Divorce vs. Legal Separation in PA

Divorce vs. Legal Separation in PATaking the necessary steps to legally dissolve a marriage is often a challenging process. A competent, compassionate divorce attorney will not only advise you on separation and how to file for divorce, he or she will look out for your best interests and be there to support you through the process every step of the way.

Separation in Pennsylvania

So how long does it take for legal separation?  The answer to this question is complicated, as there is no concept of legal separation under Pennsylvania law. According to Pennsylvania Divorce Code, separation begins when you stop living together as spouses. Whether you are living in separate households is irrelevant; separation simply means that you are no longer partners and are leading separate lives. After one year, separation becomes a no-fault ground for divorce, even if one spouse is not in agreement.

Although you are not required to go to court to gain formal approval for separation, having a separation agreement in place is vital to address the division of martial assets and debts, child custody & support, medical insurance issues, estate matters, and how finances are to be handled during the separation period.


In Pennsylvania, your divorce may be based on either fault or no-fault grounds. First, you must file a divorce complaint with the Court of Common Pleas. Your complaint should outline your eligibility for divorce in Pennsylvania and the reason for divorce, along with any other matters you want the court to decide. These documents must be served on the other party within 30 days of the date they were filed.

An uncontested divorce by mutual consent (no-fault) means that you both give sworn statements declaring that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you are in agreement on the terms of your divorce, it is essential to have an attorney draft a divorce settlement agreement, which outlines the terms of the rights and responsibilities of each party and division of property, assets and debts.

You may file for fault-based divorce if you can prove that your spouse:

  • Has acted in a way that made your life unbearable or extremely difficult
  • Abandoned you without a reasonable cause for a period of one or more years
  • Committed adultery, bigamy or domestic violence
  • Has been imprisoned for two or more years

If you are facing separation or divorce, seeking the counsel of an experienced family law attorney is vital to ensure your rights are protected. Whether you need an affordable divorce lawyer to draft a separation agreement or represent you in a contentious at-fault divorce case, our knowledgeable divorce attorneys in West Chester, Carosella & Associates can help.