Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

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Pennsylvania provides for both fault and no-fault divorce. It is far more common to seek divorce on no-fault grounds as opposed to fault grounds as explained below.

Fault Based Divorce

To obtain a divorce decree in Pennsylvania based on fault, one spouse needs to:

  • Seek a hearing to prove they are entitled to the entry of a divorce decree;
  • Prove your spouse is guilty of marital misconduct such as adultery, indignities, cruel and barbarous treatment, bygamy, or imprisonment; and
  • Prove that you are an innocent spouse and not yourself guilty of marital misconduct;

In a fault based divorce, you will need to pay an attorney to prove at a costly hearing that you are entitled to a divorce.  Private investigators may be necessary to prove your case and the evidence can be emotionally disturbing because many matters that are personal or even embarrassing have to be litigated in public court.

In most cases, spouses have agreed to get divorced making the decision to seek divorce on fault based grounds unnecessary. Also, the no-fault statute provides a means for a divorce decree to be obtained even if one parrty does not want a divorce (see below).  Thus, most couples do not decide to obtain a divorce on fault grounds and there are few instances where it is necessary.

No-Fault Divorce

Since 1980, Pennsylvania has allowed for no-fault divorces, meaning marital misconduct, if it has occurred, is irrelevant as to your divorce and will likely never come up in court except in a few circumstances.

Thus, the issue of whether to get divorced is rarely discussed or contested. Most contested issues during a divorce relate to:

To obtain a “no-fault” divorce, you must:

  • Allege (not prove) the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;
  • spouses must mutually consent to the entry of a divorce decree 90 days after the divorce complaint was served;
  • or one spouse may pursue a divorce decree even if the other spouse does not cooperate if you can allege that you have lived separate and apart for one year. (Note, this law was recently amended in 2016 and formerly required the parties to live separate and apart for a period of two years.)

To learn more, call 724-304-4604 and arrange to meet divorce attorney Robert Galbraith at his North Hills office in Wexford. Robert will also travel to the South Hills or the Monroeville area to meet with clients as well. You may also contact the Pennsylvania law firm via E-mail.