The State of Pennsylvania provides for several grounds for divorce, some of which are fault-based. Fault based divorces are covered in 33 Pa. C.S.A § 3301(a), which details the grounds for which divorce may be sought.
If you are looking to file an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania, you will not be able to use fault based divorce. Fault based divorce requires a hearing before a divorce master or a judge.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics, there were 32,985 divorces in Pennsylvania in 2019; however, these numbers do not distinguish between fault based divorce and uncontested divorce. Most divorces are uncontested. Very few divorces proceed as fault based divorce.
Six Grounds for a Fault Based Divorce in PA
There are six grounds that will satisfy Pennsylvania’s requirements for a fault divorce. The courts will grant the “innocent and injured” spouse a divorce if the other spouse:
- willfully and maliciously deserted the former and was absent without a reasonable cause for one year or more;
- committed adultery;
- endangered the innocent and injured spouse’s life or health by cruel or barbarous treatment;
- entered into the marriage while married to another person;
- was imprisoned or sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years; or
- offered indignities that made the innocent and injured spouse’s “condition intolerable and life burdensome.”
Talk to an attorney if you’re unsure whether your marriage meets any of these conditions to pursue a fault-based divorce. But beware that there are certain downsides to pursuing a divorce based on fault, though to some there may be certain advantages. Consider all possibilities before filing.
The Downside of a Fault Based Divorce in PA
Generally speaking, fault-based divorces are somewhat outdated and rarely used. This is for numerous reasons, the first of which is that Pennsylvania allows for no-fault divorces, based on either mutual consent or a two-year separation period.
In no-fault divorces, neither party has to provide a reason for the request for dissolution other than the claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Because no-fault divorces are simpler and more straightforward, this is the route most couples choose.
Moreover, fault-based divorces are much more complicated, messy and expensive. The spouse requesting the divorce (the plaintiff) will have to prove the defendant’s fault to the court, which can take time and an expensive, drawn-out legal process.
Why would someone choose a fault-based divorce?
If there are so many downsides to a fault divorce, why would someone ever decide to go that route? One reason is that the plaintiff wants to expose the other spouse’s wrongdoing and is looking for some sort of validation or has a vendetta. He or she might want the reasoning behind the marriage dissolution on record for his or her own personal appeasement.
Another reason is the possible advantage it may provide in terms of child custody, alimony and property division. Exposing and proving the other party’s wrongdoing may give the plaintiff a slight upper hand come settlement time.
Alternatives to the Courtroom
Sometimes, it makes sense to seek a fault based divorce. In other cases, you may wish to resolve your divorce matter amicably and without court hearings.
Divorce mediation is a popular option for couples seeking a private, efficient resolution to potentially contentious issues. Each party should retain his or her own legal counsel to act as their advocate, whether these decisions are made inside or outside of a courtroom.
Pennsylvania Counties Served
With three offices in Pennsylvania, we are close to you no matter where you are. Typically, our PA fault based divorce lawyer services the following counties:
- Carbon County Divorce Lawyer
- Lehigh County Divorce Lawyer
- Monroe County Divorce Lawyer
- Northampton County Divorce Lawyer
If your county is not listed, call us. While these are the counties we typically serve, we’ve handled cases in other counties upon request.
Speak to a fault based divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania
It’s advisable to seek legal counsel for determining the best way to file for divorce and so that you can make rational, well-thought-out decisions.
The results of your divorce will impact your life for years to come. It is important to have realistic expectations and confidence in our ability to get you what you deserve. We will make sure you do not overreach and you do not get pushed around. When you are considering separation vs divorce, you need our Pennsylvania divorce attorneys.
Give us a call to schedule a consultation or reach out to your closest office: