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What are Pennsylvania's rules for filing for divorce?

Breaking up is hard to do -- and it can be even harder if you do not understand the legal basics of divorce in Pennsylvania. A variety of restrictions and regulations exist within the divorce process. If you are not aware of these limitations, you may find yourself struggling to leave the relationship. Ensure your success by keeping these divorce rules in mind.

First, keep in mind that you or your spouse must have been a legitimate resident of the state for at least six months before pursuing a divorce action. A divorce may be brought in the state if one party lives in Pennsylvania and the other resides in another jurisdiction.

There are four types of legal grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania. The most common among these are mutual consent and irretrievable breakdown. In a mutual consent divorce, couples must wait for 90 days after they file an initial document with the courts indicating their intent do divorce. Irretrievable breakdown, on the other hand, requires that both parties have lived separate from each other for at least two years.

Pennsylvania also grants fault-based divorces. The injured spouse may seek divorce for adultery or abuse, but some of the conditions are quite surprising. Divorce may be granted if one party is sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years, for instance. Finally, the divorce may be granted if one of the spouses is institutionalized for at least 18 months, and there is no expectation that the individual will be discharged from care in the immediate future.

Property division does not depend on whether one person was at fault for the divorce. In Pennsylvania, the marital property must be equitably divided so that both parties receive a share of the marital estate. A variety of factors is considered when making the distribution decisions. No matter your reason for pursuing divorce -- or the amount of property you intend to divide -- it makes sense to consult a legal professional before taking any official court action.

Source: About.com, "Pennsylvania Divorce Laws" Cathy Meyer, Aug. 18, 2014

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