There are several steps involved in obtaining a divorce. In Pennsylvania, the dissolution process can vary, depending on whether both spouses agree to the divorce. Sometimes after the paperwork is filed, new facts come to light or problems surface, resulting in a dismissed case and the need to refile the divorce paperwork. Understanding the divorce process in Pennsylvania can help minimize any delays in getting your divorce.
Paperwork for Divorce
The state of Pennsylvania will grant a no-fault divorce based on mutual consent or following a two-year separation. If it's a divorce based on mutual consent, you must start the divorce process by filing a Complaint for Divorce and serve the complaint on your spouse. In Pennsylvania, you can serve divorce papers by certified mail or process server. After a mandatory 90-day waiting period has passed, both spouses must then submit an Affidavit of Consent and Waiver of Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Divorce Decree. Once received, the judge can grant the divorce. A divorce based on a two-year separation also requires that you file and serve the complaint along with an affidavit indicating that you and your spouse have met the two-year separation requirement. You then have to file a Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Divorce Decree.
Reasons to Refile
You might want to refile a divorce complaint if the other party decides he will not sign the affidavit of consent after saying he would. In this case, you must file a motion to dismiss the case and wait out the two-year separation requirement before refiling – or file immediately on fault grounds, such as adultery, if appropriate. You can also refile on fault grounds if you simply decide you want to avoid the 90-day waiting period.
There are certain instances in which the court is likely to dismiss your case, which would result in your having to refile. If you file for a divorce based on mutual consent and there are allegations of coercion or fraud concerning your spouse's signature on the consent affidavit, it's probable that the court will dismiss the case. If after waiting two years for divorce, your spouse files a counter affidavit, stating that you weren't separated for two years, the court might dismiss the case unless you can show proof of separation, such as the testimony of witnesses or proof of maintaining another residence. Further, if you don't meet certain requirements, or follow the divorce procedure as provided by Pennsylvania law, the court will dismiss the case. For example, if you didn't serve your spouse properly or within the required time period, your spouse can motion to have the case dismissed. The court can also dismiss a case if neither party met the required six-month residency requirement at the time of filing. Once one party meets the residency requirement, you can refile.
In Pennsylvania, there is no difference in the filing procedure the second time around. However, the court does request that the parties provide notice as to whether there have been any previous legal actions between them. You simply have to indicate this information on the appropriate line on your complaint. In addition, once a case is dismissed, refiling is treated as an entirely new lawsuit, which means you'll have to pay another filing fee.