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Understanding divorce grounds in Pennsylvania

For some couples, it is easy to know when a marriage is over and divorce is the most logical course of action. An act of betrayal or a moment of anger are obvious reasons for wanting to get out of a marriage. However, not every marriage has those defining moments. In fact, many divorcing couples may be unable or unwilling to name a specific reason for their breakup.

Whether you and your spouse have come to an amicable agreement to divorce or you are ready to do battle, you will want to understand the laws for divorce in Pennsylvania. You may find the smartest first step you can take is obtaining as much information as possible about your options before making any decisions.

Finding fault

If either you or your spouse has lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months, you can file for divorce in this state. You may decide to avoid naming a reason for the divorce and file under no-fault, or you can file under one of several faults:

  • Your spouse committed adultery.
  • Your spouse placed you at great risk of injury or death through physical abuse or cruel behavior.
  • Your spouse created a situation that made it intolerable for you to remain in the marriage.
  • Your spouse deserted you for no valid reason and lived apart from you for one year or longer.
  • Your spouse was convicted of a crime and has been in prison at least two years.
  • At the time you got married, your spouse did not inform you that he or she was already married.

During your divorce proceedings, you will have to prove whatever fault you claim, and your spouse will have the opportunity to present a defense.

Other terms of divorce

If none of the faults listed above is relevant to your situation, one of these additional grounds may be more appropriate:

  • Your spouse has spent at least 18 months in a mental institution and is likely to be there another 18 months before discharge.
  • You and your spouse have lived apart for at least one year, and you have determined your marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • You and your spouse mutually agree to end the divorce, file the papers attesting to your consent and wait 90 days.

If your spouse intentionally injures you, the court will grant you a divorce based on the terms for mutual consent.

As you can see, depending on how you intend to file for divorce, you may be dealing with a variety waiting periods, documentation and rules that change periodically. Having a legal advocate to guide you can protect you from making mistakes that could hinder you from reaching your goals and moving forward with life.

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