General Information about Divorce in Pennsylvania
Divorce is the absolute ending to a marriage. Divorce is governed by state law; so, the law in Pennsylvania may be quite different from that of other states. Among the various states, there is probably much similarity but the actual public policy and law that control a divorce are specific to each individual state in which a divorce is sought or granted. You should consult an attorney who practices in the place where you reside to get started. There are certain residency and procedural requirements and your attorney can help you. For example, in Pennsylvania one of the parties must have lived in the Commonwealth for six months prior to the filing of a divorce complaint (the court filing that starts the process). The divorce complaint is filed with the Clerk of Family Court (Prothonotary) in the county where one of the parties lives – there are some exceptions, but that is something your attorney can advise you concerning where to file. Each divorce case is unique and will require special treatment; so, early consultation with an attorney is probably the best option. Doing nothing will not make the divorce action go away. Even if you do not want the divorce, or personally do not blieve in divorce, eventually the divorce will be granted if the other party waits the appropriate amount of time and wants it. For some couples, divorce is a gift, a new freedom. For other people, divorce is wrong and the most terrible thing that could happen. Whatever your stance is on divorce, give yourself what you need most, the help of an attorney who can advise you, stand up for you when needed, and work for you to insure that your interests are protected. The date the divorce complaint is filed is a significant procedural date; however, the date of separation is critical too, as it establishes how marital property will be identified and assessed, in terms of ownership and value. In some cases the date of separation is a bright line and there no contest about it, but that is not always the case and there can be some confusion as to when that date actually was. This is where an attorney can help you sift through the facts and find the right date. In Pennsylvania, what is defined as marital property for divorce purposes is established knowing the date of marriage and the date of separation. That is not always the case in other states. Be careful how you interpret what you hear from friends and relatives, albeit well meaning, because the law does change and evolve and the law can be very different just a few miles away.
Same-Sex Married Couples
Same-sex marriage is now legal in Pennsylvania.
If you are not married, you are not married. This is a rather new area of the law and society since the last quarter of the 20th Century to the present day because more and more men and women are choosing to set up house and live together. In the legal world, they are referred to as “unmarried co-habitants” so their legal status is not that of a married couple. For these couples love and commitment is seen as a personal choice and they chose to not obtain the government recognition option of a marriage. Now love and commitment are very powerful words because they mean different things to different people, but it is possible that an unmarried couple might remain a couple for other reasons – maybe each cannot afford to live separately or maybe they have a child or children, and therefore, they decide to or may be forced to stay together, at least for the right now.