No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania (2024 Updated)

No Fault Divorce Process PA

Pennsylvania is a bit unique when it comes to divorce in that it allows for both “fault” divorces and “no-fault” divorces. Despite the seeming insignificance of fault in a divorce, Pennsylvania law still provides fault grounds for divorce. 

It’s important to understand the difference between the two and how this could impact your divorce process and outcome. For example, if a spouse is required to prove fault, this can prolong the divorce process.

When a married couple decides to divorce, it can be a difficult and emotionally draining decision. Fortunately, the legal process of divorce does not have to be nearly as difficult.

Pennsylvania is a no fault divorce state.

In this article our Pennsylvania divorce attorneys will guide you through the general characteristics of a “no-fault” divorce.

What is a no-fault divorce?

A no-fault divorce is a type of divorce in which neither party is required to prove that the other party has committed any wrongdoing or is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. In other words, it allows couples to divorce without having to assign blame or prove that one party is responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.

3301(b) to (d) specifies the grounds for a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces can be contested if the spouses cannot agree on asset division.

Types of no-fault divorce

There are two types of no-fault divorces in Pennsylvania: mutual consent and separation. A mutual consent divorce is available when both parties are willing to agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and consent to the divorce. A separation divorce occurs when the marriage is irretrievably broken and the parties have lived separate and apart for at least one (1) year. In both types of no-fault divorce, the parties have to resolve or waive all of their financial issues before the divorce will be granted.

What are the main requirements of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?

In order to qualify for a no-fault consent divorce in Pennsylvania, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The marriage is irretrievably broken;
  • Both spouses agree to the divorce; and 
  • There are no unresolved financial issues between the parties 

Ninety days after the divorce papers are served (waiting period) on the non-filing spouse, each spouse signs and files with the court an affidavit stating that each party consents to the divorce. After the court receives these affidavits, along with a series of other documents, it will then grant a divorce decree. The final divorce decree is an order signed by a judge that terminates the marriage. No formal hearing is required.

To qualify for a no-fault separation divorce in Pennsylvania, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The marriage is irretrievably broken;
  • The parties have lived separate and apart for at least one (1) year; and
  • There are no unresolved financial issues between the parties

As with a consent divorce process, no formal hearing before the court is required.

You can obtain a no-fault divorce whether or not you and your spouse have children together. Child custody and child support matters are separate and distinct from divorce cases. Read more about the child custody factors and child support guidelines in Pennsylvania.

However, property division and debt distribution as well as support between spouses (Alimony Pendente Lite, Spousal Support, Alimony) must be dealt with before a divorce decree is granted or you could lose those rights permanently.

How long does it take to get a no-fault divorce?

As a general rule, you can obtain a no-fault divorce when there are no remaining financial issues in as little as four (4) months. There is a specific process from the filing and service of the initial divorce complaint through the final documents filed with the court. There are also strict time requirements that have to be satisfied in order to secure the divorce decree.

As with any legal matter, the length of time to work through the entire divorce process is dependent upon a number of factors. The more both parties can work together, make decisions quickly, and come to an agreement, the shorter the divorce proceedings will be.

How to file for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania?

There are four main steps for filing for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. Though the process may appear easy, and often it can be, it is always smart to seek guidance from an experienced divorce lawyer who can ensure you’re working through the process quickly to avoid any errors or setbacks.

  1. Serve your spouse and file proof of service – First you must file the divorce complaint with the court. Once filed, it has to be delivered to your spouse and you have to prove to the court that you have done so. This is called service of process. In order for it to be valid, it has to be done according to law and within the time specified by law.
  2. Consents of Affidavit of Separation – Depending on the type of no-fault divorce you are seeking, each spouse will either need to sign an Affidavit of Consent or you will need to file and serve an Affidavit of Separation and provide your spouse with an opportunity to object.
  3. Praecipe to Transmit Record and a Final Decree of Divorce – Finally, a document is filed with the court clerk (the Prothonotary) indicating that the file is complete and ready to be presented to a judge for review and entry of the divorce decree. 
  4. The Divorce Decree – If the judge is satisfied that all legal requirements have been met, a divorce decree will be issued.

How much does a no-fault divorce in PA cost?

One of the biggest benefits of a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania is that it can greatly reduce divorce costs. Even in cases where there are disputes as to how to distribute property or issues regarding support for a spouse, not having to litigate the basic entitlement to a divorce decree can save parties a significant amount of money.

The court may mandate one spouse to bear the entire cost of divorce-related legal fees based on factors such as the disparity in income and the good faith demonstrated by the parties throughout the proceedings.

How Colgan and Associates can help you 

At Colgan & Associates, we want to help you work through your divorce matters quickly and fairly. We are experienced in handling no-fault divorce cases. Our experienced PA divorce mediation lawyers are helping couples resolve their matters outside of court so they may move forward with their lives. If you would like to better understand Pennsylvania’s no-fault divorce process, please contact us today for a free initial phone consultation at (717) 502-5000.

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