Could I Be Divorced in Pennsylvania and Not Know It?

Once a year or so, the article about the man who got an ex parte (without the other party) divorce in the Dominican Republic and did not tell his wife for twenty some years makes the social media rounds. Although this horror story acts as a cautionary tale, many people who read the article are left to question: Could this happen to me? The answer to that is yes…and no. Technically, there is nothing stopping a spouse from doing what this man did and filing for a quick divorce in another county as long as he follows the procedures that are required there. However, in such cases, it would likely be hard for him to enforce any kind of property settlement order or support or custody order. Although each county around the world has different rules of civil procedure, most westernized countries have similar ideas of due process to that of the United States. That means that if your spouse simply wanted to end your marriage, he or she may be able to do that in another country without providing you notice, but is unlikely that they will be able to get an order dividing your property or deciding where you children will live without you being notified and having the opportunity to represent yourself.

Pennsylvania law requires that a party filing for divorce must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing. Most other states have some kind of residency requirement, though the specific facts vary from state to state. Also under Pennsylvania law, one or both parties must reside in a county in the Commonwealth or have property there in order to file for divorce in that county. One loophole to this requirement is that the parties can agree in writing to file in another county. However, unlike what might happen in another country, if your spouse attempts to obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, they will be required to prove that they served you based on the rules of procedure or that they received permission from the court to serve you in an alternative manner, so there is no way that they will be able to obtain an divorce without your knowledge in Pennsylvania.

If you have more questions about the ins and outs of obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania, contact our Pittsburgh Office today!

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