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Adultery and Divorce in PA

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We have heard it many times: My spouse cheated on me. Can I get a divorce in Pennsylvania? We have heard it many times: My spouse cheated on me. Can I get a divorce in Pennsylvania? The answer is yes; you can divorce in Pennsylvania. However, divorcing specifically based on adultery may or may not be the best approach. There are several divorce options in PA. The right choice for you depends on your unique situation. We suggest you talk with your attorney about the best approach for your situation and how the fact of your case may impact your expected outcome.

In this video: Firm partner and Divorce Lawyer Melinda Previtera covers the basics of a PA Divorce, including Adultery’s impact on divorce in Pennsylvania.
Melinda Previtera, Esquire
Divorce Lawyer in Philadelphia

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is both a no-fault and fault divorce state. There are several ways to file for a no-fault divorce. Even if your spouse cheated, a no-fault divorce option may be a more efficient approach than a fault-based divorce. To make the right choice, it is helpful to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer about your options. We welcome you to contact Petrelli Previtera at 866-465-5395 to schedule a consultation.

Below is a breakdown of the different divorce approaches in Pennsylvania.

Mutual Consent Divorce

If both spouses agree to divorce, they can each file an affidavit saying that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” After a 90-day waiting period, they may then finalize their divorce.

Divorce After Separation

Spouses who have been living apart for at least one year may divorce in Pennsylvania. Only one party needs to file an affidavit noting that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Divorce After Institutionalization

In PA, one spouse may file for divorce 18 months after the other spouse is institutionalized for a mental disorder. There must be no plan for discharge within another 18 months.

Divorce After a Personal Injury Incident

In specific cases involving one spouse who has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other, the court will presume consent of that spouse to divorce.

Fault Divorce

To file a fault divorce in PA, a spouse must prove that he or she is “innocent and injured,” meaning not at fault, and that the other spouse’s misconduct caused the marriage to break down.

There are six grounds for divorce in PA that reflect this misconduct. In a fault divorce, the spouse who filed must prove that the other did one of the following:

  1. Maliciously deserted the other spouse for a year or more without a reasonable cause.
  2. Committed adultery.
  3. Endangered the life or health of the other spouse with “cruel and barbarous treatment.”
  4. Knowingly married before ending a previous marriage, called bigamy.
  5. Been convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years.
  6. Made the other spouse’s situation “intolerable and burdensome.”

Adultery is one of the six grounds for divorce in PA. If you can prove that your spouse cheated, you may be able to pursue a fault-based divorce.

However, it’s important to know that this approach typically takes longer to resolve than a no-fault divorce. As a result, you may want to keep an open mind to a no-fault approach when you speak with a divorce attorney.

Adultery’s Role in the Divorce Process

Whether you choose fault or no-fault divorce, if your husband or wife cheated, that fact will not play a role in the general divorce process. Pennsylvania follows the rules of equitable distribution. In other words, spouses must divide their assets and debts fairly. Exposing your spouse as an adulterer will not have an effect on the outcome of that division.

Ways Adultery May Impact Divorce in Pennsylvania

Even though couples in Pennsylvania no longer need a reason to divorce. Couples can still file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. In some states, one spouse being unfaithful has no impact on the divorce proceedings, but that is not the case in Pennsylvania. There are cases where adultery can affect some of the items in a divorce, and both spouses need to be ready.

Adultery’s Role in the Distribution of Property

When it comes to the division of assets, judges will not consider marital misconduct. When dividing all of this, the judge will consider various factors, such as the length of the marriage, the income potential of both spouses, both spouses’ lifestyles and more. It does not matter if one spouse cheated on the other.

Adultery’s Role in Alimony

Judges in Pennsylvania consider infidelity when determining spousal support. With that in mind, it is unlikely a judge will completely refuse spousal support to one spouse. A judge will look at health, age, and earning capacity to determine a fair amount to award in alimony. If one spouse spent a lot of money on the paramour, the judge may require the unfaithful spouse to reimburse the other for those expenses.

Adultery’s Role in Child Custody

A cheating spouse still has an equal shot at child custody. Adultery occasionally impacts child custody arrangements, but it will not impact child support awards. A judge usually avoids preventing one parent from seeing his or her children completely.

However, judges will create a child custody agreement in the best interest of the children. If the judge decides it is not good for the children to be with an adulterous parent already living with his or her paramour, then more time may go to the other parent. The judge needs to consider the emotional, physical and mental well-being of the kids. Other factors that help reach a decision include:

  • Relationships between the child and his or her parents, siblings, family and household members, and/or other caregivers,
  • The parents’ ability to provide a safe home as well as food, clothing, and medical care,
  • Mental and physical health needs of the child,
  • Mental and physical health of the parents,
  • Any history or presence of domestic violence in the home, and other factors.

Get Started Today

Our experienced divorce lawyers can explain your options and help you reach your goals efficiently and professionally. If you’re ready to discuss your legal options, feel free to call 866-465-5395 or schedule a consultation online.


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