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Four Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania

If you are considering divorce, it is important to realize that there are multiple kinds of divorces that can be filed in Pennsylvania. The majority of divorces filed are no-fault divorces, where both parties consent to the divorce. There are still cases of fault-divorce, but these are more expensive and not as common.

In all situations, divorce proceedings begin with one spouse, the “Plaintiff”, who files a “Complaint in Divorce” at the courthouse. This legal document states basic information of both spouses including names, addresses, and the type of divorce being sought. This document may also include whether of not the plaintiff is seeking alimony, custody, or some other sort of settlement. This document is served upon (or given to) the other spouse, the “defendant.” This typically occurs by mail or a sheriff.

Primarily there is mutual consent divorce. This is the most common type of divorce where both parties consent to getting a divorce. Ninety days after the divorce complaint has been served, both parties can file an affidavit that consents to divorce. At this point, a judge can grant the divorce. Within those ninety days, the attorneys are able to create a written agreement that settles issues related to custody, alimony, and property. However, if the parties cannot agree on one of these issues, they must have a hearing to let the court decide. Be aware that if your divorce is finalized before a formal agreement is reached on alimony or property, you could lose the right to obtain either.

Another no-fault divorce is a two-year separation divorce. This occurs when one party refuses to consent to a divorce. At this point, the spouse who desires a divorce must wait until they have been separated for two years. After this, they can sign an affidavit stating that they have been separated for two years and the marriage is irretrievably broken. This is then served on the other party. If they fail to respond, the court can grant the divorce. However, if they file a counter-affidavit denying either the separation or the claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the courts must decide in a hearing if they are entitled to a divorce.

It is less common, but other grounds for divorce are institutionalization. If one spouse is confined to a mental institution for insanity or a mental disorder, the other spouse can file for divorce. This spouse must wait 18 months after institutionalization, with no reasonable hope that the other will be discharged for another 18 months after divorce filings. This does not require a court hearing to be granted.

Fault divorce is less commonly filed because it is more expensive than no-fault divorce. In this situation, the plaintiff must prove in court that the defendant is at fault for the failure of their marriage. Grounds for this kind of divorce include adultery, domestic violence, and abandonment without reasonable cause for over a year. It also can be actions that contribute to making your life unbearable, bigamy, and imprisonment (two or more years) that occurs after your marriage has taken place.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced divorce attorney. Obtaining legal advice before entering divorce proceedings is vital to ensuring that you take the correct measures to a smooth divorce.