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What are grounds for divorce?

In Pennsylvania, the grounds for divorce must be specified when filing an initial Complaint of Divorce. After naming the grounds for divorce, the complainant must also present substantiating evidence or testimony to the court in order to prove those grounds. If the filer does not set forth the grounds for the divorce, a judge may dismiss the matter.

A petition for divorce may be filed under no-fault grounds or fault-based grounds. No-fault grounds for divorce would be a marriage that is considered irretrievably broken. When no-fault grounds are established, a court will not issue a decree until 90 days have passed since the date of filing. A judge may approve an expedited divorce process if the couple has lived in separate residences for two years or more.

A petition for divorce may be granted on the date it is filed if proof of fault-based grounds is presented to a judge. Fault-based grounds would include adultery, cruel treatment or indignities that have made the complainant's living conditions intolerable. The willful desertion of a spouse for one year or the incarceration of a spouse for two years could also be considered fault-based grounds for divorce.

Because different types of grounds for divorce may have the potential for different kinds of legal repercussions, it may be important for a spouse to speak with a family law attorney before filing for divorce. The attorney can help the client gain a solid understanding of divorce law and procedure before determining what grounds would be best suited to settle the particular divorce issues. If fault-based grounds are used, a spouse may also wish to be represented by the attorney should the matter be contested.

Source: Divorce Support, "Pennsylvania Divorce Laws", September 19, 2014

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