The State of Pennsylvania provides for several grounds for divorce, some of which are fault-based. Fault divorces are covered in 33 Pa. C.S.A § 3301(a), which details the grounds for which divorce may be sought.
Six Grounds for a Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
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
Generally speaking, fault-based divorces are somewhat outdated and rarely used.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.
Speak to a Divorce Lawyer for Counsel 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. If you live near one of our three office locations (Stroudsburg, Palmerton or Bethlehem), feel free to contact the divorce attorneys at ARM Lawyers.