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What are the grounds for a fault-based divorce in Pennsylvania?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Divorce |

There are many ways for unhappy spouses in Pennsylvania to pursue a divorce. Perhaps the simplest option is divorcing through mutual consent with a spouse. Both parties agree that divorce is necessary and set their own terms.

It is also possible for one spouse to seek a no-fault divorce by filing paperwork and asserting that the marriage has experienced an irretrievable breakdown. Occasionally, people opt to file for a divorce based on fault. They blame their spouse for the marital situation and want that fault reflected in the public records.

There are six grounds for fault-based divorces

Pennsylvania state law outlines a half dozen different scenarios in which one spouse can divorce the other while maintaining that the non-filing party is to blame for the divorce. The six grounds for a fault-based divorce in Pennsylvania include:

  • desertion/abandonment for at least a year
  • adultery
  • physical abuse
  • bigamy
  • a criminal conviction carrying two or more years of imprisonment
  • creating a burdensome life through indignities to the other spouse

The courts can also grant a divorce based on the institutionalization of one spouse during the marriage for insanity. The institutionalization must last for at least 18 months to qualify as grounds for a divorce.

Are fault-based divorces worthwhile?

Many states that have no-fault divorce options have eliminated fault-based divorce proceedings. While Pennsylvania does allow for a fault-based divorce, pursuing one is not necessarily the best option for everyone who meets the standard. Fault-based divorces are often more acrimonious, as people may resent the claim that they are personally to blame for the marital breakdown. There is also a burden of truth that falls to the filing spouse. They have to establish that their situation meets the statutory requirements for a fault-based divorce.

Finally, there are minimal practical benefits obtained from a fault-based divorce. Pennsylvania judges typically do not consider marital misconduct when resolving disputes about property division. Therefore, the benefit of proving fault will largely be a sense of vindication or religious benefits for those who belong to certain churches.

People may need to think carefully about their options when deciding how to handle Pennsylvania divorce proceedings. Discussing fault-based divorce and other options with an attorney may help people choose the best solution possible when preparing for divorce in Pennsylvania.