Divorce in Pennsylvania
From a legal standpoint, divorce decree falls into two basic categories: contested or no fault. Pennsylvania divorce laws call the “no fault” divorce a mutual consent divorce. It is the fastest and simplest way to end a marriage in the state.
If one spouse has been living for at least six months in Pennsylvania then they are considered a resident and can file the mutual consent divorce petition. Once a judge has determined that both parties agree to the terms, they can make the divorce official after 90 days.
A variation of the mutual consent divorce is the irretrievable divorce. This type of no fault divorce is granted if the husband and wife have lived apart for at least two years and both agreed that the marriage can’t be fixed.
The same 90 day rule applies to make it official. The contested divorce is where it can get messy. This is when the “innocent and injured” spouse sets forth specific grounds for divorce. Often those grounds are contested.
Pennsylvania Grounds for Divorce
In a Pennsylvania fault divorce the injured spouse needs to prove that their partner has abandoned them without regard for up to a year or has created a hostile living environment through physical or emotional abuse.
Additional grounds would be if a spouse was involved in an adulterous affair or found to be married to another person at the same time. And if a spouse has been convicted of a felony crime and is serving up to two years in jail, a judge will grant a divorce.
Pennsylvania Divorce Property Distribution
Any asset, property or money that was generated during the marriage is considered to be a marital asset. In a Pennsylvania divorce, a judge will determine what is the best course of action with regard to dividing the marital assets between the spouses. The best advice is to work out the marital asset distribution before getting in front of the judge.
If those terms can’t be agreed upon then the judge will consider the length of the marriage and the contributions each spouse made to those assets. Those contributions could have come in the form of paying for an education of one partner who is now in an advanced career.
A judge will also consider the financial status of each spouse and what kind of tax burden might be assessed. Lastly, if there are children involved the judge will also consider where their primary residence will be.
Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws
If children are involved in a divorce case where both sides have requested custody, then it will fall to the judge to determine what is in the best interests of the children.
The Protection From Abuse Act states that if there is proven abuse from one parent then the other parent will be given sole custody. When abuse is not an issue, the judge takes into account what might be the least disruptive change for the children. However, if both parents have established the desire to set up equal and safe living environments then dual custody can be awarded.
For child support, the court uses the “Income Shares” rates that most states have adopted. They will also consider the specific earning potential of the spouse who might be required to pay child support.