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Pennsylvania Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
To start the divorce process, several forms must be filled out and filed with the Clerk of Court’s office. One spouse, called the plaintiff, files the divorce complaint with the court, and the other spouse is called the defendant.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
To obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before the filing. The plaintiff may file in the county where either spouse lives, or where both spouses agree to file. The plaintiff files two sets of copies in the clerk’s office and pays filing fees. The clerk keeps one set, and the plaintiff receives one stamped set back. One stamped set must be served on the defendant.
Indigent plaintiffs may be able to file with no charge. They must file a form called an In Forma Pauperis petition, which is available in the clerk’s office.
Serving the Documents
Serving the divorce papers means delivering them according to special legal rules. If the defendant agrees and will sign the Acceptance of Service form, the plaintiff may mail the papers to him or her by regular mail. The papers must be served within 30 days from the date of filing. The signed Acceptance of Service must be filed with the clerk, along with a Verification form.
Disclosing Financial Information
In a mutual consent divorce, the couple resolves all financial issues before filing for divorce.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
In Pennsylvania, an uncontested divorce may be called a “no-fault divorce” or a “mutual consent divorce ” or sometimes a “c divorce” (because of the section of the law that allows this simpler type of divorce).
The mutual consent divorce is a faster process. The spouses divorce in three to four months, rather than the standard two or more years. However, to get this type of divorce, both spouses must agree to the divorce and sign papers stating that each is in agreement.
If, however, the spouses no longer agree to the divorce, the divorce can be had under the two-year separation rule.
Finalizing the Divorce
Ninety days after the filing, the spouses sign the Affidavit of Consent. The plaintiff signs one, and he or she mails one to other spouse for him or her to sign. The plaintiff also mails a Waiver of Notice to the defendant, who signs both and mails them back to the plaintiff, who files the copies with the clerk.
Next, the plaintiff files a Praecipe to Transmit Record and a Final Decree of Divorce. These forms are also available on many Pennsylvania self-help websites.
There is a fee to file the Praecipe, unless the fees were waived due to income. Once all the documents are correctly filed, the court reviews the paperwork. After the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce, the clerk sends both spouses certified copies and they are divorced.
A couple can come to their own agreement about property settlement, which the court will generally accept. The Pennsylvania court will decide if either spouse is entitled to alimony, based on age, physical and mental condition, earning potential, duration of the marriage and standard of living. The court decides the duration of alimony, but support ends automatically if the one receiving it remarries or cohabits.
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