Pennsylvania No-Fault Divorce Law, grounds for dissolution of marriage

Unfortunately one out of two Pennsylvania marriages ends in divorce. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, thousands of divorces are filed each year in courthouses in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, and other county seats. Most of the divorces filed end up being classified as a no-fault divorce.

This article will cover the basic legal grounds for a no-fault divorce. Further articles will address issues of spousal support, alimony, equitable distribution, and other issues besides the dissolution of the marriage itself.

There are two basic types of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. The first type is a divorce by mutual consent. The second type is a “two-year separation” divorce.

History of No Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

No fault divorce became a reality in Pennsylvania with the Pennsylvania Divorce Act of 1980. Prior to that time, “fault” would have to be alleged by one party against another and proven in court. This system failed to acknowledge that married parties, from time to time, may actually just no longer wish to be married, through no fault of either party.

Such a system lead to “collusive” divorces, wherein the spouses, with a wink and a nod, would say one party was at fault, and thus the marriage could be concluded with a legal divorce.

Mutual Consent

Under Pennsylvania law, either spouse can file a divorce alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and assert that the other spouse will agree. Once the divorce is filed, there is a 90-day “cooling off” period. Once the 90-day period has elapsed, both parties must sign an affidavit consenting to the divorce.

In addition to the affidavit consenting to the divorce, both parties must sign a waiver to their right to three mandatory marriage counseling sessions.

Irretrievable Breakdown

Pennsylvania courts may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If either party disputes the two year separation period, he or she has a right to a hearing to determine if indeed the parties have been living “separate and apart” for a period of two years.

Under the Pennsylvania Divorce Act of 1980, the original period was three years.

Divorce Decree

If there are no other issues pending, such as equitable distribution, alimony, etc., a Court of Common Pleas judge will sign a Decree dissolving the marriage.

Seek Legal Advice

Although you may file a simple no-fault divorce on your own, it is not advisable or wise to do so without first seeking legal counsel. Even the simplest divorces may involve issues besides the dissolution of marriage itself. If you are considering a divorce, seek the advice of a lawyer. You may lose important rights if they are not addressed in a divorce action.

With more than 20 years of experience, the divorce attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and throughout the Keystone State.