When Are Fault Divorces Granted in Pennsylvania?

If you are considering undergoing a divorce, or are currently in the middle of the process, it may seem like the ultimate goal is very far away. The processes for getting a divorce based on one party’s fault can be difficult, drawn-out processes in Pennsylvania. Not only might there be disagreement and animosity between the parties to slow down the process, but the actual legal process itself can be slow.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to understand the grounds for fault divorces in PA and the overall timing of the divorce process. This can help you go into your divorce with a realistic expectation of how things will proceed, and what to expect. The Philadelphia divorce lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices are here to explain some of the reasons for fault divorces that Pennsylvania law allows, and how these cases progress. If you need to talk to a lawyer about your divorce case, consider calling our attorneys today for a free consultation.

Reasons for Fault Divorce in PA

Pennsylvania is a hybrid state that allows both fault divorce and no-fault grounds for divorce. If both spouses agree to get a divorce, they may be able to file for no-fault divorce. This type of divorce may save them time and effort in getting a divorce. However, some parties may be unwilling to work together with their spouse, or one spouse may refuse to consent to a divorce. Especially in divorces based on abuse or adultery, the only way to get divorced may be to sue for divorce based on fault grounds.

Pennsylvania’s divorce laws, under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301 and following lay-out the grounds for fault divorces. Some of these grounds are a bit confusing or use archaic language, so we’ll explain the specifics of each grounds for divorce as we list them:

(1) Desertion

Deserting a spouse means “willful and malicious desertion,” i.e. intentionally walking out on them for negative reasons. It also means that they must stay living away from the house. This must last for one year or more to qualify for divorce.

(2) Adultery

Adultery is any extramarital affair. There is no requirement in the law that this be a sexual affair, but the worse the betrayal was, the more likely the divorce will stick. Note that this often digs up many private issues, including reverse accusations of infidelity as a defense to adultery claims.

(3) Cruel and Barbarous Treatment

This set of grounds usually encompasses abusive treatment. It also requires that the spouse’s “life or health” was “endangered” by the mistreatment.

Philadelphia Fault Divorce Grounds

(4) Bigamy

If your spouse married you while knowing he or she was already married, you can sue for divorce.

(5) Imprisonment

If your spouse was sent to prison for a crime, and will be there for at least two years, you can sue for divorce. There is a similar ground for divorcing someone who has been a patient at a mental institution for 18 months, and is not likely to recover.

(6) Indignities

When one spouse treats another so poorly “as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome,” they may be able to get a divorce. This does not have to include physical abuse, but could include mental or emotional abuse, severe embarrassment, severe debt, and many other issues of shame and mistreatment.

Divorce Process and Timing

After filing for divorce, the process can be quite lengthy before the divorce is finalized. First, there need to be multiple hearings and meetings with the judge and the attorneys for each side. There are also required filings; petitions for divorce, responses, counter-responses, and other court documents are used to flesh-out the grounds for the divorce before the case even “goes to court.” After this, your “day in court” may actually extend to multiple days. A “trial” may only be part of the process, if it is necessary at all, but other hearings may encompass most of your time in the courtroom.

Granting a Fault Divorce in PA

Hopefully, many of the issues in a divorce can be decided by agreements between the parties and their attorneys. Rather than letting a judge decide things like asset division, judges may allow the parties to decide this. Alternatively, a judge may appoint a “master” to hold any hearings on divorce grounds, division of the assets, and even child custody issues.

Ultimately, when you file for a fault divorce, expect at least a few months before the divorce is finalized. Having an experienced divorce attorney handle your case can help reduce the stress and help you to get your divorce finalized in a reasonable amount of time.

Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

The Philadelphia family law attorneys at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices may be able to help you file for a fault divorce in PA. For a free consultation on your divorce, and to help understand fault vs. no-fault divorces, call our law offices today at 215-814-0395.

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