What Is A No Fault Divorce?

Divorce is a fact of life in 21st century America, and is far more common today than it was a few decades ago. Changes in religious views, social and gender politics as well as changes in the law itself have made it much more acceptable-and legally easier-to conduct divorce proceedings than it used to be.

One of those changes is the nationwide legal acceptance of a concept known as the "No Fault Divorce," and Pennsylvania is no exception. But what is a "No Fault" divorce, and how does it affect people who are thinking about a divorce?

No Need To Explain

Prior to the 1980s, divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania were what are referred to as "Fault Divorces." This meant that the court would only consider and grant a request for divorce if there was some compelling reason-usually a breach of civil or criminal law-that justified ending the marriage. The most common causes for such divorce were extra-marital affairs, domestic violence, and, of course, criminal activities, such as one of the spouses being convicted of a major offense.

In each case, a spouse was found to be at fault, committing some act that the court found severe enough that a divorce could occur. More emotional or psychological arguments such as "I wasn't ready for marriage," or "We don't love each other anymore," were NOT considered legal grounds, because this wasn't legally viewed as a "fault."

Social Progress

By the 1980s, Pennsylvania-as did many states in the country by this point-felt that it was time to address the social and economic inequalities inherent to these older views on how divorce worked. The "No Fault" concept was pioneered, and ultimately put into widespread practice by Pennsylvania and many other states. Today, every state in the country has a "No Fault" precedent for divorce.

In simple terms, this now means that neither spouse needs to produce a legal "fault" in order for a divorce to go through. "Irreconcilable differences" or a statement of incompatibility are now enough reasons for either spouse to file for a divorce without the other party requiring consent, although mutual consent divorces are also commonplace. Fault divorces do still occur, but are much rarer than the now more common No Fault divorces.

How Does A No Fault Divorce Work?

If both spouses consent to a divorce, then after filing for a No Fault divorce, the spouses should be separated for a period of 90 days. In Pennsylvania legal terms, a separation is both physical and financial, meaning that spouses now are both financially independent, and live in separate areas (which includes different apartments in the same building or condo complex). After 90 days, the divorce is considered final.

If one spouse is filing for a No Fault divorce while the other does not consent, the divorce can still take place, but it now requires a two year separation period. If, at any point during this two year period, the couple reconciles, then the separation periods is considered voided, which means that even if an argument occurs a month later that results in another separation, the "countdown" has been "reset" and another two year separation period is required.

There are many different procedures and requirements to undertake if you decide to divorce your spouse. To make sure you have the smoothest, fairest experience possible, it's always good to get your case handled by a Divorce Attorney.