Pennsylvania Divorce FAQs:

Steps To File Your Own Divorce:

Step 1: Download our free online divorce forms kit.

Step 2: The person who is deciding to file for divorce must complete all of the required divorce forms. The finished divorce papers must then be filed with the family court in the state where you reside. You can get divorced in a state other than the state you were married in as long as you meet the residency requirements for the state where you are going to file your divorce. You will also be required to pay a filing fee for your complete divorce forms. The fee to file for divorce varies from state to state. Check with your local family court to get the exact cost to file for divorce in your state.

Step 3: The spouce that files for divorce must notify the other spouse that you have filed for divorce by using the divorce forms included in our download.

Step 4: You and your spouse should outline in your divorce settlement agreement the terms you have agreed upon and set forth for one another such as child custody and support, property and asset division, spousal support, etc.

Step 5: After you have completed all of the required divorce forms and have filed them in divorce court, the court will review your divorce documents and issue you a final decree of divorce.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania permits divorces to be granted upon the following grounds:

1. Willful and malicious desertion for a period of one or more years 2. Adultery 3. Cruel and barbarous treatment which endangered the life or health of the innocent spouse 4. Bigamy 5. Imprisonment for two or more years 6. Indignities to the innocent spouse as to render that spouse's condition intolerable and life burdensome 7. Institutionalization in mental institution for at least 18 months 8. Irretrievable breakdown

A divorce based upon irretrievable breakdown may be awarded two separate ways. First, if the parties allege that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown and both parties file an affidavit consenting to the divorce, the court may award a divorce after a period of 90 days have elapsed from the date of commencement of the proceeding. Second, if the one of the parties allege that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown and the filing party files an affidavit stating that the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least 2 years and the defendant either does not deny the allegations set forth in the affidavit of denies on or more of the allegations but the court determines the allegations to be true, the court may enter a decree of divorce.

Residency requirements At least one of the parties the the action for divorce must have resided in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for at least six months immediately prior the the commencement of the action for divorce. Venue The action for divorce may be properly brought in the county in which the plaintiff or defendant resides, or in any county which the parties have agreed to writing or participated in the proceedings.

Name of court and title of action/parties An action for divorce in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is filed in the Court of Common Pleas.

Alimony/spousal support/maintenance Alimony is payment made by one party to the other after the divorce, either by court order or by mutual agreement. This type of post-divorce payment is also sometimes referred to as maintenance. The Divorce Code provides that the court may allow alimony to either party "only if it finds that alimony is necessary."

Under Pennsylvania law, married people are financially responsible for each other — the husband has a duty to support his wife, and the wife has a duty to support her husband. This duty lasts until the final Decree in Divorce is granted. It doesn't stop simply because the couple separates. Once the parties file for a mutual-consent no-fault divorce, they must wait at least 90 days and often significantly longer before the final Decree in Divorce is granted. During this period, an agreement on support payments may be appropriate if the parties are separated.

Alimony in Pennsylvania is authorized in limited situations and is not the broad remedy that it is in other states. Alimony in Pennsylvania is either "rehabilitative" or "permanent" .

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to be a short-term measure which enables a spouse to get back on his or her feet. Alimony is awarded to enable the other spouse to go back to school or to acquire needed skills that would enable the spouse to be competitive in the job market. Usually a spouse who has chosen the role of becoming a homemaker and raising children has not been able to develop the skills necessary for productive and gainful employment.

"Permanent alimony" continues for a long period of time, possibly until the death of the party receiving the alimony and is usually awarded when one of the parties is unable to work due to age physical or mental illness.

If the court determines that a spouse is eligible for alimony, the following factors are then considered in the award:

(1) the financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony, including both separate and community property and liabilities; (2) the spouse's ability to meet his or her needs independently; (3) the education and employment skills of the spouses; (4) the time necessary for the supported spouse to acquire sufficient training or education to enable him or her to find employment; (5) the availability and feasibility of that training; (6) the duration of the marriage; (7) the age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony; (8) the ability of the supporting spouse to meet their own needs and make any child support payments; (9) excessive or abnormal expenditures, concealment or destruction of any property by either spouse; (10) the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits, and any separate property; (11) the contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse; (12) the contribution of either spouse as homemaker; (13) any marital misconduct of the spouse seeking alimony; (14) whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her needs; (15) the efforts of the spouse seeking alimony to obtain self- support skills while the divorce is pending or during any separation; and (16) property brought to the marriage by either spouse. (17) any tax ramifications;

Child custody and visitation A court gives the "best interests of the child" the highest priority when deciding custody issues. What the best interests of a child are in a given situation depends upon many factors, including:

(1) The child's age, gender, mental and physical health (2) The mental and physical health of the parents (3) The lifestyle and other social factors of the parents, including whether the child is exposed to second-hand smoke and whether there is any history of child abuse (4) The love and emotional ties between the parent and the child, as well as the parent's ability to give the child guidance (5) The parent's ability to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing and medical care (6) The child's established living pattern (school, home, community, religious institution) (7) The quality of the schools attended by the children (8) The child's preference, if the child is above a certain age (usually about 12), and (9) The ability and willingness of the parent to foster healthy communication and contact between the child and the other parent.

Assuming that none of these factors clearly favors one parent over the other, most courts tend to focus on which parent is likely to provide the children a stable environment. With younger children, this may mean awarding custody to the parent who has been the child's primary caregiver. With older children, this may mean giving custody to the parent who is best able to foster continuity in education, neighborhood life, religious institutions and peer relationships.

Child Support Child support is money paid by one parent (usually the non-custodial parent) to the other in order that the child(ren) receive the benefit of approximately the same amount of the combined income of the parents as they did prior to the divorce. Pennsylvania has estabilished Child Support Guidelines which will be used by the court as a guide to awarding child support, or confirming the parents' agreement as to amount of child support. A discussion of the Guidelines can be viewed here: Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.