How Pennsylvania No-Fault Divorce Works

Posted in Divorce on November 24, 2017

Pennsylvania’s no-fault divorce law went into effect in June of 1980. For approximately the previous two hundred years, Pennsylvania had only fault divorce. Even the simplest uncontested fault divorces took quite a bit of a lawyer’s time as the client and lawyer had to appear in Court and the client had to testify about the indignities (Pennsylvania’s broadest ground for divorce, just a little stronger than incompatibility, a ground for divorce frequently used in other states) that the other spouse had offered to the client which made the client’s condition intolerable and life burdensome (the actual wording of the law, which is still on the books).

In a no-fault case, it is simply said the the marriage is irretrievably (which simply means beyond be saved) broken. Fault is laid on the doorstep of neither party, hence the term “no-fault divorce”. In the divorce filing are just the parties’ names and addresses, the time and place of the marriage, the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and a couple other very general legal requirements …basically, just one page in the simplest cases.

I will have you, my client, provide the information mentioned above (names, addresses, date and place of marriage etc.) on a very simple questionnaire I will send to you. With that information, I will prepare the Divorce Complaint for you to sign, date and return to me for filing in Court. (Yes, it is still called a complaint in Pennsylvania even though no one is really complaining, just asking to be divorced.)

After it is filed in Court, the Court timestamps it, assigns it a Court number and sends it back to me. That copy, by law, must being given to you spouse, but we are not going to the expense or embarrassment of having the Sheriff serve your spouse. The Complaint copy just needs to be given to your spouse (and your spouse must NOT give it back to me, you or anyone else) along with a document in the proper legal form which I provide for your spouse to sign, date and return. That document simply states that your spouse received the copy. You can obtain your spouse’s signature or arrange to have me mail it to your spouse.

At this point, the process goes one of two ways. Most people are separated less than two years (one year for those whose separation began after December 4, 2016) and in that case, your spouse’s first signature (stating the copy of the Complaint was received) begins the 90 day waiting period required under Pennsylvania law. When that is over, you both will have to sign an Affidavit in proper form which I provide consenting to the divorce becoming final. Just as with the first paper your spouse signed 90 days earlier, you can get the signature or arrange for me to mail the Affidavit to your spouse.

The process is different for couples who have been living separately and apart for the two year (or one year, if you qualify) period. When you sign the Divorce Complaint which I prepare for you, I’ll also prepare and have you sign an Affidavit telling the Court (under our perjury laws) how long you have been living separate and apart. Your spouse, just the same as above, must receive copies of both of those after they are filed. Along with them, I will provide for your spouse’s signature, a document which says that your spouse got the copies, agrees with what they say and wants the divorce without further notice or delay. Once I receive that document, I will have the main documents which the Court requires to grant your divorce. I will send it and other required documents to the Court. In due course, the Judge will review all of the documents which I properly prepared and filed on your behalf, grant your divorce and have the clerk send your final decree to me to then send on to you.

As you can see, regardless of how long you have been separated (and you can proceed even if you are still living together) the process is really very simple. Were it not simple, it would have to be much more expensive than I make it for you. Most times, handled properly but simply, you will not even need a written settlement agreement.

If you have things to settle I can help you. I urge you to call me, Monday through Friday, noon to 3 PM, toll-free at 1-800-486-4070, BEFORE you begin your case, for an absolutely free consultation about your particular situation. I think you will find that it will put your mind at ease about this major decision in your life. Yes, it is a major decision and not a step to be taken lightly; however, once you decide to proceed, I will make that part of it easy for you.