A divorce action may be filed in Pennsylvania so long as one of the spouses has been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six (6) months immediately prior to commencement of an action. To initiate a no-fault divorce action in Pennsylvania, one party (the plaintiff) files a Complaint in Divorce against the other (the defendant) alleging irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Irretrievable breakdown means estrangement due to marital difficulties with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Ninety (90) days after the Complaint has been served upon the defendant, both parties may file an affidavit consenting to the divorce, and after appropriate notice or waiver of notice, a divorce decree may be entered by the court. The divorce is then effective as of the date of the decree.
If one spouse will not consent to the divorce, the other spouse (the plaintiff) may still pursue a no-fault divorce by filing a Complaint in Divorce alleging irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Once the parties have lived separate and apart for two years, the plaintiff can file an affidavit stating that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the defendant does not deny these allegations, the court can enter a divorce decree. If the defendant denies one or more of the allegations in the affidavit, the court holds a hearing. At the hearing, if the court determines the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and the marriage is irretrievably broken, a divorce decree will be entered.
In the Complaint in Divorce, a plaintiff may raise economic claims, such as equitable distribution of the marital estate, alimony, and counsel fees, costs and expenses. Each of these claims must be set forth in a separate count in the Complaint in Divorce. Additionally, if claims for equitable distribution of the marital estate, alimony, and counsel fees, costs and expenses are not filed prior to the entry of a divorce decree, a party may lose rights concerning these claims. A defendant may also raise economic claims in response to a Complaint in Divorce by filing these claims with the court.
If economic claims are raised by either party to a divorce action, the parties may dispose of these claims upon agreement. If no agreement can be reached, the parties can request that the court adjudicate these claims. In adjudicating economic claims, the court takes into consideration many factors, such as length of marriage, age of parties, sources of income to parties, and standard of living, to name just a few. Marital misconduct is not a factor considered by the court in dividing marital property between the parties.
What It Means to You
Contact a member of Cipriani & Werner’s domestic relations group for further information regarding filing for divorce in Pennsylvania.