If Your Spouse Won’t Agree to a Divorce in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is unusual among states in that it still has both no-fault and fault divorce options on the books. The many issues regarding divorce in PA are defined in Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations, Part IV.
There are two no-fault, or uncontested, options: Mutual Consent and Irretrievable Breakdown.
Mutual Consent: In Mutual Consent Divorce, both spouses file affidavits requesting a divorce. There is a 90-day minimum waiting period, and then if they still both agree, the divorce can be finalized.
Irretrievable Breakdown: When a marriage has severely deteriorated, under the “irretrievably broken” grounds for divorce, spouses must live “separate and apart for a period of at least one year.” After separation, only one party needs to file an affidavit, indicating the date at which the separation began and that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The affidavit must be filed in court and served to the spouse, who has 40 days to contest or to argue for economic relief. If the served spouse does not respond in time, the divorce can be finalized by only one party.
Pennsylvania Law cannot force a spouse to sign divorce papers. If a spouse contests the divorce or denies separation, then the other spouse may be forced to file a “fault” divorce. The grounds under which such a claim can be made in Pennsylvania are defined in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a) and (b):
1. Willful and malicious desertion
3. Cruel and barbarous treatment, endangering life or health of injured and innocent spouse
5. Imprisonment for more than 2 years
6. Intolerable and burdensome indignities to spouse
7. Institutionalization in a mental institution at least 18 months prior to and
expected subsequent to filing
If your spouse will not leave the family home and thus initiate the separation, under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3502(c) you can file for exclusive possession of the family home.
Talk to a trusted advisor who is an expert in divorce and family law to help determine what steps you need to take. We help people every day to get through this difficult process and start fresh. Call us for a consultation.