Whether you are just beginning to plan for your divorce or have already started the process, you might be curious about the process and requirements for filing for divorce in Pennsylvania. It is common among potential clients to ask, “What is the first step to obtaining a divorce in PA?” This is closely followed by questions for clarification about divorce requirements in Pennsylvania and whether they meet the qualifications for divorce in PA, specifically details of the residency requirement. Like all matters within family law, several requirements exist for a divorce to be granted.
To initiate divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania, the first step is to file a Complaint. This document must include two attachments: the “Notice to Defend and Claim Rights” form and the “Verification” form. The Complaint should be filed at the appropriate office for legal pleadings.
Once the Complaint is filed, these documents must be served to your spouse within specific timeframes. If your spouse resides in Pennsylvania, they must be served within 30 days of filing. If they live outside the state, the service should occur within 90 days of filing. Before proceeding, make sure you or your spouse meet the residency requirement set by the state. This ensures that the Pennsylvania court has jurisdiction in your divorce case. If you file a complaint but do not meet the residency requirements, your legal action will be dismissed.
To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, it is required that either you or your spouse have resided in the state for a minimum of six months before the filing. This is in accordance with 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3104(b).
The Divorce Residency Requirements in Pennsylvania
Most states require one person in the relationship to be a full-time resident for a designated period before the court will hear the case. Pennsylvania has a relatively flexible residency requirement law. To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, you or your spouse only need to have lived in the state for at least six months before filing. There is no requirement for both parties to meet the residency requirement. A Pennsylvania resident can sue a non-resident for divorce in a Pennsylvania court, or a non-resident plaintiff can sue a Pennsylvania resident in Pennsylvania.
The residency requirement for filing a divorce in Pennsylvania has roots in the state’s efforts to prevent ‘divorce tourism’, a practice where couples would travel to a state for the sole purpose of taking advantage of more lenient divorce laws. Originally, many states, including Pennsylvania, required a residency period of up to one year. However, in the late 20th century, to reduce unnecessary delays and hardship, several states revisited these stringent rules. Pennsylvania, recognizing the need for reform, reduced the residency requirement to its current duration of six months in 1980. This change aimed to balance preventing misuse of the law while also making it less burdensome for residents seeking a divorce.
In addition to the state residency requirement, there is also a residency requirement to determine the proper venue for the divorce filing. If the Defendant lives in Pennsylvania, the divorce complaint must be filed in the county where the Defendant resides. If the Defendant lives in another state, the plaintiff may bring the action in the county where they claim residence. If the Defendant lives in the state, the filing party may bring the lawsuit in the “county of matrimonial domicile,” i.e., where the parties lived during the marriage, but only if the plaintiff has continued to live there.
Contrary to a common misperception, you do not have to file for divorce in the state where your marriage took place.
There are a few rules that may impact the county in PA when divorce papers are filed. For example, paper may need to be filed in the county where your spouse lives. If your spouse now lives in a different county than you, you have the following options:
- You can file for divorce in the county where you and your spouse resided during your marriage, provided that you have continuously lived in the same county since your separation.
- With your spouse’s agreement, you can file for divorce in the county where you currently reside.
- If your spouse moved out of state, you can file for divorce in the county where you currently reside.
- If neither of you resides in the county where you lived during your marriage, you can file for divorce in the county where either currently lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we will address some common questions related to the residency requirements for divorce filing in Pennsylvania. Please note that while we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we suggest you talk with an attorney about your case, as the specifics of your situation could impact residency in your situation..
Do I need to remain in the same home to fulfill the residency requirement in Pennsylvania?
Given the emotional nature of this process, it may be beneficial to physically separate from your spouse while awaiting the court’s judgment on your divorce in Pennsylvania. There is no obligation to stay at the same address to meet the residency requirements. As long as you can provide documentation to the Pennsylvania court that verifies your current address, you are free to relocate during the divorce proceedings.
Can I file for divorce in a different county than the one I live in?
The Petitioner, who is initiating the divorce process, must file the necessary paperwork in the appropriate county court. This can be the county where either the Petitioner or the Defendant resides. Additionally, it is possible to file in a different county if both parties agree. At Petrelli Previtera, with offices across Philadelphia County, Bucks County, Berks County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, Lehigh County, Northampton County, and Lancaster County, we are here to serve you.
What Do I Do if I or My Spouse Don’t Meet the Divorce Residency Requirements?
Failure to provide proof of residency to the court will result in the dismissal of your case. Without jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, the local court lacks the authority to decide your matter legally.
Per state laws, either you or your spouse (not necessarily both) must fulfill a 6-month residency requirement to dissolve your marriage in Pennsylvania. Therefore, if you or your spouse fail to meet this condition, you may need to wait and live in the state for six months before filing.
What Happens If I Relocate to Another State During the Divorce Process in Pennsylvania?
If you relocate to another state during your divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania, the case can proceed as long as you or your spouse has fulfilled the 6-month residency requirement. However, you should inform the court about your move and provide your new address.
Can I File for Divorce in Pennsylvania if My Spouse Lives in Another State?
Yes, you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania, even if your spouse lives in another state. If you have resided in Pennsylvania for at least six months, you can file in the county where you reside.
Do I Need to Appear in Court if I Live Out of State Physically?
Often, physical presence in court may not be necessary, especially in uncontested divorces where both parties agree on all terms. However, if your presence is required and you cannot attend, you should contact your attorney or the court to discuss your options.
What are the Residency Requirements for Military Personnel Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania?
If you are a military member stationed in Pennsylvania, you can file for divorce in the state, even if your permanent residence is elsewhere. According to Pennsylvania law, military members stationed in the state for at least 6 months are considered residents to file for divorce. However, consult with a legal professional experienced in military divorces to navigate the specific rules and regulations related to these proceedings.
Why Choose Petrelli Previtera for Your Pennsylvania Divorce?
Petrelli Previtera is an Inc.5000 firm dedicated to staying updated on the latest laws, rules, and best practices in Pennsylvania divorce law. With a deep understanding that every divorce case is unique. Our goal-oriented approach focuses on delivering high-level service from the first interaction to the final agreement. Built on trust, our attorney-client relationships aim to achieve the most satisfactory results. Our award-winning divorce attorneys in Pennsylvania prioritize strategic planning and collaboration for the best outcomes. Contact us today at 866-465-5395 or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Connect With The Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyers at Petrelli Previtera
Petrelli Previtera is consistently recognized as a leading divorce firm in Pennsylvania. Our founding and managing partner, Thomas Petrelli, Jr., holds Avvo’s highest rating of 10/10. Additionally, Petrelli Previtera was ranked #2703 on the 2019 Inc.5000 list, highlighting our commitment to helping clients navigate the divorce process toward a brighter future. When you need top-tier Pennsylvania divorce attorneys, we are here for you. Call us at 866-465-5395 or schedule a virtual consultation to secure our services.
We Have The Answers That You’re Looking For!
Choosing Petrelli Previtera means clear answers to any questions you might have. Our objective is to transform chaos into clarity, ensuring a positive resolution irrespective of the intricacies of the process. Contact us today at 866-465-5395 or schedule a consultation to find out if we’re the right fit for you.
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