LGBT Divorce Rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has recognized same-sex marriage since May 20, 2014. That was the day a U.S. federal district court judge ruled the Commonwealth's 1996 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Indeed, the ruling required all 50 states to recognize LGBT marriages performed in other states. At the same time, LGBT divorce gained legal recognition. Before that, LGBT couples had to go to another state recognizing an LGBT marriage, establish residency, and file for divorce. There was no such thing as an LGBT divorce lawyer.

Now, same-sex couples have the same access to PA courts as their heterosexual counterparts. However, if your marriage took place before federal law, you might face some complications. That's when you'll need insight from a local LGBT divorce lawyer near you, particularly one versed in PA divorce laws.

You might also want to review our Divorce Guidance section. Our divorce attorneys compiled a list of common divorce issues to provide a comprehensive resource of major divorce concerns. The guide covers everything from Pennsylvania divorce laws and alimony to mediation and tax concerns.

Filing for a Divorce

Filing for an LGBT divorce in Pennslyvania involves the same steps as filing for heterosexual marriage. You'll need to work with your LGBT divorce lawyer and present the following:

  1. Meeting residency requirements
  2. Presenting appropriate grounds for divorce
  3. Filing divorce papers and copying your spouse

You can get more insights into the necessary forms here.

No-Fault Divorce

Pennsylvania permits filing a divorce based on no-fault or fault. The former allows you to proceed with an LGBT divorce independent of proving your spouse caused the dissolution of the marriage. A no-fault divorce includes two types:

1. Mutual Consent: Both parties file an affidavit consenting to the divorce 90 days after serving the divorce complaint. First, your LGBT divorce lawyer drafts a settlement agreement. That agreement covers any concerns relating to child custodychild supportalimony, and property distribution. Then, you sign a separation agreement that becomes an Order of the Court. Unfortunately, if you cannot deal with the various issues, the court decides for you during a hearing. 

2. One-Year Separation Divorce: After your separation extends for two years, you can file for divorce even if your spouse refuses to consent to the divorce. You sign an affidavit declaring the two-year break and presenting the marriage as irretrievably broken. You then serve that affidavit to the non-consenting spouse. Even if they again fail to respond, the court delivers a divorce decree.

Your spouse, however, may file a counter-affidavit denying the two-year separation. In addition, they might claim the marriage is salvageable. In that event, the court may conduct a hearing to decide whether or not to issue a decree. Make sure you involve your LGBT divorce lawyer.

Fault-Based LGBT Divorce

Fault-based divorce requires proof that one spouse is responsible for the divorce based on these grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Conviction
  • Insanity
  • Inhuman treatment
  • Prison sentence lasting two or more years
  • Creating intolerable conditions

In addition, Pennsylvania divorce laws include one spouse's commitment to a mental institution. That commitment must occur for at least 18 months before filing the divorce complaint. Plus, the commitment includes no likelihood of discharge for at least 18.

Beyond the above conditions, PA requires a hearing and a formal finding, where the court determines requisite elements of blame. Again, you'll want to talk with an LGBT lawyer near you to contest potential concerns with any fault-based case.

Need to Talk to an LGBT Divorce Lawyer Near You?

Pennsylvania same-sex couples united by civil unions and same-sex couples married after the 2015 Supreme Court case can seek dissolution of their marriage in the Commonwealth. Moreover, LGBT couples seeking divorce enjoy the same outcomes as heterosexual couples, including spousal support, equitable distribution, and child support.

If you or someone you know needs a local divorce attorney, look at our client reviews. We've earned a reputation as a Best Law Firm from U.S. News. That same publication named 14 of our attorneys as Best Lawyers in America.

We have law offices nearby in Doylestown and Norristown, PA, plus a Cherry Hill, NJ location. So, we cover the greater Philadelphia area. If you need an LGBT lawyer near you to support you with your divorce, contact our law firm. We'll provide expert legal counsel that starts by listening to your concerns.

Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce Attorneys

Mary Cushing Doherty

Mary Cushing Doherty | Montgomery County Family lawyer

Mary Cushing Doherty is a senior partner at our firm. As an attorney, she concentrates her practice on all aspects of marital dissolution and family issues.

Judith A. Algeo

Judith Algeo bucks county pa family law attorney

Judith A. Algeo is a skilled family law attorney in Bucks County, PA. She represents individuals in all matters of family law including divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support and alimony, and equitable distribution.

Shari R. Gelfont Williams

shari gelfont williams at high swartz llp doylestown law office

Bucks County Attorney with 25+ years' experience in litigation with a focus on family law, estate planning, and business disputes.

Linay L. Haubert

Linay Haubert | SSDI and Workers' Compensation Attorney | High Swartz Attorneys at Law

A Workers' Comp, SSD, and family law attorney, Linay L. Haubert R.N., Esq. is a former registered nurse and practices out of our Doylestown office in Bucks County, PA.

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