Do I have valid grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?

No one walks into a marriage expecting to break up afterwards. However, when things get irrecoverably sour, a visit to a divorce lawyer is sometimes inevitable. You may be wondering whether your grounds for divorce are recognized by the state or whether you are legally capable of filing for divorce. Before we determine that, we will first have to consider the types of divorce recognized by law. Here, we’ll talk about the types of divorce in Pennsylvania and the valid grounds for each.     

Pennsylvania law recognizes two types of divorce: fault and no-fault divorces.

What is a fault divorce?

In fault divorces, one spouse blames the other of seriously inappropriate misconduct warranting a divorce. Both the misconduct and fault of the other spouse must be proved in court, as they constitute grounds for divorce.

Fault grounds include:

  • Adultery – your spouse cheated on you.
  • Abandonment – your spouse left home without showing cause for periods lasting over a year
  • Cruelty – your spouse treats you cruelly in ways that threaten your health or life. Domestic violence is a form of cruelty.
  • Bigamy – your spouse is still married to another person (he/she never divorced his/her previous spouse).
  • Imprisonment – your spouse is going to jail for a term equal to or exceeding two years.
  • Humiliation – Your spouse’s actions have led you to suffer such indignities as to make your life intolerable.

Because fault divorce has to be proved in court, it is normally associated with costly litigation and a protracted divorce. No-fault divorce is a more convenient option.

What is a no-fault divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, you do not need to accuse your spouse of anything. In fact, no blame is tossed around. Therefore, this type of divorce does not require a court hearing.

A no-fault divorce is granted for these reasons:

Mutual consent.

Both you and your spouse agree that your marriage is damaged beyond repair. Both you and your spouse file separate affidavits stating you both want a divorce.

Once the court receives the affidavits, a judge will prescribe a 90-day waiting period before granting the divorce. It is only after the period has elapsed that the court grants the divorce. A court hearing is not required.

Irretrievable breakdown.

If you and your spouse have been living apart for periods exceeding two years, you can file for divorce through a complaint establishing your marriage is broken and that you have been living apart for that long a period of time.

If your spouse does not object to either of the two grounds the judge will grant you a divorce. However, if your spouse refutes either of the two grounds, the judge will order a hearing where both of you get to state your cases. If at the end of the hearing the judge is convinced of both the irretrievability of your marriage and your physical separation, he/she will grant the divorce.

If the judge is not convinced of the two grounds after a hearing, he/she will continue the case for 90-120 days in which time both you and your spouse may be required to attend counseling. If after the period has elapsed one of you still desires a divorce, the judge may be convinced to grant it.

Divorces are never black and white. If you are considering divorce, Gary R. Swavely, Jr., Esq. has over 25 years of family law experience and can help you determine your course of action. Call 610-816-6366 to request a consultation.