Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania

Learn about fault vs. no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania and whether you need "grounds" for divorce.

When filing for divorce, spouses must identify the "ground" or reason for the break-up of the marriage. Pennsylvania recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.

Fault Divorce

In a "fault" divorce, one spouse accuses the other of engaging in some type of misconduct that led to the divorce. Fault must be proven in court.

The fault grounds in Pennsylvania include:

  • adultery
  • abandonment without cause for at least one year
  • cruelty, including domestic violence, which endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse
  • bigamy
  • conviction of a crime and imprisonment for two or more years, and
  • humiliating the innocent spouse in such a way that makes the marriage intolerable.

Although courts don’t consider either spouse’s fault when making decisions about property division, a judge may consider misconduct when deciding whether to award alimony.

No-Fault Divorce

Divorcing spouses who want to avoid a full-blown court battle that will involve airing their dirty laundry in court have an alternative to a “fault divorce,” which is the “no-fault” divorce.

In a no-fault divorce, there is no blame assigned to either spouse. Spouses can request a divorce based on the ground of “irretrievable breakdown,” which just means the couple can’t get along anymore, and their marriage is broken beyond repair.

There are two types of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania.

Mutual Consent

A court may grant a divorce by mutual consent as long as all of the following requirements are met:

  • the couple has alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • 90 days have passed since the divorce action was filed, and
  • both spouses have filed an affidavit (written declaration) stating that they each consent to the divorce.

Irretrievable Breakdown Without Mutual Consent

Where one spouse seeks the divorce, and the other doesn’t consent, the court may grant the divorce if the following requirements are met:

  • a divorce complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • the spouse seeking the divorce has filed an affidavit stating the couple has lived separate and apart for at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and
  • the defendant (the spouse that must respond to the divorce) does not deny the allegations set forth in the affidavit or denies one or more of the allegations set forth in the affidavit but, after notice and hearing, the court determines that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Resources & More Information

You can learn more about the divorce process in Pennsylvania and related issues like child custody and property division at our section on Divorce and Family Law in Pennsylvania.

For a complete list of the fault grounds in Pennsylvania see 23 Pa. C.A.A. § 3301.

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