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What is a No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 24-Nov-2015

If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, you'll have to decide if you're going to file on fault grounds or no-fault grounds. With a "no-fault" divorce, you're not required to blame your spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, for example, you don't have to claim that they cheated or abused you.

Instead, you're stating that you wish to get a divorce because of "irreconcilable differences," which simply means that you and your spouse no longer get along and the marriage is over.

If you and your spouse agree to get a "no-fault" divorce, there will be a 90-day waiting period from the date the divorce papers are filed. After the 90-days, the court may grant the divorce without a hearing.

What is a 'fault' divorce?

In contrast, if you're filing a "fault" divorce, you must provide a specific reason for the divorce, and you have to prove why your spouse's bad conduct destroyed your marriage. If your spouse had an affair, you could claim adultery as one of the fault-based grounds for divorce. Same goes for a domestic violence case.

Additional fault-based grounds in Pennsylvania, include:

  • Abandonment (your spouse left and has not lived with you for at least one year)
  • Cruelty (this includes domestic violence)
  • Bigamy (your spouse was legally married to someone else when you got married)
  • Imprisonment for at least two years

In Pennsylvania, the courts divide the couple's property in an "equitable" fashion, without regard to the fault-base grounds above. However, alimony may be based on fault.

When the Pennsylvania courts are determining whether to award alimony, they may consider either spouse's misconduct during the marriage. In other words, if a spouse cheated, the court may increase the alimony award to the innocent spouse.

How long will it take to get divorced?

If you and your spouse decide to file a no-fault divorce, there is a 90-day waiting period which must be met before your divorce can be granted.

If you're seeking a fault-based divorce, there is no waiting period.

If one of you are seeking a divorce citing an "irretrievable breakdown," but the other doesn't consent, the court may grant a divorce after you have lived separate and part for at least two years. However, once House Bill 380 is approved, that waiting period will be reduced to one year.

Contact Cairns Law Offices for a free case evaluation!