Understanding No-Fault DivorceSeptember 8, 2021
The concept of fault is an often-misunderstood legal term when it comes to divorce. As further discussed below, fault can be a vital tool when attempting move a divorce action forward or when discussing alimony. Where often misunderstood is fault’s role in determining the distribution of the marital estate.
Fortunately, we have developed this quick guide about understanding no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania:
Explaining the Concept of Fault
When viewed from the perspective of divorce, the concept of fault, while not required, can connote the assessment of blame as to why a relationship has ended. Through this concept, various factors can be pointed out and used as a basis for seeking a divorce, such as:
- Entering the marriage while knowingly married to another person
- Behavior in a manner that renders the innocent spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
- Abuse (which is defined as cruel and barbarous treatment that endangers the life or health of an innocent spouse)
- Malicious and willful desertion
- A sentence to imprisonment for two or more years
(All of these grounds are recognized as sufficient legal bases under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a).)
In the state of Pennsylvania, the actions of a spouse can provide grounds for divorce. But it is vital to understand that such grounds are very specific, infrequently invoked, and limited in scope. Therefore, most divorce matters in the state proceed and are ultimately resolved by utilizing a “no-fault” provision according to the state’s statutory laws.
What Is No-Fault Divorce?
No-fault divorce is a type of legal process that is the opposite of the tool above in the sense that it doesn’t require proof of the above-mentioned legal bases. According to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(c) and (d), Pennsylvania provides two separate grounds for divorce that do not consider fault from either party when granting a divorce (hence the name):
- Mutual consent of the parties—means that the court may grant a divorce when the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- Irretrievable breakdown—means that the moving party alleges that the marriage is irretrievably broken and avers that the parties have been living separate and apart for at least one (1) year.
Understanding the Flaws of the Fault System—and Why No-Fault Divorce Is the Desired Alternative
While many divorce cases in Pennsylvania can be built upon grounds of fault exhibited in the situations mentioned above, most people pursue no-fault grounds instead.
Many people seek the grounds in question because fault itself must be proven by the moving party through a hearing (or multiple hearings) that is conducted to establish the veracity of claims put forth. Unfortunately, such an outcome can result in a lengthy, expensive, and emotional process that can add more stress to a seeking party’s life. Additionally, the implications of fault-based divorce suits are made even worse because fault-based grounds are not considered when pursuing an equitable distribution of marital property or assets.
When seeking a no-fault divorce, both cases filed by either mutual consent or irretrievable breakdown are generally straightforward, less expensive, and require fewer—if any—court proceedings. This is why family law firms in Pennsylvania, like Daley Zucker, suggest that clients or moving parties consider the no-fault path when seeking to legally separate from a partner.
Seek Legal Expertise for Your No-Fault Divorce
Although the process of divorce is one that most spouses would like to approach through the use of credible faults to establish a proper cause for divorce, no-fault processes can ultimately lead to a smoother process.
If you’re looking for experienced divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania that you can rely on, trust Daley Zucker. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help!