Top 7 Issues You Must Consider Before Filing for a Divorce In Pennsylvania

woman contemplating divorce

The term “divorce” should never be thrown around lightly. When any couple decides to proceed with divorce there are major changes that may take place, not only to your own lives but to many lives around you. Your family, friends, and even your neighbours and employer may feel the impact of your divorce. Before filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, you should carefully consider the following aspects to determine if and how divorcing your spouse may impact them, and if you proceed, how you can manage the changes it may have on your life.

Key Takeaways

  • Think about your children: financial and emotional considerations
  • The time of divorce process impacted by the chosen approach and other circumstances
  • It matters who files first
  • Financial documents, financial mistakes
  • Current living arrangements and life after moving out
  • Your behaviour matters
  • Know what are you entitled to after divorce

1. Think about your children before filing a divorce in PA

One of the most important considerations you should have is how divorce may impact the children involved. First is the logistical considerations of who will have primary custody, where the children will children reside, how you will manage visitation, and how you will jointly care for their needs. Then, there is the emotional consideration. How you choose to inform them of your decision to divorce and how you present the details will have a great impact on how children view the situation. You may even wish to seek a family counsellor to help you navigate these challenging conversations. Related: PA Custody Factors: What Courts Consider when Awarding Child Custody

 2. How long does a divorce take in PA?

There are many factors that can impact the amount of time it takes for two people to officially divorce, namely the type of divorce that is being filed. A mutual consent divorce can take 4 to 5 months, including Pennsylvania’s mandatory 90-day waiting period, which begins after the spouses file for divorce in Pennsylvania. Unlike in many states, in Pennsylvania spouses can proceed with “fault” or “no-fault” divorce. During a fault divorce process, the court is considering the misconduct of both spouses related to the divorce. Marital misconduct includes adultery, abuse and drug addiction. It is hard to predict the amount of time it may take to fully process a fault divorce and is highly dependent upon the circumstances under examination. Related resources: 

 3. It matters who files for divorce first

Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to being first. Filing for divorce is no exception. The first party to initiate the divorce will presumably have time beforehand to obtain the proper legal representation, as well as the necessary documents. It can also stop your spouse from hiding money or assets before the break-up. Conversely, the individual who petitions for divorce first might have to pay the filing fees and possibly more to retain legal assistance to gather proper information in order to file for divorce. Every situation is unique, and these pros and cons should not stop you if you truly feel like filing for divorce is your best option. Speaking to an experienced divorce attorney can help you understand the steps you should take for the most favourable outcome.

The first steps to file for a divorce in PA

You must meet the residency requirements before you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania. To get a divorce, at least one of the parties must have been resided in the state for at least six months immediately before filing the divorce case. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3104(b) (2022))

You’ll need to prepare the necessary divorce forms. These typically include a Complaint for Divorce and related documents, which vary depending on whether you’re filing for a no-fault or fault-based divorce. You can obtain these forms from the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse resides, or can search for the county’s forms and procedures on the Pennsylvania courts’ divorce website. Throughout the process, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a qualified family law attorney to ensure your rights are protected and to navigate any complexities that may arise.

4. Copy important financial documents

Be sure to obtain and make copies of all important financial documents as soon as possible. It is in your best interest to have copies of such items in your own possession and to not need to rely upon your spouse for access to them. Important financial documents may include vital records for you and your children, logins and passwords to important accounts, titles, deeds, wills, and more. Related resources:

 5. Your current living arrangements with your spouse

Before filing for divorce in PA you should think through how you will handle living arrangements with your spouse. If currently separated, this may not need to be as large of a consideration. But if you still reside together, you may want to have a discussion as to the best options for all parties involved, including children. Are you able to arrange for temporary housing, if desired? Will children reside with you, your spouse, or someone else? How long can you sustain alternate accommodations? Thinking through all of this in advance may save you stress, uncertainty, and inconvenience.

 6. Know what to do after you move out

If you determine your best option is to move out of your home prior to or during the divorce process, you should be prepared to make this substantial change in your life. First, make sure all important accounts are changed to reflect your new address, even if temporary. You can also request a mail forward from USPS. For any accounts that you and your spouse jointly share, you will need to determine the address the mail will come to moving forward, and how you will share necessary information with one another. You will also want to arrange to obtain your personal items. If this is only a temporary separation until other factors are determined, you may need just the essentials. If you anticipate you will not return to your home in the near future, you will want to be sure to take all items of value to you, that you own, so that you have them in your possession.

7. Your daily life behavior matters

Finally and most importantly, you must consider all of your actions leading up to and during your divorce process. How you interact with your spouse, children, friends, family, and mutual contacts may impact your case. Generally speaking, you should act reasonably and responsibly to put yourself in the best position for a favorable outcome.

What are you entitled to after divorce in Pennsylvania?

There are some general principles regarding what a spouse may be entitled to after a divorce in PA. Pennsylvania follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property during a divorce. This means that the court aims to divide property fairly, though not necessarily equally. Marital property includes assets acquired during the marriage, while separate property typically includes assets acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gift.

Your can read more here about common financial mistakes to avoid.

Alimony may also be awarded to a spouse based on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial resources and needs, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the contributions of each party to the marriage.

You can read more here about the types of alimony and spousal support in PA.

The terms of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements may also impact the distribution of assets and financial arrangements after divorce. You will need a trusted attorney on your side to make sure nothing is overlooked and your rights are protected.

How Colgan & Associates can help you with your divorce

If you are considering a divorce and seeking legal advice, the first thing you should do is talk to a trusted divorce attorney who can discuss the unique aspects of your case and provide you with the most important things you should consider about your decision to move forward with the filing process. At Colgan & Associates, our team of experienced family & divorce lawyers in South Central Pennsylvania are ready and able to help you with your matter. Call us for a no-cost, no-obligation phone consultation at (717) 775-6695 or

Schedule a free consultation here.

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