Divorce in Pennsylvania: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated March 26, 2024by Unbiased team

This article covers everything you need to know about getting a divorce in Pennsylvania, from the different processes to the cost.

Summary

  • In Pennsylvania, there are three main types of divorce - mutual consent, “no-fault,” and “fault-based.”

  • Seeking an uncontested, amicable divorce and minimizing the use of court resources can significantly reduce expenses.

  • In Oregon, filing fees can range from $200 to $300, varying by county.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, divorce falls into three main categories, each suited to different separation circumstances:

  1. Mutual consent divorce: This is the simplest route and involves both parties agreeing that the marriage cannot continue. You must have a 90-day waiting period from filing before the divorce can proceed.

  2. No-fault divorce: If mutual consent isn't possible, one spouse can seek a no-fault divorce after a one-year separation, signaling an irreparable marriage without assigning blame.

  3. Fault-based divorce: For cases involving specific grievances like adultery or abuse, one spouse can file for a fault-based divorce, requiring proof of the allegations.

Each category reflects different needs and processes, aiming to address the unique aspects of every separation.

How much does a divorce cost in Pennsylvania?

The cost of divorce in Pennsylvania varies widely depending on the type of divorce, the complexity of the case, and whether it is contested. 

Here's a general overview of some of the common costs associated with divorce in Pennsylvania:

  • Filing fees: The initial step in any divorce is filing a complaint with the court, which incurs a fee. These fees can range from $200 to $300, varying by county.

  • Attorney fees: Legal representation is the most significant cost variable. Attorney rates differ greatly, but you can expect an average hourly rate between $150 and $550. Due to the hours required, total costs can escalate quickly in contested divorces.

  • Mediation costs: Mediation offers a less adversarial route for couples seeking to resolve issues amicably. Mediators typically charge similar hourly rates to attorneys but can significantly reduce overall costs by facilitating quicker resolutions.

  • Additional costs: Other expenses may include court costs for processing documents, costs for obtaining financial records, and fees for real estate appraisals or custody evaluations, if applicable.

It's important to note that every divorce is unique, and costs can vary based on the complexity of asset division, custody disputes, and whether the divorce is contested. 

Seeking an uncontested, amicable divorce and minimizing the use of court resources can significantly reduce expenses.

How do you file for divorce in Pennsylvania?

Filing for divorce in Pennsylvania involves several steps aimed at ensuring both parties are aware of the proceedings and have the opportunity to respond. 

Here's a simplified process:

  1. Prepare the complaint: The first step is preparing a divorce complaint, which outlines the grounds for divorce and any relief sought, such as alimony or child support.

  2. File the complaint: Submit the completed complaint to the county court where you or your spouse resides. Upon filing, you'll pay a filing fee, which, as mentioned, varies by county.

  3. Serve the complaint: Pennsylvania law requires that the other spouse be formally notified of the divorce action. This can be done through various methods, including sheriff's service or certified mail, ensuring they receive the complaint and summons.

  4. Wait for a response: After service, the other spouse has a specific timeframe (usually 20 to 30 days) to respond, either agreeing to the terms, contesting them, or filing counterclaims.

  5. Proceed according to divorce type: The next steps depend on the type of divorce filed. Mutual consent divorces might move quickly to settlement agreements, while contested cases could require mediation, discovery, and court appearances.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the division of assets during a divorce follows the principles of "equitable distribution." 

This method aims to fairly divide marital property, not necessarily equally, based on several factors. 

Here's what you need to know:

  • Marital vs. non-marital assets: Initially, it's essential to distinguish between marital assets (acquired during the marriage) and non-marital assets (owned before marriage, gifts, or inheritances to one spouse). Only marital assets are subject to division.

  • Factors considered: The court considers various factors in equitable distribution, including:

    • The length of the marriage.

    • Each spouse's earnings and earning potential.

    • Contributions to marital property, including a spouse's contribution as a homemaker.

    • The standard of living established during the marriage.

    • Each spouse's economic circumstances at the time of division.

  • Division process: Couples can agree on asset division through negotiation or mediation. If an agreement can't be reached, the court will decide, considering the factors listed above.

Equitable distribution focuses on fairness, considering the entire circumstances of the marriage. It's a nuanced process that often requires legal guidance to navigate effectively.

How does alimony work in Pennsylvania?

Alimony in Pennsylvania ensures financial support for a spouse during or after a divorce. When deciding alimony, the court always aims to achieve economic fairness and maintain a standard of living comparable to the one the spouse has during their marriage. 

Pennsylvania also recognizes spousal support before the divorce is finalized; this is known as alimony pendente lite and is a temporary measure aimed at maintaining financial stability during the divorce proceedings.

When calculating the amount of alimony, the court uses a set formula: subtracting 40% of the lower earner's monthly net income from 33% of the higher earner's. This formula sets the support amount.

For post-divorce alimony, the court evaluates the marriage's duration, financial resources, age, health, and earning contributions, among other factors.

While initial support is temporary, post-divorce alimony is at the court's discretion and can be adjusted with changing circumstances.

This approach balances immediate and long-term financial needs following a divorce.

What happens to children during a divorce in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania prioritizes children's well-being in divorces, ensuring their best interests through fair custody and support arrangements. 

  • Child custody

Custody is divided into two main types: physical (where the child lives) and legal (decision-making authority). 

The court considers various factors to determine custody, such as each parent's relationship with the child, the child's preference (depending on age and maturity), and the parent's ability to provide a stable, loving environment.

  • Child Support

Child support calculations use a straightforward formula: 40% of the lower earner's net income is subtracted from 33% of the higher earner's, ensuring equitable distribution for children's needs, from healthcare to daily expenses.

To mitigate the impact of divorce, Pennsylvania encourages mediation and offers counseling, promoting cooperative parenting and children's stability.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor who meets your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.