Is It Proper to File for My Divorce in Pennsylvania Courts?

When a marriage is irretrievably broken, the behaviors of one spouse have rendered the marriage intolerable to the innocent and injured party, or other difficult situations arise a divorce may be necessary. While spouses rarely set out in a marriage contemplating that the relationship may not last forever, the Pennsylvania Divorce Code does provide for legal solutions to dissolve a marriage that doesn’t work out.

One of the main parts of determining whether you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania’s courts involves determining whether your situation fits one of the legal grounds for divorce. For more information regarding legal grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania, please read our overview of the grounds for divorce. However, beyond this determination and prior to filing for divorce in Pennsylvania courts, you must also assess whether you meet the residence and domicile requirements to file for divorce in Pennsylvania. Finally, a potential filer for divorce must  determine the correct venue (county) for the matter to be filed. If you are at all concerned about this process, contact a Philadelphia divorce lawyer of Sadek & Cooper.

Get Help from Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers If You Are Filing for Divorce in PA

While it may seem somewhat self-evident, Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations § 3104(a), grants the state courts of Pennsylvania original jurisdiction over, “cases of divorce and for the annulment of void or voidable marriages.” As such, a Pennsylvania court is responsible for determinations including:

  • The equitable division of property
  • The enforcement of prenuptial agreement
  • Spousal support and alimony determinations
  • Child custody determinations
  • Child supports awards
  • Any other matters retaining to the dissolution of the marriage.

Individuals who are a bona fide resident of the state are entitled to petition the Pennsylvania courts for a divorce or annulment. A bona fide resident is typically an individual who has lived in the state for at least six months prior to the filing of the divorce petition. A spouse may file for divorce in Pennsylvania provided that at least one spouse is a bona fide resident.

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Can I Sue for Divorce in PA if I Was Married in New Jersey or Out of State?

Some people are concerned about filing for a divorce in Pennsylvania because they were married out-of-state. Some people may have been married close to Pennsylvania, while others may have even traveled internationally to get married. Some potential clients have asked whether they need to file for divorce in the state or country where they were married.

Thankfully, this is not the case and divorce is available in Pennsylvania when either of the two spouses is a bona fide resident. Furthermore, § 3104(c) of the Divorce Code explicitly states that the court may hear a divorce case even when:

  • The marriage did not occur in Pennsylvania.
  • The parties were domiciled outside of Pennsylvania at the time of the marriage.
  • The grounds or justification for the divorce did not occur in Pennsylvania.

Under the same section, the court is also authorized to, “annul void or voidable marriages celebrated outside this Commonwealth at a time when neither party was domiciled within this Commonwealth.”

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In What County will my Pennsylvania Divorce Proceedings be Held?

The final element in determining if and where you can file your divorce in Pennsylvania involves the venue or the actual court where you will file the petition for divorce. Proper venue typically exists in the county where the defendant (the party not filing for divorce) resides. If the defendant lives outside of Pennsylvania, then the county where the plaintiff resides is considered the proper venue. There are also several other rules that guide the selection of proper venue involving the matrimonial home and when the parties are separated. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you understand these rules and increase the likelihood that your filing is proper.

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