There are two methods of obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania: no-fault or fault grounds. Most divorces are obtained on a no-fault basis. In addition to the claim for divorce, you may make other claims for relief, including alimony, equitable distribution, support, custody, counsel fees, and health/life insurance. Morton & Kubacke Family Law, LLC, located in West Chester, explains what the law and its impact on your individual situation.
Under the term no-fault, there are also two types: the first is known as a 90-day consent divorce and the second requires a two-year separation.
With a 90-day consent divorce, the plaintiff (party filing for a divorce) files a divorce complaint. If, after 90 days, both husband and wife agree to a divorce, a consent form is signed by each party and filed with the court. The 90-day waiting period is considered a cooling-off period to ensure that the parties truly want a divorce.
In a Chester County divorce, it is usually necessary to have the financial issues resolved (specifically, alimony and equitable distribution) before the divorce will be granted. It should also be noted that the divorce is not automatically complete in 90 days and will take several weeks after the signing and filing of the consents to have a final divorce decree.
In a situation where one party will not sign the consent to divorce, and there are no “fault grounds” for divorce, it will be necessary to obtain a no-fault divorce based on a two-year separation. After husband and wife have lived separate and apart for a period of two years, the plaintiff may obtain a divorce without the consent of the spouse. Again, Chester County usually requires that the financial issues be resolved before the entry of the divorce. Be aware, it is sometimes possible to be living separate and apart even while husband and wife are still in the same residence. If applicable, this possibility should be discussed further with a divorce attorney in West Chester, PA.
Very few divorces are obtained on fault grounds since the revision of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code in 1980. Simply stated, it is easier, less costly, and less painful to both parties to proceed with a no-fault divorce regardless of “who did what” to cause the divorce.
In order to obtain a divorce on fault grounds, it will be necessary to have a hearing before a Special Master to determine if the “fault” exists. (Special Master will be explained under Alimony.)
The most common grounds for fault divorce are indignities or adultery. Indignities include a variety of charges including but not limited to verbal and/or physical abuse, and public humiliation.
Warning – Condonation. Condonation is the legal term for forgiveness of a fault ground for divorce. Condonation is the resumption of the marital relationship with forgiveness of the fault. Condonation can simply mean having sexual intercourse with the offender. For example, if a party learns his/her spouse has committed adultery and the parties subsequently have sexual intercourse, the Court will find there has been condonation or forgiveness of the adultery and deny a divorce on that ground. If an offense, such as adultery, takes places again after the condonation, then the ground for divorce is revived.
Only in rare instances can one party force the other party to leave the marital residence while the divorce action is pending. Abuse is one of the few times a party may be forced from the home. There are a few instances when a party will be granted exclusive possession of the residence. You should discuss specific claims with a West Chester divorce lawyer.