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Fault versus no-fault divorce

Pennsylvania provides couples ending their marriage the choice of filing for a fault or no-fault divorce. A fault-based divorce requires a spouse to charge the other spouse with specific acts leading to the end of a marriage. A no-fault divorce is less cumbersome and does not require proof that a spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

A court may approve a fault-based divorce if a spouse proves that the other spouse engaged in certain misconduct. This includes abandonment or leaving their home without reasonable cause for at least one year, adultery, bigamy, incarceration for at least two years, making the other spouse's life unbearable or engaging in domestic violence or endangering the other spouse.

There are several grounds for no-fault divorce. Most commonly, both spouses state that the marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot recover and file individual affidavits attesting to this. A judge has to wait 90 days after filing before granting the divorce. A trial is not required.

A court can also grant this divorce if one of the spouses had to be confined to a mental institution for at least 18 months before filing the divorce. It must also be expected that the spouse will be discharged in an 18-month period after this filing.

The last grounds for a no-fault divorce is when the marriage is irretrievably broken. A spouse has to charge that the marriage cannot be fixed and the other spouse does not dispute this allegation. The couple had to live separately for at least two years.

If these conditions are not met, the court may still grant the divorce if it holds a hearing and rules that the marriage cannot be saved and the couple did not live together for two years. If the court finds that it is reasonably possible that that the couple can reconcile, it will order couples counseling and continue the matter for at least three to four months. At the end of this period, the court will grant the divorce if it finds that there is no chance of reconciliation.

Divorce proceedings involve residency requirements, filing rules and property division. An attorney can help a spouse comply with divorce legal issues and seek the best resolution of issues.

Source: WomensLaw.Org, "What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?" Accessed July 18, 2016

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