Although most couples choose to utilize the no-fault divorce process in Pennsylvania, in some cases divorce based on fault grounds is more appropriate. Fault-based divorce sometimes gives a person a sense of vindication if their spouse committed serious wrongdoing. In other cases, someone may choose fault-based divorce to try and get the upper hand in a divorce settlement. Regardless of the type of divorce you are filing, it is important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the process.
Filing for Fault-Based Divorce in PA
To file for divorce in Pennsylvania, you or your spouse must have lived in the Commonwealth for at least six months. A divorce complaint must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you or your spouse resides. The complaint should include reasons why you are requesting a divorce, and any other matters you would like the court to address. A court filing fee must be paid at the time the Complaint is filed. Local divorce attorneys should know the specifics for filing a divorce in your jurisdiction. They can help to ensure all important information is included in your complaint and make sure it is properly filed.
Serving Your Spouse with a Divorce Complaint
Complaint documents and summons must be served on your spouse within 30 days of the date they were filed. Most divorce lawyers use professional process servers to hand-deliver the complaint and summons or in some cases serve the Complaint by Certified Mail. Your divorce can proceed once your spouse has been served with these documents.
Grounds for Fault-Based Divorce
A fault-based divorce must be brought on certain grounds. You can file for this type of divorce if your spouse has:
- Committed adultery or bigamy
- Been cruel to a degree that has made the marriage intolerable, including domestic violence
- Abandoned you without cause for at least one year
- Been convicted of a crime and imprisoned for two or more years
An attorney can evaluate your case and determine which grounds may apply. If you are getting divorced, it is also important to consult with lawyers for wills to help protect your assets and update your estate plan.
Why Should I File for Fault-Based Divorce?
Courts may not consider fault as a factor when dividing property, but it can be considered when awarding spousal support or alimony. Although fault is technically not a factor when a judge is determining custody, certain behavior may affect whether you get custody of your children. For example, if drug addiction is noted as part of the fault grounds in your spouse’s complaint, you may only be allowed supervised visitation with your children.
Some people file for divorce on fault grounds to avoid the no-fault waiting periods so they can end a marriage more quickly. If you believe that your spouse is opposed to the divorce or wants to make your life difficult by contesting the date of separation or the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken, fault-based divorce may be a more effective option than no-fault divorce.
The dissolution of a marriage can be contentious and complex. The Chester County family law attorneys at Perna & Abracht, LLC can help you understand the process and protect your rights.