Fault vs. No Fault Divorce

January 11, 2009

There are essentially two types of divorce in Pennsylvania, fault and no fault. A fault divorce requires one spouse to prove the other has done one of the following:

  • Deserted him or her without a reasonable cause for at least one year;
  • Committed adultery;
  • Entered into the marriage while he or she was married to another;
  • Endangered the life of the other spouse;
  • Sentenced to a term of imprisonment for two or more years; or
  • Committed indignities to the other spouse such that his or her life is intolerable and burdensome.

This type of divorce generally requires a hearing and the presentation of evidence by the “innocent” spouse in order to prove that one of these things has occurred.

By contrast, a no fault divorce can be granted in the following situations:

  • Where one spouse has been institutionalized for the 18 months before the divorce is sought and where there is no prospect of that spouse being released from the institution for an additional 18 months;
  • Where both Parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and 90 days have passed since the start of the divorce action; or
  • Where one Party believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the parties have lived apart for at least 2 years.

A no fault divorce does not necessarily require either of the Parties to prove why the marriage has failed, only that the Parties have no real possibility of reconciliation. Most divorces in Pennsylvania are no fault divorces.