Pennsylvanians who are experiencing marital problems and are considering divorce are frequently unsure about the entire process. Before even getting to issues like child custody, property division, alimony and child support, many are completely unaware of how to begin the divorce process.
Specifically, they are unsure about how to get a divorce and if a reason must be presented before it can move forward. Lancaster County residents should know what the law says about this as it can be useful from the outset.
Did the spouse need to have done something wrong to get a divorce?
No. In Pennsylvania, a divorce can be filed as a fault-based divorce or a no-fault divorce. The majority of divorce actions in Lancaster County are filed as no-fault divorces, requested because the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” There does not need to be any allegation of wrongdoing for a no-fault divorce.
In Pennsylvania, a divorce can be sought and granted based on fault. That includes various behaviors that the other spouse might have committed during the marriage. However, even if fault does exist in a marriage, a no-fault divorce can still be requested and, in fact, it is often advised. Fault divorces can be more costly and more complicated than a no- fault divorce. Specifically, a fault divorce can be granted for:
- Desertion, which last for at least one year
- Cruel and barbarous treatment which endangers the life or health of the innocent spouse
- Being sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two more years
- Indignities – where the innocent spouse has constantly been subject to verbal or physical abuse from the other spouse or suffered such neglect or ridicule that has created intolerable or burdensome conditions: cruelty, bigamy, being imprisoned and causing injury
It is also possible to get a divorce based on the other spouse being institutionalized, where a serious mental disorder has resulted in one spouse being confined in mental institution for a minimum of 18 months before beginning the action and where it is unlikely the spouse will be discharged for the next 18 months.
Community-based legal help can be beneficial with a family law case
Obviously, the easiest way to get a divorce without rancor and long-term dispute is to negotiate a settlement and part ways amicably. This can occur in some situations where the sides are simply no longer compatible but want the best for their children and do care about what happens to their soon-to-be former spouse. In these situations, having the assistance of an attorney who can help forging solutions and reaching common ground is imperative, as it ensures an understanding of what may be a fair and reasonable outcome.
In other situations, the spouses are in dispute over some or all issues. For cases where there was adultery, abuse, substance abuse and other at-fault reasons for a divorce, or even where the spouses do split amicably, it might not be as easy for the spouses to work toward an agreement on how to divide and distribute assets
Whether facing a fault or no-fault divorce, consulting with those who are embedded in the community, understand its residents, are compassionate and are accessible is key to trying to reach a positive outcome and ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities.