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The end of a marriage is never an easy thing to go through, but sometimes it’s the right choice for a couple to make.  For those wishing to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania, they must meet the residency requirements in order for the court to accept the case.  Otherwise, the court will decide it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case and will most likely not accept the case or, if already accepted, dismiss the case.  By consulting Pennsylvania lawyers, couples wishing to start divorce proceedings can find out whether they meet the following requirements or not.

One of the spouses must be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania for at least six months before filing for divorce, and should consult a Pennsylvania lawyer before doing so.  They may bring their case before the court in the county: 1.where the defendant resides; 2.if the defendant resides outside of this Commonwealth, where the plaintiff resides; 3.of matrimonial domicile, if the plaintiff has continuously resided in the county; 4.prior to six months after the date of final separation and with agreement of the defendant, where the plaintiff resides or, if neither party continues to reside in the county of matrimonial domicile, where either party resides; or 5.after six months after the date of final separation, where either party resides.  (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – Title 23 – Sections: 3104.)

Grounds for Filing: All Complaints for Divorce prepared by Pennsylvania lawyers must declare the appropriate grounds upon which the divorce is being sought.  The parties should agree upon and be able to substantiate appropriate legal grounds for divorce, or the appropriate grounds the filing spouse desires to prove to the court.  Legal and appropriate grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania are as follows:

No-Fault Grounds:

Mutual consent.  The court may grant a divorce when both parties allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have elapsed from the date of filing for divorce.  An affidavit must be filed by each of the parties evidencing that each party consents to the divorce.

Irretrievable breakdown. The court may grant a divorce when a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken.  This requires the filing of an affidavit alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Fault Grounds: The following at fault grounds are those for which the court may grant a divorce.

1. Committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years. 2. Committed adultery.   3. By cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.  4.  Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.  5. Been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime.  6. Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – Title 23 – Sections: 3301)

Counseling or Mediation Requirements: The court may require the parties attend an orientation session to explain the mediation process.  If the parties then consent to mediation, the court may order them to mediate certain specified issues.  The court will adopt local rules for the administration of the mediation program, which will include rules regarding qualifications of mediators, confidentiality and any other matter deemed appropriate by the court.

In cases where either party or child of either party is or has been a subject of domestic violence or child abuse, the court shall not order an orientation session or mediation.  The Supreme Court shall develop model guidelines for implementation of this section and shall consult with experts on mediation and domestic violence in this Commonwealth in the development thereof.  (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – Title 23 – Sections: 3302 and 5303.)

Divorce Term Glossary:

Filing Spouse Title:  Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is the spouse whose Pennsylvania lawyer initiates the Divorce Complaint with the family law or domestic relations court.

Non-Filing Spouse Title: Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse whose Pennsylvania lawyer does not file the initial divorce papers.

Court Name: Court of Common Pleas, __________ County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania court where the divorce will be filed by Pennsylvania lawyers. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.

Primary Documents: Complaint for Divorce and Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents Pennsylvania lawyers use to start and finalize a divorce according to Pennsylvania law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process.

Court Clerk’s Title: County Clerk’s Office of the Court of Common Pleas. The clerk or the clerk’s assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk’s office will keep the parties and their Pennsylvania lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.

Property Distribution. Since Pennsylvania is an “equitable distribution” state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion.  Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties and their Pennsylvania lawyer to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.

Lien. The court may impose a lien or charge upon property of a party as security for the payment of alimony or any other award for the other party, including legal fees for their Pennsylvania lawyers.

Family home. The court may award, during the pendency of the action or otherwise, to one or both of the parties the right to reside in the marital residence.

Life insurance. The court may direct the continued maintenance and beneficiary designations of existing policies insuring the life or health of either party which were originally purchased during the marriage and owned by or within the effective control of either party. Where it is necessary to protect the interests of a party, the court may also direct the purchase of, and beneficiary designations on, a policy insuring the life or health of either party. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – Title 23 – Sections: 3501, 3502, 3505)

Spousal Support. Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court’s discretion.

Duration. The court in ordering alimony shall determine the duration of the order, which may be for a definite or an indefinite period of time which is reasonable under the circumstances.

Statement of reasons. In an order made under this section, the court shall set forth the reason for its denial or award of alimony and the amount thereof.

Modification and termination. An order entered pursuant to this section is subject to further order of the court upon changed circumstances of either party of a substantial and continuing nature whereupon the order may be modified, suspended, terminated or reinstituted or a new order made.  Any further order shall apply only to payments accruing subsequent to the petition for the requested relief.  Remarriage of the party receiving alimony shall terminate the award of alimony. (Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – Title 23 – Sections: 3701, 3702, 3704, 3706)

Child Custody. When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Pennsylvania courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing.  If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children through their Pennsylvania lawyers, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.

Child Support. Pennsylvania child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support.  The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent¹s income.  These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child.  All income is typically verified by examining past W-2′s and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.

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