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No fault doesn't mean no reason when it comes to divorce

You've probably heard of (or perhaps even known someone who has experienced) long, drawn out courtroom battles marked by emotional outbursts, contentious debates and mudslinging between spouses as they fight their way through divorce proceedings. In fact, this description of divorce is so common that you might have felt a bit out of the loop when you decided to sever marital ties for reasons that had nothing to do with fault. In Pennsylvania, no fault divorces are recognized by the court.

There are certain stipulations regarding this type of divorce. For instance, the reason you list for legally ending your marriage must be on the state approved list of reasons for no fault divorce. Not long ago, the governor of Pennsylvania signed new legislation that changed some of the laws governing no fault divorce in this state.

What you need to know before heading to court

If your goal is to achieve a swift and agreeable outcome, then arming yourself with as much information as possible and knowing how to protect your best interests ahead of time can usually help you accomplish such goals. The following information may help you avoid stress and point you in the right direction if you're in need of support:

  • Prior to new modifications, Pennsylvania required a two-year waiting period before getting a no fault divorce. Governor Tom Wolfe signed a new statute lowering the time to one full year. This means you can obtain a no fault divorce 12 months from the initial date of your separation. This is different from a fault divorce where the state does not require a separation period at all.
  • Most people choosing the no fault route list irreconcilable differences as their main reason for wanting to divorce.
  • Your spouse cannot contest it if you list that reason, since doing so would be tangible evidence of the fact.
  • There are also laws regarding your residency when you file for divorce, whether fault or no fault. Most states require that at least one spouse lives in the state where the divorce is filed for a certain amount of time before filing.
  • Typically, the court that receives the request for divorce then has jurisdiction over both spouses, even one who lives in another state.

You may be somewhat relieved to be filing a no fault divorce, especially in Pennsylvania where you can now do so after only a year of separation. At least you know you won't have to prove adultery, emotional or physical abuse or any number of other allegations often listed in fault divorces. This doesn't mean your divorce is guaranteed to proceed without complications. If a problem does arise, the key is often to meet it head on in a timely manner. Accessing the available support resources might help as well.

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