Before 1980, Pennsylvania couples who wanted to end a marriage had to have “grounds” for divorce.
This means that in order to obtain a divorce, a person had to show that his or her spouse had behaved in a way that made it difficult to continue with the marriage. Grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania included:
- Abandonment: The spouse had left the marital home for a period of one or more years without a reasonable cause
- Adultery: The spouse had romantic or intimate relations with another person
- Bigamy: The spouse was married to someone else
- Cruel or barbarous treatment: The spouse physically abused or otherwise endangered the spouse seeking a divorce
- Imprisonment: The spouse was sentenced to two or more years in prison for committing a crime
No-fault divorces became part of Pennsylvania’s legal code in 1980. A no-fault divorce allows couples to seek a divorce without grounds or an explanation. In Pennsylvania, there are two types of no-fault divorce:
- Divorce by consent
- Divorce after two years of separation
Divorce by consent: To obtain a divorce by consent, both spouses must sign and file an Affidavit of Consent. The Affidavit of Consent may be filed 90 days after Form 1: Notice to Defend and Divorce Complaint is served.
Divorce after two years of separation: A person can file for a no-fault divorce without the consent of a spouse if the spouses have been separated and living apart for two years or longer.
Although it is still possible to file for divorce based on fault, most couples in Pennsylvania choose to file a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces tend to be less expensive and less contentious than fault-based divorces. However, fault-based divorces are an option if the grounds for divorce will be important in determination of custody and support. For example, it may be important for the courts to know that a spouse is abusive when determining child custody and visitation.
The Role of “Fault” in Modern Divorces
However, fault remains relevant to property distribution and alimony determinations. This may not be the case in every court, but courts may consider fault grounds for divorce in deciding how to divvy up assets and liabilities or how to award alimony.
Therefore, it is best not to flaunt, either on purpose or accidentally, any activities that might put you at fault in the court’s eyes. This is most relevant to divorces that were caused by adultery. If an adulterous relationship caused your marriage to break up, you should consider putting that relationship on hold while you go through the divorce. Dating that person during the proceedings can not only enflame the angers of your spouse, but it also exposes you to the risk that your extramarital activities might influence the outcome of your divorce.
If you are in need of more information or want to consult with one of our attorneys, please contact the attorneys of Petrelli Previtera, LLC at (215) 523-6900.
Which divorce is right for you? It depends on your circumstances. Petrelli Previtera works to protect every client’s best interests – now and in the future. Call us at 215-523-6900 to learn how we can help you.