Pennsylvania's Fault and No-Fault Grounds for Divorce
Some marriages seem to simply fizzle out. Other unions end primarily because of the misconduct of one of the spouses. Understanding that both scenarios exist, Pennsylvania will grant a divorce on no-fault or fault-based grounds.
Ten years after California became the first state to offer no-fault divorce, Pennsylvania passed its law in 1980. Today, all states offer no-fault divorce, with New York being the last in 2010. No-fault is the only option in 18 states. Pennsylvania is one of 32 states offering both divorce routes.
Fault-Based Divorce Grounds
The actions of one spouse can leave the other spouse unable to continue as a married couple. Not every misbehavior is a legal ground for the dissolution of the marriage.
The specific fault grounds named in Pennsylvania law are as follows:
- Abandonment: Your spouse leaves the home without a reasonable cause for one or more years.
- Adultery: Your spouse cheated on you.
- Cruel and Barbarous Treatment: Your spouse treats you in a way that puts your life or health at risk, including acts of domestic violence.
- Bigamy: Your spouse married you when they knowingly were still married to someone else.
- Imprisonment: Your spouse is convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least two years in prison.
- Indignities: Your spouse's egregious behavior makes living together intolerable.
Even when a fault exists, a spouse may choose to file for a no-fault divorce. Two reasons for doing so is that fault-based divorces are usually more expensive and take longer than no-fault proceedings. There are also two reasons to consider a fault divorce. First, having a judge rule in your favor can provide some emotional closure. Second, the judge may consider your spouse’s behavior when making determinations about alimony, property division, and child custody. Keep in mind that the court will refuse to grant the divorce if you do not prove the fault ground.
If you are considering a fault-based divorce, you must have an experienced attorney to argue your case. Count on Scaringi Law for pragmatic and tenacious representation.
No-Fault Divorce Grounds
In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is laying blame at the feet of the other. There are still requirements to be granted a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. When the state allowed unilateral no-fault divorce more than 40 years ago, couples had to be separated for at least three years before a spouse could file for divorce. The required separation was reduced to two years in 1988. Since late 2016, the timeframe has been one year.
There are two types of no-fault divorces:
- Mutual Consent: Many divorces fall into this category where both spouses agree that there is an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage and consent to the divorce. Each spouse files an affidavit stating they consent to the divorce. An exception in mutual consent is if one spouse commits a personal injury crime against the other. The abuser’s consent is presumed, relieving the injured spouse from having to obtain consent. After filing for the divorce, the parties wait 90 days before signing and filing their Affidavits of Consent. Once they are filed, the parties can move forward to obtain the Divorce Decree, provided they have reached an agreement on the property and economic issues involved. Mutual consent divorces can be granted without a court hearing.
- Separation: This no-fault divorce does not require the consent of both parties. If the spouses have lived apart for at least one year, either party can file for divorce, saying the marriage is beyond repair. If the responding spouse denies that they have lived apart for one year or that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge schedules a hearing to consider testimony and other evidence. Based on the arguments presented in the hearing, the judge determines whether to grant the divorce. The judge can also continue the case for three or four months if they believe reconciliation is possible. The couple usually attends counseling during this time. After the continuation period, the judge will reconsider granting the divorce if one or both spouses still want to end their marriage.
Contact our divorce attorneys at Scaringi Law to fully understand the requirements of no-fault divorce.
Can a No-Fault Divorce Be Contested?
A no-fault divorce does not necessarily mean that both parties agree to all terms of the divorce. There can be disagreement on one or more areas that must be decided in a divorce settlement.
Terms of a divorce settlement must include, as applicable, the following:
Our attorneys have top-level negotiation skills and trial experience to help our clients reach a resolution in a contested divorce.
We Protect Your Best Interests in Divorce
Preparing for divorce can be emotional, overwhelming, and time-consuming. Our compassionate and strategic lawyers shoulder some of that burden. We champion your best interests throughout the divorce process so you can as quickly as possible move forward.
Contemplating a divorce? Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to fully understand your rights and obligations. Reach out to us online or call (717) 775-7195.