Pennsylvania Divorce Laws

Before you begin the divorce process in Pennsylvania, take the time to learn some of the laws. This will help you to know if you are able to file in the state, and also ease some of the transitions involved in the process.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, the couple must first meet the residency requirement. The state requires those filing in the state to have lived in the state for at least six months. Either spouse can meet the residency requirement and qualify to file in the state.

Pennsylvania allows for no-fault divorce. A couple can file this type of divorce simply from mutual consent after a 90 day waiting period. The court may also grant a no-fault divorce in cases involving an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage based on an affidavit that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years.

Fault divorce is allowable on the following grounds:

  • Willful and malicious desertion for a period of one or more years without just cause
  • Adultery
  • Cruel and barbarous treatment
  • A bigamous marriage
  • Imprisonment for two or more years
  • Indignities that made a spouse’s life intolerable and burdensome

If one member of a marriage is in the military, they can file for divorce in Pennsylvania provided they have been stationed in the state for the six month period. However, military family law laws still apply, so it is always a good idea to use an attorney who is familiar with these laws.

Division of Property

Pennsylvania follows the equitable distribution model for dividing property during a divorce. This means that they divide it based on what is fair when the couple cannot reach a settlement. Factors considered when making these decisions include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Prior marriages of either party
  • Age, health, amount and sources of income, station, employability, estate, vocational skills, liabilities, and needs of both parties
  • Any contribution made by one party to the training, education, and earning capacity of the other
  • Sources of income for both parties, including retirement, insurance, and other benefits
  • Contribution of each party to the use, depreciation, acquisition, and appreciation of marital property, including the homemaker’s contribution
  • Value of property each party is given
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Economic circumstances and tax consequences
  • Needs of a custodial parent

Child Custody

Child custody matters will be decided based on what the courts feel is in the best interests. A variety of factors will be considered, including:

  • Whether or not a parent is likely to encourage further contact between the child and the other parent
  • Any past history of abuse for either parent
  • Whether the parties can agree to a joint custody arrangement


In some instances, the courts will determine that alimony is necessary. Factors considered in this determination include:

  • Age
  • Earning capacities
  • Sources of income
  • Expectancies and inheritances
  • Length of the marriage
  • Contribution of the parties to the earning capacity and education of the other
  • Extent that earning capacity is limited for one party who is the custodial parent
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Education of the parties
  • Property each party retains
  • Contributions of the homemaker
  • Needs of both parties
  • Marital misconduct
  • Tax ramifications
  • Whether the supported party can become self-supporting

If the supported spouse remarries, alimony is terminated.

Child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model. This divides necessary support in proportion to their incomes.