What Does Fault and No Fault Mean in a Pennsylvania Divorce?

COVID-19 Divorce Law Firm

The path to divorce varies based on the state you live. Various rules govern when you can file, how you can file, and how long you have to wait until you can start the proceedings. The first step a person must figure out before filing is what grounds or reason to give for asking the court to grant the divorce. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, there are a few ways you can go when it comes to this requirement. A couple can agree to the divorce and it proceeds uncontested. However, a majority of couples go the route of either fault or no-fault. Find out the differences between these two paths so you can choose the one that works best for your situation.

No-Fault Divorce: Irretrievably Broken
In Pennsylvania, the most commonly recommended grounds for divorce is that the marriage is broken beyond repair. The spouse filing for divorce will likely say the union is irretrievably broken with no hope of it being fixed. A no-fault divorce begins with both spouses agreeing that there is no one person to blame for the breakup of the marriage. When filing for divorce under this reason, the court places a 90-day stay on the proceedings. This means that even if the couple agrees on all issues (uncontested), they must wait 90 days for the court to grant the divorce. If both spouses do not agree but have been living apart for a year, the court will move forward with the process after 90 days.

Fault-Based Divorce: Blame
Some marriages end because the actions of one spouse have made it impossible for the other to stay. Fault-based divorces place the blame on one spouse for causing the marriage to break down. These proceedings are not always recommended as they can lead to higher court costs and are often the most contentious. It is also not always easy to prove fault in a divorce case. Some of the most common grounds for this type of divorce are:

  • Adultery
  • Incarceration (at least two years)
  • Mental health issues
  • Desertion
  • Bigamy
  • Cruel behavior

Proving fault also does not guarantee that the prevailing spouse will get any real benefit. Alimony is typically not affected and neither is property division. However, there are exceptions in some cases.

Regardless of which route you go when seeking a divorce, the outcome will most likely be the same. While winning a fault-based divorce may result in gaining the upper hand in some ways, this is not always the case. Discuss the options with a family lawyer, like a COVID-19 divorce law firm in Arlington, Virginia, to help make your decision clearer.

Thank you to the experts at May Law, LLP for their input into divorce and the COVID-19.