How Do I Start the Divorce Process in Pennsylvania?

judge writing on paper

During the divorce process, there are many issues, such as alimony, child support, child custody, and property division, that need to be addressed before a final agreement can be reached. But before you can even start these discussions, you need to undergo the process of filing for divorce. Follow along to learn how to start the divorce process and how an experienced York County, PA divorce attorney can guide you through it step by step.

What is the first step to starting the divorce process in Pennsylvania?

To kickstart your divorce, you must first file a Complaint, which can be completed with the Notice to Defend and Claim Rights form and the Verification form. Then, your spouse must be served these documents within 30 days of filing if they live in Pennsylvania or within 90 days of filing if they live outside of the state.

Unique to most states, Pennsylvania has a relatively simple residency requirement law, which is used by the court to establish jurisdiction. That is, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing.

What grounds do I have to file for divorce?

Also uncommon to most states, Pennsylvania allows you the right to choose between fault and no-fault grounds to file for divorce. Commonly used and acceptable no-fault grounds in the state of Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Irretrievable breakdown: if you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for over one year and there is no chance of reconciliation.
  • Mutual consent: if both you and your spouse consent to the divorce and 90 days have passed since the initial filing.

Using no-fault grounds can be beneficial because they avoid legal issues before the process even begins and they have little impact on a divorce decree. This is different than fault grounds, as they are used to blame your spouse for the breakdown of the marriage and thus allow your spouse to object to the reason for the divorce. Ultimately, issues can arise when they are contested. On that note, below are some commonly used and acceptable fault grounds in the state of Pennsylvania:

  • Your spouse committed adultery during the marriage.
  • Your spouse deserted you.
  • You experienced cruel and inhumane treatment from your spouse that left you in emotional of physical danger.
  • Your spouse was bigamous.
  • Your spouse was imprisoned after the marriage began.
  • Your spouse created an environment of intolerable conditions.
  • Your spouse was institutionalized after the marriage began.
  • You and your spouse lived apart due to a signed separation agreement.
  • You and your spouse lived apart due to a signed judgment separation drawn up by the court.

If you are still unsure whether to use the no-fault or fault route, do not hesitate in reaching out to one of the skilled York County, PA family law attorneys today.


If you need legal assistance with personal injury cases, criminal defense matters, family law issues, estate planning law matters, and more, contact Ilkhanoff & Silverstein today. 

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