Pennsylvania Law Facts

1. How long do I have to live in the state before I can file for a divorce?
2. How soon can I get a divorce?
3. How will the custody of my children be determined?
4. Can I remove my child from the state?
5. How is child support determined?
6. Will I receive alimony?
7. What happens to my property when I get a divorce?
8. If my spouse or significant other is abusive, what help is available?


How long do I have to live in the state before I can file for a divorce?
In Pennsylvania, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months immediately prior to the filing of the divorce complaint. The marriage does not have to have occurred in Pennsylvania, nor is it required that the incidents giving rise to the divorce have occurred in Pennsylvania. (Back to top)

How soon can I get a divorce?
In Pennsylvania, a court may grant a divorce upon the consent of both parties as soon as 90 days after the divorce complaint has been filed. In order to get a divorce within 90 days, the following three requirements must be met: (1) A complaint has been filed alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken; (2) more than 90 days have elapsed from the date of the filing of the complaint; and (3) each party has filed an affidavit consenting to entry of a divorce decree. If both parties do not consent to the divorce, then the court will grant a divorce where the party seeking the divorce can establish that the parties have lived separate and apart for more than two years and that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." (Back to top)

How will the custody of my children be determined?
In Pennsylvania, courts make a distinction between physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the physical location of the child (i.e., where the child will live or stay the majority of the time). Legal custody refers to who will make decisions regarding the child's medical care, schooling, etc. To obtain custody of a child, a party must file either a complaint or a petition raising custody as an issue. A court will evaluate the petition to determine "what is in the best interests of the child." Once a court issues a child custody order, a party can seek to have the order amended by filing a petition for modification alledging that the custody order should be changed based upon a change in circumstances. (Back to top)

Can I remove my child from the state?
In Pennsylvania, if the parties cannot agree to the relocation of a child beyond the jurisdiction of the court, then the parties must file a petition seeking a court order permitting the relocation of the child. Relocating a child in violation of a court order can result in a court finding the parent in contempt of court. (Back to top)

How is child support determined?
In Pennsylvania, child support is determined in accordance with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines. The Pennsylvania Support Guidelines place primary emphasis on the net incomes and earning capacities of the parties." (Back to top)

Will I receive alimony?
In Pennsylvania, the Divorce Code authorizes an award of alimony to a party who lacks sufficient property to meet his or her needs and is unable to be self-supporting through reasonable employment. Alimony may be for a definite or indefinite period of time depending on the parties' circumstances. The court order awarding alimony might dictate that it terminate upon the occurrence of an event, such as the sale of a property. Alimony, however, might also be permanent (although it is important to remember that even where the alimony is permanent, it can be terminated by remarriage and, in most instances, death). (Back to top)

What happens to my property when I get a divorce?
In Pennsylvania, all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be "marital property." In the interests of economic justice, courts will equitably distribute marital property between the two parties upon the break down of a marriage. What is and what is not a part of the marital estate is often a point of heated contention between the parties. Also, should the parties reach a settlement of their case, a key component of the settlement will be how to distribute the parties' property. (Back to top)

If my spouse or significant other is abusive, what help is available?
In Pennsylvania, the Protection From Abuse Act was enacted as a response to the inability of the criminal justice system to adequately deal with the problems of domestic violence. Upon the filing of a petition, the Protection From Abuse Act authorizes courts to grant any protection order or approve any consent agreement to end abuse inflicted by one party upon another. Abuse within the meaning of the Act is the occurrence of one or more of the following actions: (1) attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, rape, spousal sexual assault or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; (2) placing another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; (3) false imprisonment; (4) physically or sexually abusing minor children; and (5) stalking, defined as "knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person including following a person, without property authority, under circumstances which place that person in a reasonable fear of bodily injury.