Get Experienced Advice If You Are Considering Divorce
There are two paths to take when getting a divorce in Pennsylvania. The vast majority of cases involve a no-fault divorce. There are two ways to get a no-fault divorce. If both spouses consent by signing affidavits (sworn statements), they can be divorced after waiting for a 90-day separation period after filing a divorce complaint. The difficulty in obtaining a no-fault divorce after 90 days is that the parties must also agree to all economic issues, including support and equitable distribution of marital property.
The second way to get a no-fault divorce is if both parties cannot agree to get a divorce, one party can unilaterally obtain a divorce after two years have passed since the initial divorce complaint was filed. There is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Pennsylvania. Parties can be ‘separated’ and still live in the same home. Similarly, parties can be married yet live in different houses. Once the relevant time period has passed (90 days if the parties consent to a divorce, or two years if one party does not consent to a divorce) then the grounds for divorce have been established.
There is a third way to get a divorce in Pennsylvania, but it is very rarely used and that is a “fault” divorce. Prior to the advent of no-fault divorce laws, divorces were not granted unless a petitioner could prove that a spouse was insane, impotent/infertile, unfaithful, abusive or unfit. In a marital fault case, a party can be divorced prior to the expiration of two years if one party does not agree to a divorce. However, as a practical matter, when two people appear in front of a judge for a divorce on fault grounds, the judge will ask each party, “Do you agree to the divorce?” and in my experience, at this point, both parties are ready to be divorced and the judge enters the divorce on the basis that both parties have agreed.
Courts Are Prohibited From Considering Fault In Property Division
While this may seem unfair, fault grounds have very little to do with a divorce. Even in a no-fault case, marital fault can be raised as a defense to an alimony claim, and it can be raised as a defense to spousal support before a divorce complaint is filed. The courts however, are prohibited from considering marital fault in the context of property division.