Pennsylvania has both “fault” grounds for divorce and “no fault” grounds for divorce. In either case, the spouse initiating the divorce must file a complaint, suing the other spouse, to commence the action. In a “no fault” divorce, the law does not require blame or alleged misconduct on either party, but does require that the marriage be “irretrievably broken”.
There are two types of “no fault” divorce. In one, the law requires a ninety day waiting period after the divorce complaint is filed, and requires that each party file an affidavit acknowledging and agreeing that the marriage is irretrievably broken and consenting to the divorce.
If both parties do not consent and file the mandated affidavit, the party wishing to proceed may still obtain a no fault divorce but only by following a procedure demonstrating that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least two years and by alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
In the majority of cases, a “no fault” divorce will be made quicker and less expensive. But in some cases, for example where a divorce is desired more quickly and the cooperation of the other spouse cannot be obtained, a “fault” divorce may be required or more desirable.
In a “fault” divorce, it is required that a ground for divorce expressly set forth in the law be alleged and proven. The grounds for divorce are delineated at 23 Pa. C.S.A. 3301. The “fault” grounds for divorce are: adultery; abandonment without cause for at least one year period; cruelty or barbarous treatment, including domestic violence; bigamy; conviction of a crime and imprisonment for two or more years; or public indignities or humiliation in such a way that makes life burdensome or unbearable.
While not asserting misconduct or fault on your spouse’s part, a divorce may be granted where a party is determined to be insane or suffering from a mental disorder and has been confined to a mental institution for at least eighteen months prior to filing and there must be a reasonable belief that the institutionalization will continue for at least eighteen months after filing.
A party asserting a “fault” divorce must be an innocent and injured spouse.
Although Pennsylvania Courts do not consider fault in making equitable distribution of assets or liabilities, the Court may consider martial misconduct in alimony determinations.