Fault v. No-Fault Divorce: Whats the Difference?

The most common type of divorce in Pennsylvania by far is a no-fault divorce.   This is likely due in part to the fact that there is no real advantage to the filing of a fault based divorce where a no-fault divorce is available.  There are two basic types of no-fault divorce and each requires that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.  You can acquire a no-fault divorce where both parties consent to the divorce or where there has been a separation of more than two years.

In no-fault divorces where both parties consent, there is a 90 day waiting period from the date of the filing of the divorce complaint before the Court can enter a divorce decree.

In no-fault divorces based on a two year separation, the calculation of the two year period does not necessarily require that one spouse actually move out of the martial home.   You and your spouse could live under the same roof but if you occupy different parts of the house, don’t have sex, take your meals separately, etc… you could be considered to be separated.

But what about fault based divorces?  There are 6 categories of marital misconduct that could form the basis for a fault based divorce:  desertion, adultery, cruel and barbarous treatment, bigamy, imprisonment for a crime and indignities.  In practice, fault based divorces are rare.  A contested divorce case on grounds of marital fault is a lengthy and expensive process.  There are some strategic reasons to file for a fault based divorce (assuming your other spouse agrees not to contest it) such as for certain tax purposes and when the two year separation requirement for a no fault divorce has not been met.