If I’m not ready to file for divorce, can I seek a legal separation in Pennsylvania?
No. Pennsylvania law does not recognize legal separation. That is not to say that you cannot live in a separate residence from your spouse. In fact, living “separate and apart” from your spouse for 2 years is one way to establish grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, you need only live 18 months in separate residences to establish grounds.
What are “grounds for divorce”?
In order to get a divorce, you must show the court that there is a legitimate reason for divorce. The law refers to this reason as “grounds for divorce.” The most common grounds for divorce are “irreconcilable differences” and living separate and apart for at least two years. These are the two “no fault” grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. Alternatively, you can seek to establish “fault” grounds for divorce. This is available, for example, when one spouse committed adultery or has been imprisoned for a term of two or more years. It is preferable to seek divorce on no fault grounds, because this is less expensive than filing on fault grounds.
Where do I file for divorce?
If you and your spouse both live in the same county, you can file in that county. If you both live in separate counties, you can file in either county. However, if you are also pursuing child custody, you must file in the county where the child(ren) reside(s) or in the county where the child resided in the previous six months, if a parent still resides there.
How long will my divorce take to complete?
This really depends on whether you and your spouse consent to getting divorced. If you and your spouse both consent to resolving the financial issues of your divorce expediently, you can be divorced in about a year, or even shorter if the finances are minimal. On the flip side, if you and your spouse do not agree on how to settle the divorce, the divorce can go on longer, sometimes for years.
How much will my divorce cost?
This depends on whether both spouses consent to the divorce, or if they disagree, resulting in a contested divorce. The more arguments between the spouse, the more attorney involvement there will be and thus higher attorney fees. As a general rule, less court appearances means lower costs of divorce. Settling as much of the financial issues out of court is therefore the ideal way to keep costs low.