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Legal Information: Pennsylvania

Divorce

Updated: 
February 5, 2020

What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you have the option of filing for a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce by proving one of the following grounds (reasons).

Fault-based grounds for divorce
The judge may grant a divorce if your spouse has done one of the following:

  • Abandonment (your spouse has left the home) without a reasonable cause for a period of one or more years;
  • Adultery (your spouse has “cheated” on you);
  • Cruel and barbarous treatment (your spouse has treated you in a way that puts your life or health at risk, such as acts of domestic violence;
  • Bigamy (your spouse married you without divorcing his/her first spouse);
  • Imprisonment for two or more years; or
  • Your spouse has acted in a way that made your life unbearable or extremely difficult.1

No-fault grounds for divorce
By claiming the following reasons for divorce, you are claiming that the divorce is not your spouse’s fault:

  • Mutual consent - you and your spouse agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken (cannot be fixed). Each spouse must file an affidavit stating that s/he consents to the divorce; however, if your spouse has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against you, his/her consent is presumed (even if s/he does not file the affidavit of consent). After filing for the divorce, the judge will wait 90 days before granting the divorce. Under these circumstances, a divorce can be granted without a court hearing;
  • Irretrievable breakdown (the marriage cannot be fixed) - you and your spouse have lived apart for a period of at least one year, and you file a complaint saying that the marriage is irretrievably broken (unfixable). To be granted a divorce under these circumstances, your spouse must not deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or that you have lived apart for one year. If s/he denies either, the judge may still grant a divorce if s/he decides, following a hearing at which your spouse has the opportunity to tell his/her side, that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that you and your spouse have lived apart for one year. However, if after a hearing, the judge decides that there is a reasonable possibility that you and your spouse can reconcile (get back together), the judge will continue the case for a period of approximately 90 – 120 days (unless the parties agree to a period in excess of 120 days). During this time, the judge will order you both to go to counseling. If at the end of this period one or both of you still wants a divorce, the judge will reconsider whether s/he believes the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the judge decides that it is, s/he will grant the divorce; or
  • Institutionalization - your spouse is found to be insane or has a mental disorder and needs to be confined to a mental institution. Your spouse must have been in a mental institution for at least 18 months prior to filing for divorce, and there must be no reasonable belief that your spouse will be discharged in the 18 months after you file for divorce. Under these circumstances, a divorce can be granted without a court hearing.2

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3301(a)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 3301(b)-(e)