What are the Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Picture of a family being cut in half
The Complaint for Divorce is the initial document filed with the Pennsylvania court requesting the court to terminate the marriage under certain specified grounds.

No-Fault Based Grounds:  The court may decree a divorce where there is mutual consent and it is alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken or when the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of at least two years.

Fault Based Grounds:  Committed willful and malicious desertion period of at least one year; adultery; by cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse; bigamy; incarceration for at least 2 years; offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.

In Pennsylvania, the property and debt issues are typically settled between the parties by a signed Marital Settlement Agreement or the property award is actually ordered and decreed by the Court.  Pennsylvania is referred to as an “equitable distribution” state. When the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the parties will go through a discovery process to classify which property and debt is to be considered marital. Next, a monetary value needs to be assigned on the marital property and debt.  Lastly, the Court will distribute the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is deemed by the Court of Common Pleas to be fair.

If either spouse files for support, the court will consider the following: the earning potential and earning capacities of the parties; the ages and health condition of the parties; the income of the parties; the expectancies and inheritances of the parties; the length of the marriage; the contribution by one party to the earning capacity of the other; the extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child; the standard of living of the parties established while married; the relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment; the relative assets and liabilities of the parties; any pre-marital property; the contribution of a spouse as homemaker; the relative needs of the parties; any marital misconduct or fault; tax consequences; whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property; and whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.

Either or both parents may be ordered to provide child support according to their ability to pay. The factors for consideration set out by statute are: the net income of the parents; the earning capacity of the parents; the assets of the parents; any unusual needs of the child or the parents; and any extraordinary expenses. Child support payments may be ordered to be paid through the Domestic Relations Section of the court. There are official child support guidelines that the Court will take into consideration in determining the support to be paid.

Contact a Ridley Park, PA Divorce Attorney

Please contact Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604 if you need help filing for divorce or custody.

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