Divorce FAQ

  • What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?

    In Pennsylvania, divorces may be fault or no fault.

    The following are the fault-based grounds for divorce:

    Abandonment (one spouse left the home, without reasonable cause, for a period in excess of one year);


    Cruel and barbarous treatment (one spouse treated the other in a way that placed the other spouse’s life or health at risk, such as acts of domestic violence);


    Imprisonment for two or more years; or

    “Indignities” -One spouse acted in a way that made the other spouse’s life unbearable or extremely difficult.

    No-fault grounds for divorce:

    A no-fault divorce may be accomplished by mutual consent. The parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and each executes an affidavit stating that each consent to the divorce. Under these circumstances, the divorce will be granted without a court hearing.

  • How long does it take to get divorced in Pennsylvania?

    The least amount of time a Pennsylvania divorce may take to finalize is about 4 months. The four-month time frame is only possible in divorces that are simple, no-fault, and mutually agreed upon by the parties, where both parties agree to quickly sign the necessary documents to complete the process.

    However, it is important to understand though that every divorce is different. Nasty divorces can take years to finalize. If the parties fight over “the dog and kitchen sink,” the divorce will take much longer, as compared to a divorce where there are no disputes.

  • What are marital assets?

    Generally, marital assets include all assets that either spouse earned or acquired during the marriage, and the appreciation, or depreciation, of any pre-marital assets. Marital assets may include houses, cars, 401k accounts, pensions, and other investments.

  • Do we have to appear it court at all?

    Court may be avoided unless one party requests that a judge adjudicate a dispute. If all issues are agreed upon, court may be entirely avoided.

  • How much will this cost?

    One of the most commonly-asked questions is “How much will this cost?” The answer is- “It depends.”

    Some divorces are quick, easy, and relatively affordable. Others are long, challenging, and expensive. If the parties argue over the minutiae of every aspect of the divorce, and several court proceedings are needed, the divorce will be much more costly.

  • What happens if we reconcile, and decide to stay together?

    If your spouse has filed the petition, he or she may file paperwork with the court to withdraw or dismiss the action. Depending on the situation, both parties may need to sign the paperwork.

  • If my ex-spouse is not paying court-ordered child support, can I prevent them from seeing the children?

    No, child support and child custody are two separate issues. A relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the children, even if support is not being paid. If your ex is not paying court-ordered child support, legal action must be taken in support court to address the support matter. However, this will not affect his custody rights, which are separate, and which are under the auspices of custody court.

  • Do I need to hire an attorney if I intend to file for divorce in Pennsylvania?

    The short answer is “probably.” If your situation is extremely straight forward, i.e. if there are no assets, no debts, and no children, and you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on everything, you can attempt to file for divorce on your own.

    However, the vast majority of divorces are much more complicated than the fact pattern indicated above. Usually, a house needs to be disposed of, along with other assets, or debt exists which requires apportionment. In addition, if minor children are involved, support and custody will likely need to be addressed. Moreover, the forms and procedures necessary to file for divorce can be difficult for a non-lawyer to master.

  • What are the rules about alimony in Pennsylvania?

    Alimony is a court-ordered, or agreed-upon, support payment made by one spouse to the other. Support payments from one spouse to the other, made before the divorce has been finalized, are called “spousal support” or “alimony pendente lite.” Alimony is the term used for payments made following entry of the divorce decree.

    The amount of alimony is decided on a case-by-case basis. The law requires that the court consider many factors in deciding upon alimony. A few of the factors are the following:

    –The relative earnings of both spouses.

    –The duration of the marriage.

    –The ages and physical, mental and emotional states of the two spouses.

    –The sources of income of both spouses. This includes medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.

    –The expected future earnings and inheritances of the two spouses.

    –The degree to which one spouse has contributed to the other spouse’s education, training or increased earning potential.

    –The degree to which a spouse will be financially affected by their position as the custodian of a minor child.

    –The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.

    –The relative education of the parties. This also considers the amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or training necessary to find employment.

    –The relative assets and liabilities of the two spouses.

    –The property each spouse brought to the marriage.

    –The degree a spouse contributed as a homemaker.

    –The relative needs of the two spouses.

    –The marital misconduct of either of the spouses during the marriage. “Abuse” as in this context shall have the meaning given to it under Section 6102.

    –The federal, state, and local tax consequences of the alimony.

    –Whether the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including items in Chapter 35 relating to property rights, to provide for their reasonable needs.

    –Whether the spouse seeking alimony is incapable of supporting themselves through appropriate employment

  • What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

    In a best-case scenario, the parties are each desirous of a divorce, and quickly work out all issues, including property distribution, support and custody. A property settlement agreement is agreed upon, drafted and executed. If all issues are disposed of, the final paperwork to complete the divorce may be filed with the court 90 days after service of the divorce complaint. The divorce can then be processed within a few days, or a week or 2, depending on the court’s turn-around time.

    However, if one party is dragging his or her feet…Case management may be requested one year after service of the complaint. Once case management is requested, a hearing before a master will be scheduled. Depending on the county of filing, this initiates a process that may take several months, or, sometimes, even more than a year.

    However, if the parties legally separated prior to the divorce complaint being filed, the time frame of filing for case management, and beginning the finalization of the divorce, can be moved up.