What to Know About Divorcing in Pennsylvania

hand holding wedding ring up

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania and you are on the cusp of a divorce, you must prepare yourself for the ordeal. Getting through the process is not always easy, but the more you understand the state’s laws, the easier it will be to get through the process.

Grounds for Divorce

To get divorced in Pennsylvania, there must be a legal reason stated as to why the marriage is ending. These reasons are known as the grounds for divorce. Grounds can be fault-based or no-fault based. A fault-based divorce means an “innocent” spouse is filing for divorce because their partner committed a specific fault. A no-fault divorce means neither spouse did anything specific to cause the divorce.

In Pennsylvania, a divorce can be granted on the following grounds:

  • Adultery: You must prove that your spouse has been unfaithful to you, which can be difficult without a confession or concrete evidence (photos, eyewitness accounts, etc.).

  • Abandonment: If your spouse has left you with no intention of returning, you can divorce them after a year.

  • Bigamy: If you can prove that your spouse was already married when they married you, then divorce is possible on the grounds of bigamy.

  • Felony conviction and imprisonment: If your spouse has been convicted of a felony and sent to prison, you can file for divorce after two years.

  • Cruelty and abuse: You will need to prove that your spouse has mentally and physically abused you and that it is unsafe for you to live with them. Medical records, police reports, and other official documents will be accepted by the court.

  • Institutionalization: If your spouse develops serious mental health issues, it is possible for you to divorce them. If they are institutionalized for this illness, you will need to wait at least 18 months and there must be no prospect for them to be discharged.

  • Irreconcilable differences: If there has been a complete breakdown in the relationship, you can file for divorce. This is considered to be a “no-fault” divorce.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is one of the issues that must be faced in a divorce or separation agreement. In Pennsylvania, spousal support is a certain amount of money paid by one ex-spouse to another. Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, can provide financial stability to one spouse until they can make a living on their own.

In Pennsylvania, there are several options for those seeking alimony. Spousal support can be paid as a lump sum or in regular increments for a set period of time. In some cases it may be paid infinitely if certain circumstances are present. Additionally, spousal support may be paid to the other spouse during the divorce process if the court orders alimony pendente lite.

The court will determine whether to award spousal support based on the following factors:

  • Income and earning capacities of each party

  • Each party’s sources of income

  • The length of the marriage

  • Each party’s health and age

  • Child custody arrangements

  • The standard of living during the marriage

  • Each party’s financial needs

  • Marital misconduct during the marriage

  • Property division results

  • Whether there are any potential inheritances or other assets that could be acquired in the future

  • Each party’s assets and debts

  • Each party’s contributions during the marriage

  • Any other information that is relevant to the case

Property Division

After your divorce, you are essentially rebuilding your life. To do this, it is important to get your fair share of the estate, which includes money, property, and other assets.

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means the court will divide property in the fairest way possible. This does not always mean an equal division. Only marital property will be divided during property division.

Marital property is any asset that either spouse earned or purchased during the marriage. The court will look at several factors before a final judgment is made regarding how to split property equitably.

Factors that are considered include:

  • Duration of the marriage

  • Spousal support obligations

  • Earning capacity of each spouse

  • Child custody arrangements

  • Anything else the court deems relevant

On the other hand, separate property is any asset acquired before the marriage cannot be divided among the divorcing spouses. The only exception to this rule concerns investments made just before the marriage. If your spouse started a business or made some other kind of investment before you tied the knot and that business grew into a fortune during your years of marriage, then you may be entitled to a share of it.

Seek an Attorney

If you are considering a divorce, the first thing you should do is hire a family law attorney. A Clarks Summit divorce lawyer will be able to give you the insight and expertise you need to get a fair settlement. O’Malley Law Office has over 80 years of combined experience and is committed to helping our clients through this difficult time.

Call O’Malley Law Office today at (570) 284-3551 for the experience you need, and the results you want!