What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania state law distinguishes between two categories of grounds for divorce: “fault” and “no-fault” (Section 3301 Divorce Code PA Grounds for divorce). In order to start a divorce process in Pennsylvania, one of the spouses must have resided in the state for 6 months or more. The legal basis one of the spouses chooses to terminate the marriage directly affects the specifics of the case, as well as the time it takes to finalize it. Divorce cannot be considered official until the court reviews the case and issues a divorce order.
Today, the vast majority of divorces are finalized in accordance with the provisions of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code by mutual consent. Is PA a no-fault divorce state? It is hardly possible to speak so categorically. However, the fact is that Pennsylvanians often prefer to save their time and try to resolve their differences peacefully. Avoiding lengthy litigation is the main advantage of a no-fault divorce over a fault divorce.
Grounds for Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
Fault divorce is a legal process in which one spouse (“Plaintiff”) sues the other one (“Defendant”) for serious misconduct that led to the end of the marriage. According to Pennsylvania law, the reasons for filing for divorce may be:
- Desertion for 1 year or more.
- Adultery (also known as cheating of infidelity).
- Abuse towards another spouse (including a threat to his/her life or health).
- Bigamy(being in more than one marriage).
- Imprisonment for more than 2 years.
- Indignities (verbal abuse, embarrassment or public shaming, aggressive behavior, etc.).
The plaintiff proves the guilt of the defendant in court using all possible admissible evidence, which includes photos and videos, emails, or testimonies. As a rule, the fault divorce in PA is quite stressful and does not bring the desired benefits (saving nerves and time, profitable division of property and debts, etc.), which the parties initially count on. Lawsuits are often protracted, costly, and may involve relatives and friends of the plaintiff and defendant (to testify as witnesses).
No-fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse blames the other for any wrongdoing that could have led to the divorce. In most cases, the spouses are aware that their marriage is irretrievably broken, and, therefore, agree to a divorce by mutual consent. The formalization of the divorce according to this procedure requires the observance of the following conditions:
- both spouses agree that their marriage cannot be saved.
- each of the spouses submitted a written statement under oath, which confirmed their consent to divorce.
- for 90 days, the couple is waiting for the Final Decree to be issued by the judge. The starting point of this period is the moment of filing the Application for Divorce.
In Pennsylvania, the no-fault divorce can be a more complex process compared to the divorce by mutual consent if it is contested. This often happens when spouses have different views on asset division or childcare and cannot reach an agreement. Difficulties also arise in a situation where one of the spouses opposes the dissolution of the marriage. In this case, the court grants the no-fault divorce on one condition – if spouses have been living separately for at least one year.