Understanding Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania
When married couples decide to separate in Pennsylvania, there are several different grounds for divorce they could consider. While more people used to file suits for divorce against their spouses, it’s now more common to opt for a no-fault divorce or a divorce by agreement. Since there are many different reasons for choosing a specific type of divorce, it’s important for a soon-to-be ex to partner with a divorce lawyer.
Fault and No-Fault Pennsylvania Divorce
The broadest types of divorce available in the commonwealth are fault and no-fault divorces. Each type of divorce available in Pennsylvania is processed differently, depending on the grounds for the separation. A Pennsylvania family law attorney can explain each option based on your unique situation and make recommendations about which grounds may be most appropriate for your case. The main differences are as follows:
- In a divorce based on fault, one spouse sues the other for divorce and must prove the grounds claimed as the cause of the action in court.
- In a no-fault divorce, one or both spouses may file the divorce action, but the case is not based on specific grounds.
Understanding Fault Divorce Options
Pennsylvania’s divorce code allows for divorce on the basis of certain grounds and generally recognized problems for which one spouse bears the burden of responsibility. These are the oldest types of divorce available in the laws of the commonwealth and have been adopted from classic English common law. Modern grounds for a fault divorce are available to either spouse in a marriage regardless of gender. The six grounds for a fault divorce in Pennsylvania are the following:
- Willful and malicious desertion: Under these grounds, one spouse has left the other for at least one year.
- Adultery: In this case, one spouse cheated on the other.
- Cruel and barbarous treatment: This refers to one spouse endangering the other’s life or other types of serious abuse.
- Bigamy: Under this ground for divorce, one spouse was already married when he or she married the other.
- Imprisonment: This ground applies when one spouse has been sentenced to a prison term of at least two years.
- Indignities: This ground for divorce usually refers to emotional, verbal or other types of nonphysical abusive behavior.
When only one party wants to get a divorce, he or she can sue for divorce on the basis of one or more of these grounds. The spouse seeking the divorce will need to be able to prove it in court, so it is important to save evidence. Evidence can include electronic proof of an affair or testimony about abuse from bystanders. However, the other spouse can attempt to challenge this evidence and work to have the divorce denied on that basis.
Pennsylvania No-Fault Divorce Options
Before the advent of no-fault divorce, even couples who mutually agreed to separate found themselves pursuing fault claims in order to end an unhappy marriage. However, the commonwealth’s law now allows people to pursue a divorce without showing that the other party is at fault. There are two major types of no-fault divorce, and both are based on the grounds that the relationship is “irretrievably broken.” However, it does not lay responsibility for that with one spouse over the other. The types of no-fault divorce are:
- Mutual consent divorce: Under this category, both spouses file statements with the court agreeing for the divorce. There is a 90-day waiting period after filing before a mutual consent divorce is finalized.
- Irretrievable breakdown divorce: This type of divorce is still a no-fault divorce, but one spouse files for divorce. If the other does not deny the case, it will move forward. However, if the other spouse does deny that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” the spouse seeking the divorce will need to show that the couple has been separated for at least one year. This does not mean just physical separation but an awareness that the relationship has come to an end.
People considering divorce in Pennsylvania have several options to help them pursue a new, independent future. A divorce lawyer can provide advice, representation and guidance to help a client protect assets and reach an agreement on key matters including property division and spousal support. Call the offices of Joanne Kleiner & Associates at (215) 886-1266 in Jenkintown to set up a consultation.