Pennsylvania Divorce Glossary

wedding bands and divorce papers

Knowing the Most Important Terms

Getting a divorce is no doubt one of the most difficult things a person may go through, as the process can be filled with uncertainty about the future. Many people, in fact, are scared of the process because they may be unsure of how the process works and what legal terms refer to. In order to assuage fears and to help you stay informed, we’ve compiled a list of the most essential terms in Pennsylvania divorces. Here’s what you need to know.


Perhaps the most easily understood yet the most important term in this glossary, divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. By filing for divorce, you are seeking an end to your marriage relationship with your spouse and become single again.

Grounds for Divorce

Each person that chooses to file for divorce must do so based on Pennsylvania grounds for divorce. This merely means the reason that you are seeking a divorce.

No-Fault Grounds

In Pennsylvania, you may file for divorce on the basis of an irreparably broken marriage based on irreconcilable differences. This is the no-fault grounds for a divorce in the state; no one action is responsible for the dissolution of the marriage. In addition to an irreparably broken marriage, you and your spouse must either file an affidavit consenting to the divorce or an affidavit stating the two of you have lived separate and apart for at least one year.

Fault Grounds

On the other hand, some choose to file for divorce based on the fault of the other party. The court may grant a divorce if one of the following actions is committed against the innocent party and evidence shows the action caused the dissolution of the marriage:

  • One spouse committed adultery.
  • One spouse knowingly entered a marriage relationship with one person while still married to someone else at the same time.
  • One spouse committed cruel and barbarous treatment that has endangered the health or life of the innocent spouse.
  • One spouse willfully and maliciously deserted the innocent spouse and has been away for one or more years without reasonable cause to do so.
  • One spouse has been convicted of a crime and has been sentenced to at least two years in prison.
  • One spouse has been indignant to the innocent spouse to the point where the innocent spouse’s life has been rendered burdensome.
  • One spouse has been declared insane or mentally unstable to the point where they need to be confined in a mental institution for at least 18 months.

Marital Property

One of the more contested parts of a divorce is property division. During this step, any property that was acquired throughout the marriage, typically personal property, real property, or financial assets, is divided between the spouses. These types of property are known as marital property because they were acquired during the time of the marriage.

Separate Property

By contrast, some property does not get divided during the divorce. This can include property acquired outside the time of the marriage as well as anything inherited or gifted specifically to one spouse. This is known as separate property.

Alimony/Spousal Support

The court may find that one spouse is in need of financial support in order for them to be able to provide for themselves and maintain a standard of living after the divorce is finalized. The payment is known as alimony (or you might hear it referred to as spousal support). The amount of money paid to a dependent spouse depends on the unique circumstances of each case.

Child Support

Parents have a duty to provide for their children, even after their marriage is dissolved. If children are involved in a divorce, one party may be responsible for providing the other spouse with financial payments in order for that spouse to provide for the child’s needs. The payment is known as child support; similar to alimony, how much child support is paid depends on a case by case basis.

Child Custody

In addition to child support, both parents will have to determine who has the right to house the child as well as the right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care, education, religion, and similar topics. These come together to form child custody. Child custody can be broken into legal custody (decision-making) and physical custody (residence) and will be determined in divorces that involve children.

Divorce Attorney

This is the person you work with to guide you throughout the process and to protect your rights at each step. Your divorce attorney works with you to attempt settlement negotiations and to protect you in court. It’s important to consult with an attorney early in your divorce in order to provide yourself with the maximum protection.

At Site:BusinessName}, we know that while divorce can be difficult, you have the right to pursue the option best for you and to start the next chapter of your life. We can help you each step of the way. To schedule a consultation, call us at (610) 365-4733 or visit us online.

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