How to Get a Dissolution in Pennsylvania

By Chuck Ayers

Updated July 21, 2017

man and woman divorced image by Ivonne Wierink from

Marital dissolution is the legal term for divorce. Like all states since August 2010, according to, Pennsylvania law allows both “no-fault” and “at-fault” divorces. Either partner must live in the state for at lease six months before filing for divorce, no matter the state in which the marriage took place. If either spouse files divorce papers with the court stating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” it serves as sufficient grounds to grant a divorce even if contested by the spouse.

File divorce complaint papers in the Commonwealth Court of the Pennsylvania county in which either you or spouse reside asking the court to dissolve the marriage. A marriage where both spouses consent, a divorce decree can be granted as quickly as 91 days when each party signs an affidavit of consent. If living separately for at least two years, a no-fault divorce will be granted on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken and neither spouse contests the allegations in the affidavit or either party maintains the marriage is irretrievably broken after living apart for two years. The divorce is considered uncontested if both parties can agree upon the division of property, child custody and support and spousal support, alimony and any other financial matters that might otherwise be contested such as retirement or pension payments. You can handle the divorce yourself and save some money or hire an attorney to handle the divorce for you. There are also numerous internet sites where you can use for a fee to file for divorce, as well. It is advisable, however, that an attorney familiar with Pennsylvania divorce law look over the final divorce decree before you sign it.

Seek a divorce for fault if you have been separated less less than two years and can prove to the court that your spouse has committed adultery, bigamy, that the spouse has inflicted “cruel and inhuman” treatment upon you,been imprisoned for two or more years or that you have suffered “personal indignities.” You may also seek a divorce if your spouse has been confined in a mental institution and is expected to remain in confinement for mental instability for the foreseeable future.

File in your divorce complaint of any unresolved issues including written arguments contesting the issues you and your spouse have not resolved, including custody, child support, distribution of assets, alimony or other material issues on which you disagree. The court will set a trial date at which time it will hear oral argument and make a determination on “equitable” division of marital property. Unlike many states, marital property in Pennsylvania may not include assets you had before you married or real property or other financial assets that were separated while married, such as bank or checking accounts and inherited property. Among the considerations used by the judge in determining “equitable” distribution of assets include, marriage length, prior marriages, employability, the living standards to which you were accustomed, the tax consequences of distribution and the respective roles in parenting and wage-earning.

Custody of children if contested resides with the courts judgment regarding the best interests of the children, as it does in all states where custodial issues arise. Among the main determining factors considered by the court are the child's preference, the parent best able to provide for the child's physical, intellectual, emotional well-being, roles in rearing the child and any previous abusive or criminal conduct by either spouse.

Sign the divorce decree issued by the judge. Both spouses must sign the final order for the divorce to become official.