How Fault-Based Divorce Works in Pennsylvania
The reasons couples get divorced are endless, but at some point, a break occurs and one or both spouses decide to end the marriage. Most states offer no-fault divorce to make the process of dissolving the marriage relatively quick and easy. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that still offers divorcing couples the option of getting divorced based upon a showing of fault. This process is much more involved than no-fault cases but may be the best option if the other spouse refuses to consent to divorce, a requirement for no-fault petitions, or a spouse does not want to wait for the one-year separation window to pass before moving forward. Further, when fault is proven, it can lead to the innocent spouse receiving a greater share of the marital property or alimony. Pennsylvania recognizes a number of grounds to petition for fault divorce, but one that is common among couples everywhere is the issue of adultery. Ashley Martson, from the reality show 90 Day Fiancé, recently filed for divorce in Pennsylvania, citing adultery as the reason for the demise of the marriage. Fault divorces are much less common, but they do serve an important purpose where available.
Grounds for Fault Divorce
Fault-based divorce must rest on acts recognized by Pennsylvania as being deserving of granting a divorce. In this state, the grounds are:
- Intentional desertion by a spouse from the marital home for at least one year;
- Cruel and barbarous treatment, or abuse that puts the life or of the innocent spouse in danger;
- A criminal conviction that results in a sentence of two or more years; and
- Committed repeated indignities that made the other spouse’s life intolerable, examples of which include emotional abuse, embarrassment, or significant debt.
What the Petitioning Spouse Must Prove
The reality is that just because a spouse may have experienced one of the situations described above, he/she may not be able to prove it. Importantly though, the spouse suing for fault divorce must be truly innocent and not have committed his/her own wrongful behavior or contributed to the execution of the bad acts alleged. Further, the spouse must present sufficient evidence of the behavior in order to convince a judge the divorce is warranted. On the other side, the accused spouse can try to claim the grounds are not true or even argue the claims are patently false. If a court is not convinced of innocence or fault, the divorce may be denied, and the no-fault option would have to be pursued for the divorce to be granted. Because of the complexity of fault divorce, they take a much longer time to resolve, but can leave the injured spouse with greater financial security through alimony or the award of marital assets. In addition, proving cruel treatment could help convince a judge that child custody should favor the innocent spouse to protect the best interests of the child. These are not easy cases to win, and a knowledgeable divorce attorney should be used to give the best chance at achieving the desired outcome.
Contact a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney
Divorce is not an easy decision, and there are many key considerations that must be made on the road to dissolution. If you are considering divorce, make a call to Barbara Flum Stein & Associates to learn whether fault divorce is a good option for you. Our Media divorce attorneys have the experience and dedication needed to get you a fair outcome, so contact us today to schedule a consultation.