How Divorce Works In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law allows couples to either file for a fault divorce or a no fault divorce. In a fault divorce, one spouse will allege some wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse in the divorce complaint, whereas in a no fault divorce, one or both spouses will simply indicate that they would like to dissolve the marriage through no fault of either party.
There are six possible fault grounds and three no-fault grounds that the filing spouse may select from. If one spouse does allege fault, they will be required to prove it in court. The most common form of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania is called a mutual consent divorce, which is similar to the “irreconcilable differences” options that exist in other states. In cases of mutual consent divorce, both parties must sign an affidavit indicating that they have reached mutual consent to end the marriage.
Divorcing couples may also choose between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania. In a contested divorce, each spouse must hire a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer in order to resolve divorce issues like child support, child custody, alimony, and the division of marital property. Sometimes this means leaving these decisions up to the court, but more often the parties are able to reach a settlement agreement before trial.
In an uncontested divorce case, the parties already agree on these issues when they file for divorce (possibly due to a prior separation agreement), so they are able to simply submit a divorce agreement to the court for approval prior to the issuing of a divorce decree. In an uncontested divorce, it is not necessary for either spouse to hire a divorce attorney, but they may consult with a lawyer if they wish, in order to be educated about Pennsylvania family law and guided through the uncontested divorce process.
Couples undergoing an uncontested Pennsylvania divorce are also eligible for online divorce, in which case they will never need to set foot in a law office. In an online divorce, couples pay a flat rate to a platform like It’s Over Easy, and that platform fills out all of the necessary divorce documents and makes sure that the entire divorce process runs smoothly.
In the Pennsylvania divorce process, the spouse filing the initial divorce papers is called the plaintiff, and the spouse filing the response is known as the defendant. In cases of no-fault divorce, there is not usually any benefit to being the plaintiff or the defendant; they are simply responsible for filing slightly different divorce papers. The plaintiff is responsible for filing the first divorce form -- the complaint. This form commences the divorce action. The plaintiff then has 30 days to serve their spouse with the initial divorce papers, but they may extend that period by filing a form called a praecipe.