When Can Fault-Based Grounds Apply to Your Divorce?
Most divorces that occur today are no-fault divorces. The couple simply attributes the divorce to an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage or “irreconcilable differences.” However, Pennsylvania also allows for allegations of fault in divorce, which could give the alleging spouse better results with regard to alimony and the division of marital property.
Fault-based grounds may apply to your divorce if your situation meets these criteria:
- One spouse refuses to agree to the divorce.
- You have not been separated for longer than a year.
- The spouse seeking the divorce does not wish to wait a year to be able to file a no-fault divorce.
The law requires the couple to have been separated for a year before a no-fault divorce can occur. Before that, the plaintiff must prove the other spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. If both spouses are found to be at fault, the court may refuse to grant the divorce.
Some of the legal grounds used in fault-based divorces include bigamy, adultery, desertion (for a year or longer), imprisonment for at least two years for the conviction of any type of crime, cruel or inhumane treatment, or any treatment that is dangerous to the life or health of the plaintiff.
Courts will also grant a fault-based divorce if the defendant was institutionalized for a serious mental problem for at least 18 months, and if he or she is likely to remain in that institution for at least another 18 months after the start of the divorce.
The defendant in a fault-based divorce can stop it from moving forward by proving the allegations claimed by the plaintiff are not true, or that the plaintiff was either not innocent or harmed in any way.