What Are the Three Types of Divorces in Pennsylvania?

If you live in Pennsylvania and your marriage is falling apart, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about divorce in Pennsylvania. The state’s process can be complicated, and the court systems are crowded. Understanding exactly what your options are is essential to have the process go as smoothly as possible.

The first thing you need to know is that you can only get a divorce in Pennsylvania if at least one of the two of you lived in Pennsylvania for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce. The state offers three different types of divorce. They are:

  • Mutual consent
  • Unilateral no-fault divorce
  • At-fault divorce

Even if you both want the divorce, only one of you files the paperwork to begin the process, and from the point that you do so you will be referred to as the plaintiff and your spouse as the defendant. This paperwork is officially known as a complaint.

A mutual consent divorce is one where both spouses are ready to move forward and are in agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Each provides a statement affirming this. This process is the simplest and can be accomplished in just 90 days.

An at-fault divorce can be filed when the plaintiff indicates that the defendant is responsible for the marriage failing. Grounds for an at-fault divorce range from infidelity or abandonment to cruel punishment. These are difficult legal proceedings, and in most cases, couples opt for a unilateral no-fault divorce. The number of at-fault divorce filings has decreased significantly over the years. Today, most practicing attorneys agree that divorce masters and family law judges are not concerned with fault grounds. Fault cases can be highly emotional and costly.

Just as it sounds, a unilateral no-fault divorce occurs when only one spouse is acting to advance the divorce and the defendant spouse does not willingly provide their consent to the divorce. Lacking consent, the only option is for the plaintiff to indicate that the marriage is irretrievably broken and then wait out a separation period of one year from the filing of the complaint for the process to be completed.

Unilateral no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania has evolved over the last several years. The original divorce code for the state was written in 1785 but was reformed in 1980. At that time the waiting period for no-fault divorce was established at three years. In 1988 that waiting period was shortened to two years. In October 2016 Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill that went into effect in 2017, reducing the waiting period for a unilateral no-fault divorce from two years to one with the hope of lessening the impact of a stressful divorce on any children that the family might have.

If you need assistance with the divorce process, contact us to set up an appointment. We are here to help.