Divorce is always an emotionally painful process — it can also be legally confusing and financially overwhelming. But unlike what you might see on television and in the movies, it doesn’t always need to involve a lengthy court battle. In fact, there is an easier way to end your marriage in Pennsylvania. With no-fault divorce, neither spouse needs to prove the other is responsible for the marriage not working out.
Not to be confused with an uncontested divorce (which refers to the level of agreement between spouses), a no-fault divorce specifically refers to the grounds for divorce. In Pennsylvania, no-fault divorce allows spouses to legally end their marriage without alleging that either is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. In other words, unlike a fault-based divorce, marital misconduct does not need to be proven.
In many cases, Pennsylvania no-fault divorces are based on mutual consent. This means that both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and consent to the divorce. But a divorce can still proceed even if one spouse doesn’t wish to end the marriage. If a party does not consent to the divorce, a court will issue a judgment if the spouses lived separately and apart for one year or more.
To commence a no-fault divorce, one spouse must file a petition with the court and serve it upon the other spouse. To qualify for this type of divorce, the marriage must be irretrievably broken, both spouses agree to divorce, and there must not be unresolved financial issues. At least one of the parties must also have been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months before the divorce papers were filed.
Importantly, with a mutual consent no-fault divorce, Pennsylvania imposes a 90-day waiting period after the complaint has been served, before a court will issue the decree. During this time, the parties should work to reach a settlement agreement concerning distribution of marital property, alimony, child custody, child support, and any other issues that must be decided in the divorce process.
One of the biggest advantages of a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce is that it can greatly reduce the amount of time and cost associated with a fault-based divorce. Because it is not necessary to prove a fault ground for divorce — including desertion, adultery, bigamy, cruelty, imprisonment, or being subjected to indignities — parties can instead focus on negotiating the crucial issues that can affect them in the long-term.
A no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania can be:
In most cases, there is no benefit to choosing to proceed with a fault-based divorce instead of a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. Not only can it prolong the amount of time you spend in court and increase the costs of your case, but it can also needlessly amplify the emotional stress of a divorce for both parties and their children. Generally, there is only one situation where choosing a fault-based divorce can impact the outcome of a case — when determining whether alimony should be awarded, a judge may consider adultery if it caused financial harm to the marriage.
Whether your divorce is based on fault or not, there are several important issues that must be decided before a judge will sign your divorce judgment. Specifically, the issues of alimony, marital property division, and marital debt allocation must be included in a divorce action. Spouses can work toward a resolution of these issues outside of court, through mediation, collaborative divorce, or negotiation. If they are unable to settle these matters, a judge will determine the outcome in the courtroom.
Notably, it can be best to decide child custody, parenting time, and child support matters along with the other issues that must be decided in your divorce. However, Pennsylvania law does not require that these matters be resolved in order to grant a no fault divorce. Child custody and child support do not need to be included in a divorce action — they can be decided in separate actions at any time.
Regardless of whether it’s based on marital misconduct or not, going through a divorce isn’t easy. It’s best to have an experienced divorce attorney by your side who can ensure your legal rights are protected every step of the way. Located in Exeter, Pennsylvania, The Kulick Law Firm is dedicated to providing high-quality legal services to clients in Northeastern Pennsylvania who are facing divorce and other family law matters. Call (570) 203-2756 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.