Does “Fault” Matter in Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania does not require there to be “fault” for a married couple to get divorced. Couples can divorce for any reason, as you ( and our family divorce mediators ) are aware. Most commonly, our attorneys see divorces resulting simply from the breakdown of the marriage, followed by a request for experienced divorce lawyers in the Pennsylvania region.

While marital misconduct is a factor considered by the Court when considering Alimony, Pennsylvania divorce law does not punish a wayward spouse for causing the marriage to fail by forcing that spouse to pay for the cost of the divorce or by compensating the other spouse.

Despite the seeming insignificance of fault in a Pennsylvania divorce, Pennsylvania law still provides “fault” grounds for divorce. 23 Pa. C.S. §3301 provides:

(a) Fault.–The court may grant a divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has:

(1) Committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.
(2) Committed adultery.
(3) By cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.
(4) Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.
(5) Been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime.
(6) Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.

So, if you are required to prove that one spouse is at fault, what is the purpose of fault grounds?

Typically, for a couple to be divorced in Pennsylvania, they must consent to the divorce or at least agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, in addition to settling all economic issues. By these methods, the divorce will take at least 90 days if the parties consent to divorce, and up to 2 years if one of the parties will not consent. Sometimes a party refuses to consent to the divorce simply because he or she does not wish to be divorced; other times, the reasoning is more complex. No matter what the reason, one way to push the divorce along is by establishing fault grounds for divorce. If it can be established that one spouse was clearly at fault, the Court can enter a divorce decree without the consent of the other spouse provided the economic claims of the parties have been resolved.

For more information on this topic or any other topic related to issues of divorce, custody, support or family law in general, please contact Casey Johnson-Welsh or call (800) 615-0115.

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