What is the Divorce Process in Pennsylvania? (Part One)

Divorce is a common topic in a lawyer’s world. We’d all like to believe that we’ve found “The One” and live happily ever after, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes you just have to be able to know when to call it quits for the sake of all of those involved. We understand how stressful and heavy of a decision it can be, and we’re here to help every step of the way. We’ll take some time in this two part post to dive into the world of divorce in Pennsylvania to help you understand what all it entails.

Divorce will have a dramatic effect on your life

To start, you should know that divorce is going to dramatically affect many parts of your life. The legal process of divorce will typically involve child custody and visitation, distribution of property, alimony, and division of debt. It can dramatically affect your credit and your taxes. It is stressful, and it will affect your home and work life. Knowing this going in, prepare yourself mentally. The first thing you need to understand about divorce in Pennsylvania is that one of the two spouses need to have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to the filing. In most cases, this shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to be mindful of if you’ve just moved to the state within the past 6 months. The divorce process is initiated by filing a complaint. This complaint should be filed in one of the counties in which the parties reside.

Discuss the situation with your children

Children are among those most deeply affected by divorce. You should take the time to help them understand why it is happening and let them know it is absolutely not their fault. As for the legal side of things, it is wise to discuss custody agreements during the divorce process. It’s at this time you can set up who has custody when, and if child support payments need to be instituted. Sometimes both parties can come to an agreement right then, which is the ideal situation. If an agreement cannot be reached, filing for custody at this point in time will save you money in the long run since you won’t have to hire an attorney for two separate cases. There are several economic claims that can be brought up during the divorce process in Pennsylvania that you should be aware of:

  • Equitable division of property
  • Alimony
  • Alimony Pendente Lite
  • Counsel fees
  • Expenses

Let’s explain what each of these are to give you a better understanding of what you and your attorney will be dealing with.

Equitable division of property

Equitable division of property refers to the process in which a judic al agreement is formed to divide the rights to the jointly owned property of both parties. Courts consider each spouse’s contributions to the accumulation of the property, as well as the needs of each party, in order to reach a decision on this.

About alimony payments

Alimony refers to financial support given to a former spouse after the divorce is completed. Alimony is separate from child support payments, which are instituted when discussing custody of any children.

Alimony Pendente Lite

Alimony Pendente Lite is similar in that it is financial support given from one spouse to another during the divorce proceedings rather than afterward. It should be noted that alimony payments are considered taxable income for the party receiving the payments, and can be deducted from the gross income of the party making the payments.

Counsel fees

Counsel fees refers to the cost of the attorneys handling the case and the various other legal fees involved. Sometimes an agreement will be made for one party to cover all the fees involved for both spouses.


Expenses refers to the cost of things such as rent, property taxes, mortgage payments, credit card bills, etc. The economic claims in a divorce often consume the bulk of the proceedings in such magnitude that the divorce will not be finalized until the economic claims are resolved. If parties are still trying to figure out how to divide up retirement income, what to do with the marital home, or who gets what money out of bank accounts, the divorce can be significantly delayed. There is an exception to this though. An attorney can file to bifurcate the divorce from the economic claims. This allows the courts to finalize the divorce while maintaining jurisdiction to resolve the economic claims. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s wise to have an experienced and proven attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Roy Galloway, we want to make the process as easy as possible while getting you the most we can. Be sure to read part two to gain a better understanding of the divorce process in Pennsylvania.