Overview of Divorce Procedures in Pennsylvania

by Matthew P. Kelly on Sep. 24, 2018

Divorce & Family Law 

Summary: While divorce certainly has significant social and emotional considerations, financial concerns often lie at the forefront of many divorce proceedings.

Overview of Divorce Procedures in Pennsylvania

While divorce certainly has significant social and emotional considerations, financial concerns often lie at the forefront of many divorce proceedings. These issues can range from determining who takes over certain property to who pays for the divorce proceedings themselves. Additionally, depending on the length of the marriage, finances can become so entangled that arriving at an acceptable split of assets and costs can be challenging at best. As with any complicated matter, consulting an expert to get an overview of the process is essential, so consulting a divorce attorney is an important first step in making such a stressful and time-consuming process less daunting.

Finding a Divorce Attorney

Generally, whenever we look for services, we lean towards selecting the best that our budgets can afford. However, when looking for a divorce attorney, it is very useful to look beyond price point as many factors can influence your case. Factors such as years of experience and familiarity with any issues unique to your case can greatly shape the experience you have with your attorney and help reduce the burden of a stressful situation. A great starting point is searching, “divorce lawyer near me”, to get a list, and then narrowing it down based on the aforementioned factors.

When filing for divorce, what forms are needed?

There are a range of factors that determine which forms are necessary when you are filing for divorce and how you would go about doing so. It is always recommended that you consult with an experienced divorce attorney and if applicable, a custody lawyer to help determine what you need to file with the courts based on the specifics of your case.

In the state of Pennsylvania, divorces can be classified as complicated or non-complicated.

Complicated divorces involve the division of assets, custody determinations, requests for alimony, and have special considerations if one or both parties are in the military, or if one party is confined due to mental illness or imprisonment, or in the case of abandonment.

In the case of a non-complicated divorce there are generally six steps required for a divorce in Pennsylvania. Step one, which is the filing of the complaint, requires two forms: “Notice to Defend and Claim Rights” and “Verification”. There are fees associated with filing these forms and if the filing party cannot afford them, they may file another form requesting to file, In Forma Pauperis. Step two requires one of three forms that determine how the other party will be served. Step three entails a 90 day wait period, for which there are no forms to be filed and step four requires one of two forms depending on whether both parties agree to the divorce, with the option of completing another form if they wish to proceed more quickly to step five. Step five entails filing a form called the Praecipe to Transmit Record. After this is step six, when the courts will mail the Divorce Decree to both parties. In addition, if one party wishes to resume the use of their birth name, they must file a form either before or after the Divorce Decree is issued.

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What happens when one party does not agree to the divorce?

In the state of Pennsylvania, for cases where one party does not agree to the divorce, there is a minimum of one year separation time where both parties must be living separately before it is possible to proceed with a divorce filing. If the period of separation began before December 5, 2016, the parties must have been living separately for at least two years prior to filing.

As there are more complications in the case of one party not agreeing to the divorce, there are additional steps in filing for divorce on top of the ones referenced when both parties agree. In this instance there are eight steps. Steps one through three are the same as with a divorce where both parties agree. However, step four requires additional forms including a counter-affidavit and/or if one party is in the military. Step five entails service of all of the proper forms and step six is a 20-day waiting period per the state of Pennsylvania where there must be a period of 20 days between the serving of the Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Section 3301(d) Divorce Decree and filing the Praecipe to Transmit Record. Step seven involves the filing of the Praecipe to Transmit Record. Step eight is the conclusion with the issuance of the Divorce Decree.

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