Divorce Requirements

In order to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania, there are three (3) basic requirements that must be met: 1) residency; 2) grounds upon which the divorce is sought; and 3) counseling.

RESIDENCY

Pennsylvania law requires that an action for divorce or annulment be commenced in Pennsylvania only when one or both of the parties to the divorce has been a bona fide resident in Pennsylvania for at least six (6) months immediately previous to the commencement of the divorce or annulment action. Once the residency requirement is established, the spouse who is filing for divorce must bring the proceeding in the appropriate county. A divorce or annulment action may be brought in the county:

  • where the defendant resides;
  • if the defendant resides outside of Pennsylvania, where the plaintiff resides;
  • of matrimonial domicile, if the plaintiff continuously resided in the county;
  • prior to six months after the date of final separation and with agreement of the defendant, where the plaintiff resides or, if neither party continues to reside in the county of matrimonial domicile, where either party resides; or
  • after six months after the date of final separation, where either party resides.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN PA

The filing party in a divorce action (Plaintiff) must allege one of the following sufficient grounds for divorce that, if proven, will allow a court to grant the divorce.

Fault.The court may grant a divorce to the Plaintiff, if the other spouse (Defendant) has: 1) committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years; 2) committed adultery; 3) by cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse; 4) knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting; 5) been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime; or 6) offered such indignities to the innocent or injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.

Institutionalization. The court may grant a divorce upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months immediately before the commencement of the action and where there is no reasonable prospect that the spouse will be discharged from inpatient care during the 18 months subsequent to the commencement of the action.

Mutual Consent. The court may grant a divorce where it is alleged that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and 90 days have elapsed from the date of the commencement of an action and an affidavit has been filed by each of the parties evidencing that each of them consents to the divorce.

Irretrievable Breakdown. The Court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year and that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the defendant either 1) does not deny the allegations set forth in the affidavit or 2) denies one or more of the allegations but, after notice and hearing, the court determines that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

COUNSELING REQUIREMENT

Indignities.If either party to the divorce action makes a request for counseling, the court shall require a maximum of three (3) counseling sessions.

Mutual Consent.If a party makes a request for counseling, the court shall require up to three (3) counseling sessions within the 90 days following the commencement of the action.

Irretrievable Breakdown. Whenever the court orders a continuation period, the court shall require up to a maximum of three (3) counseling sessions within the time period where either of the parties requests it or may require such counseling where the parties have at least one child under 16 years of age.

The divorce requirements must be strictly adhered to by the courts and the parties involved in the divorce. These are just the basic requirements and highlight the need by the parties to retain experienced divorce attorneys. Contact an experienced divorce attorney at The Martin Law Firm today at 215-687-4053.