What Do I Need to Do to Contest a No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?

By Beverly Bird

Pennsylvania offers spouses more ways to get divorced than most states. In addition to several fault grounds, the state offers two separate no-fault options. The first and easiest no-fault option involves spouses jointly signing and filing a mutual complaint for divorce, so contesting the process is not an issue. Pennsylvania's other no-fault option is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and a spouse can contest these grounds.

Step 1

Go online to a legal document provider or visit the Court of Common Pleas in your county to access a form for an "Answer and Counterclaim." This is your means of notifying the court you're not in agreement with the no-fault divorce your spouse has requested.

Step 2

Fill out the Answer and Counterclaim. This is a two-part document. The first part, which is the answer segment, typically contains boilerplate language stating how you're filing this document with the court statutorily indicates you're contesting and denying your spouse's grounds. You don't have to write anything in this segment except to indicate the numbered paragraphs in your spouse's divorce complaint to which you're responding. Include all of them to cover all your bases. For example, you'd write, "Paragraphs 1 through 15."

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Step 3

Use the counterclaim portion of the document if you also want to contest what your spouse has asked the court to grant her as part of the divorce. It's important to fill out the counterclaim portion even if you agree with what your spouse is asking for, but don't want the divorce. If you lose your attempt to stop the divorce based on grounds, the divorce will go forward and your counterclaim tells the court what you want from the divorce in the event that happens.

Step 4

File your Answer and Counterclaim with the Court of Common Pleas in the same county where your spouse filed for divorce. You have a very limited period of time in which to do this. After 20 days, your spouse can file an additional document with the court, known as a Notice of Intention to Request Divorce Decree, so you should make your objections known before this time. When the court receives your document, it will schedule a hearing to address your dispute of the grounds.

Step 5

Gather evidence to disprove your spouse's irretrievable breakdown grounds at the scheduled hearing. The requirements for this type of divorce involve a two-year separation and your spouse's assertion that your marriage can't be saved. If you haven't lived separately for the two full years, you can attempt to document this with copies of leases or utility bills in both names, or the testimony of witnesses who know you were together during that time. The judge will decide at this hearing whether to allow your divorce to proceed or dismiss your spouse's complaint.

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