Steps in a Divorce

Contested Divorce

The Steps to Obtain a Divorce In PA

The first step to being divorced is to file a Divorce Complaint.  You might file the Complaint in Divorce, or your spouse might file.  Many clients ask us if there is a legal advantage to being the spouse who files for divorce.  There is no particular legal advantage for being the spouse who files for divorce.  However, for some of our clients, there might be religious or principled reasons why they do (or do not) want to file for divorce. We respect these concerns and will help guide you as you make the decision whether to be the spouse who files the Complaint for Divorce.     

The state statutes and county rules establish ground rules for the divorce process, but how you follow the process will be unique to your personal case. For example, after you or your spouse files a Complaint in Divorce, there is a mandatory ninety (90) day waiting period before you can ask the Court to grant you "grounds" to divorce, but during the waiting period, you can either begin negotiations, or you can take a break. To the degree possible our Attorneys can help you coordinate the timing of your legal proceedings.  Although some things are outside of our control (such as the scheduling of Court appearances, or certain other legal requirements), many things are within our control to time. The filing and the service of the Divorce Complaint can be a very emotional time for both spouses, even when the spouses agree to divorce.  There is nothing that forces you to take any particular action during the divorce waiting period. 

After the 90-day waiting period, you and your spouse can consent to the divorce in order to obtain "grounds" for the divorce.  Grounds are, essentially, permission to divorce.  Consenting to the divorce does NOT mean you will be divorced right away.  You cannot be divorced until you and your spouse agree on the distribution of property (a process called "Equitable Distribution"). Whether you begin discussing equitable distribution during the 90-day waiting period, or you can wait until after, is up to you and your spouse. 

What If My Spouse Won't Consent to the Divorce?

If your spouse will not consent to the divorce after the 90 day waiting period, Pennsylvania divorce law requires you to wait one year from the date of separation to ask the Court to grant you grounds to divorce.  While there is a presumption in Pennsylvania that the date of the filing of the divorce complaint is the date of separation, the date of separation can also be when the parties no longer live together as spouses.

The Divorce Code defines separation as cessation of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not. To be living separate and apart, at least one party must intend to dissolve the marriage and must clearly manifest his or her intent to separate to the other spouse. Identifying the date of separation is crucial to the divorce process because it not only starts the timer for when you can seek entry of a divorce decree without your spouse’s consent but it is also the date that stops the timer on the marital estate for equitable distribution purposes.  

Schedule a Free Consultation

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jennifer J. Riley offer free consultations to help you learn your legal rights and obligations related to your divorce, support, or custody matter.  We believe that understanding your legal rights can help to empower to help you make life's difficult decisions.  We strive to help reduce the fear everyone feels about the process.  

We meet with our Montgomery County and Bucks County clients in our Blue Bell office; we meet with our Main Line clients in our Wayne, Pennsylvania office, located near the King of Prussia Town Center.  

To schedule a free consultation, please contact us by email or by phone at 215-283-5080.