Same-Sex Divorce in Pennsylvania

In May 2014, a Pennsylvania federal judge struck down a state ban on the unconstitutionality of same-sex marriage, thus giving same-sex couples in the state the right to marry. Pennsylvania is the 19th state to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry, thanks to the ruling made by Judge John E. Jones III of the Federal District Court.

Of course, the legality of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania now brings questions regarding the process of same-sex divorce for couples married in and out of the state. The following provides information on the process and what same-sex couples can do if they wish to end their marriage.

Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania

Same-sex couples who wish to file for divorce in Pennsylvania must take specific steps in order to end their marriage. Under Section 3301 Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, an individual filing for divorce may do so on fault-based grounds, claiming that he or she was injured by the other spouse’s actions.

According to Pennsylvania law, grounds for divorce may include:

  • the commission of adultery;
  • willful and malicious desertion of a spouse;
  • endangering the life of a spouse;
  • a spouse being sentenced to prison for two or more years;
  • a spouse making life intolerable for the other; or
  • bigamy.

A court may grant a divorce for an individual if he or she can prove the other spouse suffers insanity or a mental disorder resulting in confinement to a mental institution.

No-Fault Divorce for Couples Wed In or Out of Pennsylvania

The aforementioned section of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes also provides that an individual may file for divorce without listing one of the previously listed grounds, often referred to as a “no-fault” divorce. A no-fault divorce may be granted if both parties mutually consent to the action, as long as it can be shown that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that 90 days have passed since the divorce was filed.

One spouse may file for divorce by filing an affidavit that claims that the marriage has been irretrievably broken, as long as the spouses have lived apart for two years. For a court to grant this action, the defendant spouse must not deny the allegations. If the defendant does deny the allegations, the court still may grant the divorce if it rules after a hearing that the allegations within the affidavit are true (that the couple has lived apart for two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken).

Same-sex couples who were married outside of Pennsylvania but who have lived apart in Pennsylvania may file immediately for a no-fault divorce now that same-sex marriage has been legalized, as long as they are residents of the state.

A Pennsylvania Attorney Can Help

As with any other legal action, having an attorney on your side while you file for divorce can be to your benefit. The legal professionals at ARM Lawyers, LLC represent clients in Stroudsburg, Palmerton and Bethlehem and can help you seek a same-sex divorce from your spouse in Pennsylvania.