Is Pennsylvania a No-Fault Divorce State?

Divorcing couples in the state of Pennsylvania have the option of filing a fault divorce, but a no-fault divorce is the route that is most frequently taken. This is a relatively new development, as prior to 1980 the state required one spouse to accuse the other of being at fault, and then to prove that fault in court. This approach created significant hardship for those couples that simply had grown apart, and led to many spouses simply agreeing that one or the other would take the blame in order to accomplish the legal end to their marriage contract.

Fortunately, the state legislature passed the Pennsylvania Divorce Act of 1980, which offers two paths to a no-fault divorce: couples can opt for a mutual consent divorce or a two-year separation version. Under the mutual consent option, either partner can file the paperwork asserting that both partners agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Using this process, the paperwork begins a required 90-day waiting period, during which both parties must sign a waiver to their right to three mandatory marriage counseling sessions. After the waiting period is over, both parties signing an affidavit consenting to the divorce completes the process.

The other, more difficult path to a no-fault divorce is an assertion by one of the two parties that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that they have lived separate and apart for at least one year. This waiting period may feel interminable to the party seeking the divorce, but it is far shorter than the original three-year waiting period that was put in place in 1980, which was then shortened to two years and was only cut to one year at the end of 2016. After the one-year separation period, if either spouse disputes that the separation period occurred, they can ask for a hearing. Issues including equitable distribution, child custody, alimony and child support will need to be resolved before a judge signs a decree that ends the marriage.

In the face of the one-year waiting period, many people seeking a divorce may wonder whether pursuing a “fault” divorce makes more sense, but in most cases, this represents a much more difficult and expensive option. To speak to an experienced divorce attorney about your situation, contact us today. We will set up an appointment based on your convenience.