Pennsylvania law allows for divorce on multiple grounds. A divorce may be “at-fault” or “no-fault.” A no-fault divorce may be based on mutual consent, separation or institutionalization.
To know what divorce filing is best for you, it’s important to understand the different types of divorces and how they work. Our Pennsylvania family lawyers explain.
What Is No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?
No-fault divorce in Pennsylvania is the process for getting a divorce without proving that either spouse is to blame. The parties may receive a divorce without having to allege one of the fault grounds traditionally required under Pennsylvania law. There are multiple grounds for no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, each with its own waiting period.
What are the laws for no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?
No-fault divorce laws are found in Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 23, Chapter 33, Dissolution of Marital Status.
What Are the Grounds for No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?
1. Mutual Consent
Both parties may agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken down. Each spouse must file an affidavit that affirms their consent to the divorce. That a spouse has committed a personal injury crime against the other spouse may suffice for consent in lieu of an affidavit. There is a 90-day waiting period from the date of filing to receive a divorce by mutual consent.
To qualify for no-fault divorce based on separation, the parties must have lived apart for one year or more. They must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken down. The court may impose a period of reconciliation and require counseling.
Institutionalization as grounds for divorce is when one of the spouses is confined in a mental health facility. Institutionalization must occur for the 18 months before filing the action. It must be expected to continue for at least 18 months following the filing of the action. The spouse must be insane or have a serious mental disorder that prompted the confinement. The spouse may need supporting documentation from medical care providers to document the condition and the likelihood of continued institutionalization.
Grounds for At-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
By contrast, the grounds for an at-fault divorce in Pennsylvania are:
- Desertion – willful absence from habitation, without reasonable cause, for one or more years
- Adultery – committing extramarital sex with someone the spouse is unmarried to
- Cruelty and barbarous treatment – endangering the life or health of the spouse
- Bigamy – entering a marriage when a prior one hasn’t been dissolved
- Imprisonment – for two or more years following conviction of a crime
- Other indignities – that which make life burdensome and intolerable
See Pa.C.S. 33 § 3301 – Grounds for Divorce
A no-fault divorce allows the parties to receive a judgment of divorce without having to prove one of these grounds for divorce.
Should I get a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?
Whether no-fault divorce is right for you depends on several factors. Some of the factors to consider in pursuing a no-fault divorce are:
- Whether you qualify for one or more grounds for no-fault, and how waiting periods may apply
- If the other spouse is likely to consent to a no-fault divorce and complete the paperwork
- The grounds of fault that you may qualify to pursue; the time and expense required to prove fault
- Alimony and whether misconduct of either party will impact a request for alimony
Fault alone is not a consideration in the division of assets. However, misconduct of a spouse may play a role in the determination of alimony. If you prove one of the grounds for at-fault divorce, the fault may be part of an argument for or against alimony (spousal support). However, there are also time and expense considerations for pursuing at-fault proceedings.
Pennsylvania No-Fault Divorce FAQs
Is fault or no-fault divorce faster?
No-fault divorce is usually faster than at-fault divorce, but not always.
Generally, if you can prove fault, you don’t have to go through the waiting period that is required in no-fault divorce. However, the time taken to prove the grounds for fault can effectively create a waiting period, especially if the other spouse contests it. Usually, that makes no-fault faster. Our lawyers can help you determine if a no-fault divorce is best in your case and the various factors you should consider when making your choice.
Does Pennsylvania have no-fault divorce?
Yes. Pennsylvania has no-fault divorce. The parties may receive a divorce on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken down based on mutual consent, separation or institutionalization of one of the spouses.
Is a no-fault divorce the same thing as an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania?
A no-fault divorce may also be an uncontested divorce, but they are not the same thing. A no-fault divorce means not having to prove one of the at-fault grounds for divorce. An uncontested divorce means that the parties agree on the disputed issues and the outcome of the divorce.
What does no-fault divorce mean in PA?
No-fault divorce in Pennsylvania means that neither party is deemed at-fault for the marriage. There’s no requirement to prove that one of the parties caused the divorce through inappropriate and purposeful conduct. Instead, the parties skip the step of assigning blame, and they pursue the steps to obtain a judgment of divorce.
Do the parties have to agree on everything to file for no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?
The parties don’t have to agree on everything to file for no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. They must establish one of the grounds for no-fault divorce. The parties may still contest the division of property and other issues that may arise. They may agree on unresolved issues at some point in the proceedings, or they may request a determination of the issues through a contested court hearing.
Lawyers for No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
A no-fault divorce may be right for you. However, there are statutory grounds that must be met and things to consider when determining the best way to pursue a divorce.
Our lawyers can guide you through evaluating the situation. We can pursue the best course of action on your behalf. We protect your interests and guide you through the divorce process in the right way for you.
Contact us today for a consultation about your case.