How Soon Can I File for a Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Although deciding to end a marriage is a decision that should not be taken lightly, once that decision is made, most people want to get the process over with as quickly as possible in order to regain their single status and be free of the marriage. Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania requires that couples seeking a “no fault” divorce to wait a period of time before they can file for their divorce, but that process may be shorter in certain situations.

There is a One-Year Waiting Period For Filing for a No-Fault Divorce

If a couple is seeking a divorce without establishing grounds for fault (discussed further below), then Pennsylvania law imposes a one-year waiting period from the time of separation before either spouse can file for divorce.

 Separation means that at least one party to the marriage has decided to no longer continue with the marriage. The court will want to see evidence that this has occurred. The most direct way to show this is that the spouses have not been living at the same address for at least a year, but a couple can be separated even if they live together, so long as they are not engaged in the ongoing activities of a marriage such as sharing expenses and having sexual relations.

 It is important to note that this does not mean that a party seeking a no-fault divorce needs to wait a year before contacting a family law attorney. A family law attorney can provide you with ongoing advice and counsel during this period and can also prepare the paperwork necessary to file for divorce as soon as the waiting period is up.

Using the Shortened 90-Day Waiting Period for Uncontested Divorces

When there are no contested issues in the divorce for a court to decide, the couple may avoid the one-year waiting period and instead opt for a shorter 90-day waiting period before filing. To do so, the couple must agree on all issues such as child support, spousal support, division of their property, and child custody.

No Waiting Period for Fault-Based Divorces

If one party can establish fault in the divorce, then there is no waiting period to file for divorce. “Fault” in Pennsylvania divorce law refers to specific grounds as set out by state law, which must be proved by a showing of evidence in court. Such fault grounds include:

  • Bigamy: the other spouse is married to another person
  • Desertion: the other spouse has abandoned the filing spouse for a continuous period of at least one year
  • Adultery: the other spouse committed adultery
  • Cruelty: the other spouse has inflicted “cruel and barbarous treatment” on the other spouse, which endangers his or her life or health
  • Imprisonment: the other spouse has been sentenced to two or more years in prison
  • Indignities: the other spouse has made life “intolerable” and “burdensome” for the filing spouse

Get Help With Your PA Family Law Matter Today

At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., our family law team works with men and women across Southeastern Pennsylvania in family law matters – including property distribution, alimony, child custody, and visitation –  and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. Call us today at (215) 646-3980 for a no-hassle consultation regarding any questions you have about divorce in Pennsylvania.

how long do you have to be separated before divorce in pa

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