Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Lancaster, PA

Bentley, Kopecki, Smith, P.C. is one of the few Pennsylvania-based law firms with a dedicated team of family lawyers. Our team provides expert practical advice on divorce and all family law matters. We have experienced attorneys and counselors providing legal advice and guidance to couples experiencing relationship breakdown to navigate their separation and subsequent divorce successfully.

Understanding Pennsylvania Divorce Laws

There are two basic requirements for getting a divorce in Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania family law, you must meet the state’s residency requirements before filing for divorce in its court. To meet this requirement, at least one of the spouses must have been a state resident for at least six months before filing the divorce.

To successfully file for divorce in PA, you must identify the grounds for your separation. In Pennsylvania, couples can file for divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds.

No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce happens when a couple files for divorce and states that none of them is to blame for the divorce. However, the marriage can’t be repaired, and the couple does not get along. Pennsylvania family law recognizes the following as grounds for no-fault divorce:

Irretrievable Breakdown

This applies when nothing can be repaired in the marriage, and the spouses have been living separately for more than a year. If one spouse argues that the union has a chance, the presiding judge may hold a hearing and consider the matter for 90 to 120 days. The judge may require the couple to undergo marital counseling during this period.

Mutual Consent

This applies when the divorcing couple mutually agrees that their marriage is irretrievably broken and would like to terminate it. They should file an affidavit for mutual consent to the divorce.

Institutionalization

The family law courts in Pennsylvania may grant a no-fault divorce when one party to the marriage is insane or suffers from a severe mental disorder and must be institutionalized.

The spouse must have been institutionalized at least 18 months before the commencement of the divorce action. Also, there must be no reasonable belief that they will be discharged in the 18 months after you file for divorce.

Fault-Based Divorce in Pennsylvania

When filing for a fault-based divorce, you must give the court a specific reason for the divorce. You must prove the other spouse’s fault that caused the divorce. A judge may grant a fault-based divorce if the evidence provided shows the following faults were committed:

  • Adultery
  • Bigamy – This refers to when your spouse married before nullifying their first marriage
  • Cruelty: This includes domestic violence and any barbarous treatment that puts a spouse’s life and health at risk
  • Spouse made life extremely difficult or unbearable
  • Imprisonment for that lasts more than two years

Property Division in Pennsylvania During Divorce

Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that the courts will attempt to divide marital assets fairly and equitably, which in most cases does not imply a 50-50 split. This means they distribute property without considering the at-fault spouse’s marital misconduct listed during a divorce. Instead, the court looks at many factors, like:

  • How long have they been married?
  • The age, and health, of each of the spouses
  • Education, skill and employability of each spouse
  • Income of each spouse, including life insurance and retirement benefits
  • Contribution of each spouse to the marriage
  • Who will be the custodian of their children

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

If you and your spouse agree on how everything, including assets and debts, will be divided, the process should take approximately 90 days. On the other hand, if you do not reach an amicable agreement, the divorce may take more than a year to be finalized.

Is my Divorce Contested or Uncontested?

If you and your spouse agree on the separation, including the distribution of debts and assets, that’s an uncontested divorce. However, if you and your partner disagree on the divorce terms, like who should get the house or which parent gets full custody of the children, that’s a contested divorce.

Learn more about Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

Is Alimony Mandatory in PA?

No. Alimony is not mandatory in all divorce cases in PA. The court determines it depending on the circumstances of the case. The spouse must also meet several requirements to be eligible for alimony or spousal support.

Do I Have to be a Pennsylvania Resident to file for a Divorce?

Parties looking to file for divorce in PA must establish residence in the state at least six months before filing the motion.

Do I Need to Hire a Divorce Attorney for My Divorce?

Although self-representation is possible, it is not in your best interest. The divorce process in Pennsylvania is complex. It is ubiquitous with legal nuances which could put you at a disadvantage. This is why hiring the best divorce lawyer  is recommended to take on such matters.

A knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney can help you file the necessary divorce paperwork, gather evidence for a fault divorce, represent you in divorce proceedings and ensure you get the best possible outcome from your divorce.

Trusted the Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The most significant issues in a divorce usually involve the division of marital property, how child custody and child support will be handled, and whether alimony is necessary. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer can alleviate most of these issues. 

At Bentley, Kopecki, Smith, P.C., our law firm is dedicated to providing high-caliber legal representation to handle all your legal issues. We aim to simplify the process, allowing you to make difficult decisions confidently.

If you have any questions about filing for divorce in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, do not hesitate to contact us or visit our Lancaster, PA law office for a free consultation.