Just as there are laws for getting married, states also have laws for getting divorced. While state divorce laws vary, they typically have a waiting period before a divorce is finalized, residency requirements, and jurisdictional requirements. Most states also have a variety of grounds for getting divorced, but typically the grounds fall into one of two main categories: fault or no fault.
Pennsylvania's divorce laws require that at least one party be a resident for at least six months before filing and there's no waiting period before a divorce is finalized. Since Pennsylvania began legally recognizing same-sex unions in 2014, divorce procedures are universal regardless of the couple's gender make-up.
Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania divorce laws allow a person to file a divorce under one of four grounds:
- Mutual Consent; and
- "Irretrievable Breakdown."
Generally speaking, mutual consent and irretrievable breakdown fall under the category of no fault divorce. The requirements for filing and being able to obtain a divorce vary depending on the grounds for divorce.
Pennsylvania Divorce Laws at a Glance
The table below provides a brief overview of the statutes in plain English that relate to divorce laws in Pennsylvania. While it's important to read the actual statute when researching a topic, this table can help you better understand the actual language of the statute.
- Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations Section 3101, et seq. (Divorce)
- 231 Pa. Code Chapter 1920 (Actions of Divorce or for Annulment of Marriage)
One spouse is required to have resided in Pennsylvania for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.
Divorce on grounds of mutual consent has a 90-day waiting period and the grounds of irretrievable breakdown requires that the couple live separate for at least 1 year.*
*See note in box below.
Grounds for Divorce
Fault: the court may grant a divorce to an "innocent and injured" spouse when it finds that the other spouse has:
- Deserted the spouse without a reasonable cause for at least one year;
- Endangered the health or life of the injured spouse by treating him or her cruelly;
- Knowingly entered into a marriage even though he or she was already married;
- Been sentenced to prison for at least two years after being convicted of a crime; or
- Caused the injured spouse to live in intolerable conditions.
Institutionalization: the court may grant a divorce if one spouse was confined in a mental institution for at least 18 months right before commencing a divorce proceeding and it's not likely that the spouse will be discharged within 18 months.
Mutual Consent: the court may grant a divorce if 90 days have passed since the divorce papers were filed and each party provides an affidavit showing that he or she consents to the divorce. Consent is also presumed if a spouse has been convicted of committing a personal injury against the other spouse.
Irretrievable Breakdown: the court may grant a divorce if the complaint alleges irretrievable breakdown and the couple has lived separate and apart for at least one year.*
*Couples who started living separate and apart before December 5, 2016 are required to wait two years before filing for divorce.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Pennsylvania Divorce Laws: Related Resources
For more information related to this topic, please visit the links below:
Get Legal Help with Your Divorce in Pennsylvania
Divorce is an adversarial process that can involve intense emotions and difficult decisions. For this reason, it's best to reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania who can answer your questions and guide you through the divorce process.