorce complaint in the courtroom. At this stage, Plaintiff will fill out six forms.

1. Praecipe for Pro Se Entry of Appearance 

2. Notice to Defend 

3. Notice of Right to Counseling 

4. Divorce Complaint Report

 5. Verification 

6. Compliance Certificate

7. Petition to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

After filling out the forms given above, the filer must make two copies of all the documents. So overall you will have three copies from which one will be of original forms,, and the other two will consist of photocopies. Next, you have to gather all the documents and take them to the Prothonotary’s Office to file the stamp. The original record will be kept in your file at the courthouse, while the other two copies will be given back to you—one to you and the second one to the other spouse.

Step 2 – Serving the Complaint

If your spouse lives in PA, you have 30 days to serve them the documents. But if in case your spouse doesn’t live in PA, then you get an average of 90 days for serving the documents from the day you filed the divorce. Also, if you fail to serve the papers, you have to file a Praecipe to Reinstate the Divorce Complaint as per the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. This document is for resuming the case.

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The court gives you two options for serving the documents – by mail or in person.

By Mail 

Informally, you can send your documents by regular first-class US email. But, along with it, you have to fill out an acceptance form.

Meanwhile, in the case of the Formal way, you can send copies to your spouse by Certified US Mail, Restricted, and Return Receipt Requests. Once your spouse signs, the documents will revert by signing the green receipt card. Next, you must complete the Acceptance of service form by attaching the duly signed green receipt card.

In-Person

If you feel you can provide the documents directly to your spouse, get them signed with the Affidavit of Service form. 

On the contrary, if you think any other adult from your relative serves this document to your spouse. They have to fill out the Affidavit of service. Moreover, you can take the help of a sheriff or a delivery service by paying the fees.

Step 3 – Final Forms

Once you finalize the above steps, you have to wait for some time before finalizing the divorce. 

For example, if your divorce case is on a mutual agreement, you have to wait for 90 days before taking any action. On the other hand, if your case is an irretrievable breakdown, the waiting period is one year.  

The following forms you need to fill at this stage as per the PA divorce rules and regulations once you pass the timeframe of 90 days in case of Mutual Consent Divorce.

  1. Affidavit of Consent and Waiver of Notice

The form is signed by both you and your spouse stating that you both agree to the divorce. Within 30 days of signing the copy, you will have to file the same documents to the Prothonotary’s office. 

  1.  Praecipe to Transmit Record and Divorce Decree

The form is filled after the completion of the forms written above. The reason behind filing this form is to get the finalization of the divorce. Moreover, you also need to submit the self-attested and addressed stamped envelopes so that the divorce decree can be posted to you.

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Forms In case of Irretrievable Breakdown Divorce

  1. Affidavit of Separation 

After completing the waiting period, you have to submit a copy of the Affidavit of Separation to Prothonotary’s office. 

  1. Counter Affidavit 

After getting the signed copy of the Affidavit of separation, then again, you have to send this copy along with the counter-affidavit. You can send the same via US Mail. Your spouse will have 20 days to revert to you with the duly signed forms and the answer to the divorce complaint.

  1. Notice of Intention to Request Entry of a Divorce Decree 

If your spouse fails to provide you with the above-signed documents, you must send the Notice of Intention to Request Entry of a Divorce Decree along with the blank Counter-Affidavit. You can do the same via sending through first-class US mail.

4. Evaluation of your Rights

Once you receive your divorce decree, you must evaluate your case and your rights related to the division of property, assets, spousal support, and child support. 

Fact Check!!

Are you aware that you can change your surname before filing for divorce or after receiving the divorce decree? Yes, you can; you have to fill Notice of Intent to Resume the Prior Surname form by paying a fee. 

Divorce Timeline – PA

Divorce isn’t easy if things are not done correctly. The divorce process can become cumbersome if anything turns out to be filled in the wrong manner. 

To give you a quick insight, we have provided the divorce timeline. You can check from below – 

  • The first step of the divorce process, i.e., Filing a complaint, will take around one week.
  • However, the second step, i.e., Serving the complaint, usually takes 30 days after the complaint expires. Moreover, in that case, you have to wait for 90 days minimum.
  • Lastly, the judge will take 4 to 6 weeks to finalize our divorce and sign your divorce decree.

Final Advice

If you are planning to file for divorce, then the best thing you can do is seek legal help. First, contact your attorney by giving them a detailed description of your case. Only your attorney can guide you the best without wasting your resources. 

Ending a marriage officially with proper documentation and division of property sometimes turns out to be messy if not done with the entire procedure. The attorney will discuss your details with you by telling you all the consequences. So, on the safer side, it’s always best to seek the help of a local attorney.