Fault Grounds for Divorce

Most divorces proceed on the basis of no-fault or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage based on mutual consent after ninety days or two year separation, however, fault grounds for divorce can still be utilized. Under 23 Pa CS 3301(a), the fault grounds for divorce are listed and include(1) desertion for the period of one or more years; (2) adultery; (3) cruel and barbarous treatment; (4) bigamy; (5) imprisonment for a term of two or more years; and (6) indignities to the point of life being intolerable and burdensome. The party alleging fault must prove its existence and must also establish they are the “innocent and injured spouse.” 

23 Pa CS 3301(b) discussing another ground for divorce infrequently used: institutionalization. This provision allows a divorce on the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in the other spouse’s confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months without reasonable prospect the spouse will be discharged. “A presumption that no prospect of discharge exists shall be established by a certificate of the superintendent of the institution to that effect and which includes a supporting statement of a treating physician.” There is often no benefit to pursuing fault grounds for divorce over no-fault grounds as fault is not a factor to be considered in equitable distribution (division of property). However, the laws of support do address fault grounds in two instances: as a defense to paying spousal support and as a bar to receiving alimony.

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