What Is a No-Fault Divorce?
Many new clients at our family law firm have heard divorce referred to in different legal terms but are a bit unsure of their meaning. One such term is “no-fault divorce,” which clients sometimes confuse with “uncontested divorce.” No-fault divorce still requires the parties to reach consensus on important issues but eliminates the first point of contention for divorcing couples: who is to blame for the marriage failing. Traditionally, a petitioner for divorce had to prove marital misconduct to convince the court to grant a divorce. Under § 3301 of the Pa. Consolidated Statutes, a petitioning spouse would have to prove the other spouse did one of the following:
- Committed willful and malicious desertion for the period of one or more years
- Committed adultery
- Endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse
- Entered into a bigamous marriage
- Committed a crime that led to a term of two or more years in prison
- Made the spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
These grounds inevitably cast the petitioning spouse as a wronged innocent and the responding spouse as a malicious villain. While that is certainly the case in some divorces, most aren’t so black and white. The majority of divorces don’t occur because of “willful and malicious” behavior, but simply because the love in the relationship has dissipated, and the spouses have come to realize they are basically incompatible. Recognizing this reality, state legislatures across the country began adopting no-fault grounds for divorce, so that couples could file on the basis of “irreconcilable differences” or by simply recognizing that the marital relationship was “irretrievably broken.”
Pennsylvania law allows couples who have lived apart for one year to file for no-fault divorce. This spares them an emotionally taxing legal battle in which the details of their intimate life would have to be revealed in open court. But, filing no-fault does not end all legal wrangling. Couples must still resolve issues related to alimony, child custody, child support and property division.
The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney & Associates, P.C. handles all aspects of divorce in Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout Bucks County, including Newtown, Washington Crossing, and Richboro. Call us at 215.493.3360 or contact our Yardley office online to schedule a consultation.