The Different Types of Divorce in PennsylvaniaJune 15, 2021
Many people believe that marriages are the happily-ever-afters of life, after which the couple walks through life together void of any problems. But, unfortunately, this is not how life works. Even in the most “perfect” of families, issues still occur. While the best overcome their challenges, some families find themselves in situations where the best outcome for all involved is to separate.
Divorces happen for many reasons. These reasons are the “grounds” that are identified to make the divorce legal. Pennsylvania recognizes both fault and no-fault divorce. In this post, we will cover the types of divorce and what grounds can be used for each.
In Pennsylvania, there are essentially three ways to obtain a divorce – a fault divorce, a no-fault or mutual consent divorce and a divorce based upon the parties having been separated for one year.
Take a look at the different types of divorce in PA:
Fault Divorce (3301 (a))
A party seeking a divorce on fault grounds must prove that the marriage should be dissolved because of the specific behavior of the other spouse. Fault grounds include desertion (without reasonable cause), adultery, bigamy, imprisonment, cruel treatment, and a catchall category referred to as “indignities.”
Prior to the 1980 amendments to the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, anyone seeking a divorce had to prove fault. Since the 1980 amendments that provide for “no fault” and/or divorce based on separation length, it is unusual for a divorce decree to be entered on fault grounds.
While it is still possible to get a fault-based divorce, a separate hearing is usually required so that evidence can be presented to determine whether “fault” as defined in the statute exists. Even if fault exists, because of the additional delay and expense involved, most individuals opt to forego this approach and obtain the divorce on one of the other available options.
No-Fault Divorce or Mutual Consent Divorce (3301 (c))
A no-fault divorce or 3301 (c) divorce provides that the parties may be divorced after 90 days from the filing and service of the divorce complaint if both parties sign an affidavit stating that their marriage is irretrievably broken and verifying that the requisite 90 days have elapsed. Keep in mind that this divorce method requires that both parties sign the consent form, thereby permitting the court to enter the divorce decree.
Also, keep in mind that it is rare that the decree is obtained as soon as the 90-day period has expired. The consents only establish the basis for the divorce, but the divorce’s economic issues are rarely resolved within the 90-day period. The divorce decree should not be entered until everyone is satisfied that all economic and equitable distribution and alimony issues have been resolved. These issues will be waived if not resolved before the entry of the Divorce Decree.
One Year Separation (3301 (d))
If one spouse would like to move forward and obtain a 90 day no fault or mutual consent divorce but the other party will not sign the requisite consent form, a divorce decree may still be obtained based on proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that the parties have lived separate and apart for one year. Arguments will often ensue over whether the parties have been separated for the required one-year period.
The Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that the separate and apart requirement can be established even though the parties continue to live in the same house. If the one-year separation is established, there may still be an issue as to whether the marriage is irretrievably broken, but the one-year separation usually is sufficient proof of the irretrievable breakdown.
As with a 3301 (c) divorce, establishing a one-year separation and irretrievable breakdown only gives parties grounds for divorce – it does not resolve economic issues, which will be waived if not resolved before the divorce decree is entered.
Finally, it is possible to obtain a divorce based on the fact that one party to the marriage is institutionalized. This is a unique and complex approach, and for that reason, it is not discussed in this blog.
Reach out to a Divorce Lawyer Today
Any type of divorce requires a reason to proceed. Whether it be a fault, no-fault divorce, or one-year separation, you will need to identify the grounds for the divorce. Otherwise, the court will not grant a divorce, meaning you will still legally be bound as a family unit.
We understand that this can be an incredibly stressful time for you and that finding the grounds for the divorce can be quite a challenge. This is why it’s always recommended to reach out to an experienced divorce attorney that understands the process and has compassion for the client.
At Daley Zucker, LLC, our team has been handling divorce cases for over 50 years combined. We understand the complexities of the law surrounding divorce, as well as the emotional consequences. We’re here to listen to your concerns and help you find practical solutions that secure your future. If you are looking for divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania, reach out to us today.