Adultery and Divorce in PA

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 on the basis of 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.

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 Schimmel at (215) 523-6900 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 Divorce

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.

Likewise, a cheating spouse still has an equal shot at child custody. When establishing a custody arrangement, the court focuses on the best interest of a child. Common 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.

Whether adultery occurred holds no weight in reaching a custody arrangement. The same point applies to your child support and spousal support agreements. So, if you file a fault-based divorce because your spouse cheated, you will still need to address the same legal matters that you would in a no-fault divorce.

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 (215) 523-6900 or schedule a consultation online.