Do You Need A Reason To Get A Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Posted in Divorce on May 8, 2018

Contrary to popular belief, there is a reason for a divorce even in a no-fault case and that reason, legally, is the same in all such actions: The marriage is irretrievably broken. Said another way, the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed, so we agree to end it.

A party seeking a no-fault divorce must swear in writing to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the lawyer who files the divorce must sign that document as well. So, if one files for a no-fault divorce and marriage is not really broken but is being ended for some other reason (like a more favorable tax situation, for example), that is a fraud upon the court and must not be pursued (and a lawyer may not accept such a case). Of course, such fraudulent divorces are very rare and virtually everyone filing a no-fault divorce feels the marriage is in fact broken and beyond help.

No-fault divorce was added to Pennsylvania law in 1980 as a supplement to our 200-year-old fault divorce law. Under fault divorce law, in an uncontested case, one party is required to appear in court and tell to a master in divorce (who is typically a lawyer whom the court appointed for the limited purpose of simple, uncontested, fault divorces) the things that party did not like about the other party (whose presence in court was not required). Our broadest grounds for a fault divorce are indignities. Other states may use incompatibility as their most general grounds.

Unless one was married to a truly saintly person, the simplest misbehavior would be enough in an uncontested case, so, no, one was not required to lie about the other party. Nonetheless, it is an extremely distasteful thing to do (and what is said is all taken down by a court reporter and made a permanent part of the court record and was available to the public to be read for the asking). Even the simplest uncontested fault divorce was expensive because you needed a lawyer in court with you and the court charged high fees to pay for courtroom time, the master and the court reporter.

In simple, uncontested, no-fault divorces, there are no court appearances, no masters, no court reporters and you do not have to pay your lawyer to go to court. If I handle your case, there will not even be an office visit! We just need to prepare the documents, send them out, get them signed and sent back to me so I can file them in court. That’s why the process is described as a SIMPLE, uncontested, no-fault divorce.