Grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania can be either NO-FAULT or FAULT. Before you can file for divorce in Pennsylvania, you or your spouse must have resided in the Commonwealth for at least six months. Then in order to get a fault divorce you must prove that there are grounds, or lawfully acceptable reasons for a divorce.
If a divorce is by MUTUAL CONSENT and both parties sign Affidavits of Consent to the divorce, a divorce decree can be granted three months after the service of the complaint on the other party, if all property and alimony issues have been settled or none have been raised. If only one spouse wants a divorce and the parties have been living separately for at least two years, the party who wants the divorce can request that a divorce decree be granted by filing a special paper called a “3301(d) affidavit” and serving it on the other party. If the other party does not disagree about the date of separation, the court may grant the divorce, again if all property and alimony issues have been settled or if none have been raised, and if the court determines that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Both of these types of divorces are known as NO-FAULT divorces.
Before someone can obtain a FAULT divorce, two things must be proven. First, that he or she is “innocent and injured,” or not at fault, and second, that misconduct by the other spouse has caused a breakdown of the marriage. Allowable grounds for FAULT divorce are specified by law, such as violence, bigamy, adultery, desertion, conviction of a crime or insanity.
However, even if grounds for a divorce are established by one of the methods listed above, PA courts do not grant divorces until all property distribution or alimony claims raised by either party in the divorce proceeding have been settled or litigated. No divorce is “automatic,” that is, divorces will not be granted until the necessary forms have been filed with the court, and even then will not be granted if there are outstanding claims for alimony, attorney fees, or property distribution.
Our experience helps us guide our divorce clients through the process effectively and explain the necessary steps to them in language they can understand.