What is the Divorce Process in Pennsylvania? (Part Two)

In part one of our discussion on divorce in Pennsylvania we covered a lot of topics regarding how to file for divorce and what claims, custodial and economic, are handled in the proceedings. In part two, we’re going to discuss what the difference is between a fault based divorce and a no fault divorce is and which one you should file when going through the divorce.

Let’s jump right in with what a fault based divorce is.

A fault based divorce involves court hearings in which parties will raise proof to determine who is at fault for the dissolution of the marriage. The grounds for this could be if one party simply left the other, one party was cruel emotionally or physically, or if one party had betrayed the commitment by performing adultery. Prior to the 1960’s, fault had to be determined in order to proceed with a divorce.

What is a no fault divorce?

A no fault divorce, in contrast, does not require validation of fault by either spouse. This type of divorce instead takes the act of applying for the divorce as means of proof of something having gone wrong in the marriage. No fault divorce can be applied for by either party individually or both together. Courts may still look into each spouse’s behavior and actions in determining the economic claims in a no fault divorce. So what is the difference between them besides a fault based divorce declaring someone is at fault? Time and money. A fault based divorce will involve more time in court and more attorney expenses. It will create headaches and it will create undue stress. It might leave you with the satisfaction of saying the other party was the cause of the breakdown. Otherwise, a fault based divorce has zero effect on the rest of the proceedings, including custody and economic claims.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that we suggest applying for a no fault divorce.

There are two provisions you can apply for a no fault divorce under: Mutual Consent and Irretrievable Breakdown in Marriage. Mutual Consent is a process in which both parties agree to the divorce. Under this provision, one party would file for divorce and serve the other party. After 90 days have passed, both parties would be able to sign papers to make the divorce final. The caveat to this is if both parties do not agree to the divorce, it cannot take place under the Mutual Consent provision. In cases where one party does not agree, we have an alternative if we can show there is an Irretrievable Breakdown in Marriage. In this case, after two years of separation, you no longer need both party’s consent to obtain a divorce. This can take significantly longer since the parties have to have been separated for two years first, and it can be a point of contention between parties as one may believe the split happened earlier than the other. When helping our clients through divorce, we file under both no fault provisions. This way if the other party comes back and rejects the divorce, we can still proceed assuming two years have passed since the initial separation. We hope this information on the divorce process in Pennsylvania has been helpful for you, and urge you to reach out to an experienced divorce attorney should you be proceeding with a divorce yourself.