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Pennsylvania Family Law

Pennsylvania Family Law

Pennsylvania Family Law: An Overview

Family law in Pennsylvania covers a broad range of legal issues relating to families, including marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption, and domestic violence. Pennsylvania family law is governed by state statutes and court decisions, which set out the rights and duties of family members and provide guidelines for resolving disputes.

In this article, we will provide a detailed overview of Pennsylvania family law, focusing on some of the most common areas of concern for families. We will explore the legal requirements for marriage and divorce, the factors that courts consider when making custody and support determinations, and the protections available to victims of domestic violence.

Marriage in Pennsylvania

To get married in Pennsylvania, couples must meet certain legal requirements. These include:

• Both parties must be at least 18 years old, or have parental consent if they are 16 or 17.

• Neither party can be married to another person at the time of the marriage.

• The couple must obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office, which requires proof of identity, such as a driver’s license or passport.

• The couple must have a witness present to sign the marriage license.

Pennsylvania also recognizes common law marriages, which are marriages that are based on the parties’ intention to be married rather than a formal ceremony or license. In order to establish a common law marriage in Pennsylvania, the couple must:

• Consistently and openly hold themselves out as married.

• Be of legal age and capacity to contract.

• Enter into the marriage with a mutual and express agreement.

Divorce and Separation in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a no-fault divorce state, which means that either party may file for divorce without having to prove that the other party has done something wrong that caused the marriage to fail. To obtain a divorce in Pennsylvania, either spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are two types of divorce: fault-based and no-fault. In a fault-based divorce, one party must prove that the other party has committed one of several grounds for divorce, such as:

• Adultery.

• Bigamy.

• Desertion for at least one year.

• Physical or mental cruelty.

• Imprisonment for two or more years.

In a no-fault divorce, the parties may simply cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. If both parties agree to the divorce, they can file jointly and avoid going to court to litigate contested issues.

Child Custody and Support in Pennsylvania

Child custody and support are often two of the most contentious issues in divorce and separation cases. Pennsylvania law requires that custody decisions be made in the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as:

• The child’s relationship with each parent.

• Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs.

• The child’s preferences, if the child is mature enough to express them.

• Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship with the other parent.

• Any history of abuse or neglect.

Pennsylvania law also requires parents to provide financial support for their children, regardless of whether they have custody of the child. The amount of child support is determined by a guideline formula that takes into account the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and other factors.

Domestic Violence and Protection From Abuse in Pennsylvania

Domestic violence is a serious problem in Pennsylvania, and the state has enacted various laws to protect victims and punish abusers. The Protection From Abuse Act (PFA) allows victims of domestic violence to obtain a court order that:

• Prohibits the abuser from contact with the victim or the victim’s children.

• Orders the abuser to leave the home and stay away.

• Grants temporary custody of children to the victim.

• Requires the abuser to pay any damages or losses suffered by the victim as a result of the abuse.

The court may also order the abuser to attend counseling or treatment programs, or to surrender his or her firearms. Violation of a PFA order can result in criminal charges and imprisonment.


Pennsylvania family law is complex and frequently changing, and it is important to have the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney when dealing with legal issues related to marriage, divorce, custody, and domestic violence. By understanding the legal requirements and protections available under Pennsylvania law, families can make informed decisions that are in the best interests of all family members.

Guide to Pennsylvania Family Law

Family courts in Pennsylvania are unlike civil and criminal courts.  These courts consider cases pertaining to families and children, and make determinations based on PA family law.  If you are involved in a Pennsylvania family law case, understanding the law can make it easier for you to explore your legal options.  This guide will teach you about some of the basic areas of PA family law.  If you want more in-depth information about Pennsylvania family law, you may want to look at other pages on this website or contact a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.


Couples who are adopting a child will generally need to hire an attorney with experience in PA family law generally and adoption law specifically.  Pennsylvania family law allows both domestic and international adoptions.  People who are becoming adoptive parents may choose to adopt from an agency or privately according to PA family law.  You may also want to adopt from the foster care system.

Adoptions are handled by the courts to ensure that the best interest of the child is served.  Pennsylvania family law requires that a judge sign off on all adoptions, no matter how they are initiated.

Child Custody

If you are seeking child custody, understanding PA family law is critical.  Most attorneys who specialize in Pennsylvania family law can assist with a child custody case.  Depending on what you want out of your custody hearing, you may be able to obtain legal custody (which allows you to make basic decisions for your child) and physical custody (which allows your child to reside with you).  PA family law includes many factors for judges to take into account when making custody decisions.

If you want to get custody of your child, talking to an attorney who is well versed in Pennsylvania family law can help you understand the custody hearing process and how to sway the judge toward your ideal resolution.  Because PA family law allows judges to look at so many factors, understanding the factors that are most relevant in your case can make it substantially easier to get the custody decision you are hoping for.


In cases where parents are not married at the time of a child’s birth, paternity will need to be established in court according to Pennsylvania family law before the father will have parental responsibilities.  PA family law will require a father to pay child support for any child born in or out of wedlock, and in order to establish paternity, a mother may have to order a paternity test.

In some cases, fathers may also want the court to require a paternity test.  In some cases, Pennsylvania law will still require a man to continue paying child support even if a paternity test proves that he is not the father of a child.  Typically, this will happen if the parents were married and the father accepted the child as his own.  Because Pennsylvania family law seeks to uphold the best interest of the child, this man may still need to pay child support if the parents’ divorce.