In the 21st century, divorce no longer represents a failure. While a divorce signifies the end of a marriage, it is also a process that allows the parties, who have often lived for years in an unhappy union, to begin a new life with the potential for happiness that was no longer possible while their marriage was intact. The reality is that almost 50% of marriage today end in divorce, and the statistics are even higher for second and third marriages. While lay people may ponder the questions of why so many more marriages are ending today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago , as an attorney and someone who has witnessed it on a daily basis day in and day out for many years, I believe strongly that it is due to the fact that divorce is no longer stigmatized and it is the general consensus that people have the right to be happy. As a result of this sort of “awakening” we as individuals now feel that we not only have the right to be happy, we also have the ability, even if it means breaking vows made before God and ending the “lifelong” commitment of marriage.
In Pennsylvania, although both “fault” and “no fault” grounds for divorce are available, a vast majority of cases are pursued and granted on the “no fault” basis. While a divorce is often the preference and decision of only one spouse, whether it be due to infidelity or simply loss of love, rarely is just one person at fault or solely responsible for the breakup of the union. This premise is where the concept of a “no fault” divorce comes from, and is typically the assumption taken by the Court. While several grounds exist for a fault based divorce, absent extremely persuasive evidence, coupled with a legitimate reason, Courts are reluctant to grant fault based divorces. Which is why fault based divorces are becoming a thing of the past.
A fault based divorce in Pennsylvania may be pursued on the following grounds: (1) adultery, (2) abandonment without cause for at least a year, (3) cruelty, including domestic violence, which endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse, (4) bigamy, (5) conviction of a crime and imprisonment for two or more years, and (6) humiliating the innocent spouse in such a way that makes the marriage intolerable.
These fault based grounds are almost always time consuming, expensive, and difficult to prove. Pursing a fault based divorce means having a full blown court battle that will involve airing both parties dirty laundry, with very little advantage or benefit for doing so. The reality is that courts cannot consider either spouse’s fault when making decisions with respect to division of marital property, and perhaps the only potential advantage is that a Judge may consider misconduct when deciding whether or not to award alimony. For these reasons, fault based divorces are far and few between and many attorneys will go their entire career representing clients in “no fault” divorce cases only.
The more common, and typical divorce these days is based on a no fault grounds. No-fault divorces may be granted upon the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, which simply means that the marriage is broken beyond repair and that the couple can not get along anymore. There are two types of no fault divorces in Pennsylvania: (1) irretrievable breakdown with mutual consent, and (2) irretrievable breakdown based on either a one year or two year separation, depending on the actual date of the separation.
Whether you decide to pursue a “fault based” or “no fault” divorce, it is important that you know and understand the law in Pennsylvania and how it applies to your specific situation. Always have a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney before making any decisions. At an initial consultation, you will be able to explain your specific situation to the lawyer, and they should explain the law and how it applies to you, recommending the best course of action within your budget and lifestyle. While divorce can never be without its complications, hiring the Law Offices of Amanda J. Iannuzzelli ensures a smooth process from start to finish, with a dedicated advocate defending your rights to ensure the best possible outcome. Call the Law Offices of Amanda J. Iannuzzelli today at 610-566-2424 and schedule your initial consultation!