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LGBT Divorce in Pennsylvania

Obtaining a divorce for your same-sex marriage is a difficult issue if you are a resident of Pennsylvania. There are currently a patchwork of different laws across the country for marriage equality, with Pennsylvania being one of the states that still does not recognize same-sex marriages. Same-sex divorce, therefore, faces similar hurdles. However, laws are constantly being changed and precedents are being set – and one of those precedents could be your case.

Pennsylvania Laws and Precedents Barring Same-Sex Divorce

Since our state doesn't currently recognize any form of civil union or same-sex marriage, it also doesn't grant same-sex divorces for marriages or civil unions a couple obtains in other states. This is due to the 1996 revision of Pennsylvania law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman in order to explicitly exclude same-sex couples from Pennsylvania marriage.

Additionally, a Berks County court refused in 2010 to grant a divorce to a Pennsylvania same-sex couple who married in Massachusetts on the grounds that it would have to recognize the marriage first, setting a precedent for preventing divorce to other married same-sex couples residing in Pennsylvania. This is problematic due to the fact that there are no residency requirements for marriage in the states allowing same-sex unions, but there are residency requirements for divorce.

Divorce Requirements in States Permitting Same-Sex Civil Unions and Marriages

One of the most troubling issues facing married same-sex couples seeking marriage termination while residing in states that don't recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions is the residency requirement for divorce in the state they were married in. Some states have begun to address this issue, but generally same-sex divorce is extremely difficult to obtain without meeting the residency requirement or waging a legal campaign.

Unfortunately, this can mean one or both of the same-sex spouses uprooting their whole lives just to meet the residency requirement for divorce. The residency requirements for divorce in the states permitting civil unions or gay marriage are as follows:


  • There may be exceptions for marriages and civil unions made before Proposition 8 was passed


  • Residency of one spouse for 90 days


  • Continuous residency of one spouse for one year


  • 6 months
  • Can be excepted for civil unions if neither spouse lives in Delaware, home state doesn't allow dissolution, and marriage was solemnized in Delaware

District of Columbia

  • One spouse must be a resident for 6 months prior
  • May also involve separation requirement of 6 months to 1 year


  • One spouse must be a resident for at least 6 months
  • One spouse must be physically present in Hawaii continuously for 90 days before the application


  • One spouse must be a resident of the state for 90 days preceding the divorce commencement


  • One spouse must be a resident for one year


  • Spouse pursuing divorce has been resident for 6 months, or
  • Spouse pursuing divorce is resident and marriage occurred in Maine, or
  • Spouse pursuing divorce is resident and couple resided in Maine when marriage failure occurred, or
  • Spouse served with divorce is a resident
  • May be excepted if a spouse is military and stationed in Maine


  • If grounds for divorce occurred in-state, divorce may be filed where either spouse currently resides
  • If grounds for divorce occurred out of state, one spouse must be a resident for at least one year before filing


  • Couple must reside in Massachusetts
  • If grounds for divorce occurred outside the commonwealth, spouse pursuing divorce must have resided in the commonwealth for one year prior to filing

New Hampshire

  • Couple must be residents when divorce action is filed
  • Spouse pursuing divorce must have been a resident for 1 year

New Jersey

  • Either spouse must have been a resident for at least one year prior to filing

New York

  • Either spouse have been a resident for at least one year prior to filing

Rhode Island

  • Spouse pursuing divorce must have been a resident for at least one year prior to filing


  • Divorce may be filed if either spouse has been a resident for 6 months, but not granted until either spouse has been a resident for at least one year


  • Either spouse must be a resident or a member of the armed forces and stationed in Washington
  • Involves a 90-day waiting period