What Does "No Fault" Divorce Mean?
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code provides two no-fault grounds for divorce: Divorce by Mutual Consent and a Divorce based upon a One Year Separation.
In the case of a divorce by mutual consent, the parties often are able to reach an agreement and memorialize the terms in a writing known as Marital Settlement Agreement, in advance or at the same time as the Divorce Complaint is filed. Other times, parties may reach an agreement and memorialize the terms after the Divorce Complaint is filed but before the expiration of the required one-year separation. In such cases, the parties can obtain a divorce decree by mutually consenting to the divorce by filing affidavits no less than ninety (90) days from the service of the Divorce Complaint.
For all other cases, to avoid the necessity of requiring parties to meet the proof requirements of the fault-related grounds for divorce, a party can move a divorce matter to conclusion through court intervention following a one-year separation. Parties can be separated and still living in the same household. Proof of separation includes termination of an intimate relationship, separation of finances and representation to the community that the parties are separated. While the service of a Complaint for Divorce is a clear threshold for establishing a date of separation, a party can attempt to establish an earlier date of separation utilizing the applicable factors.
The Pennsylvania Divorce Code provides for six (6) fault related grounds for divorce: Desertion, Adultery, Cruel and Barbarous Treatment, Bigamy, Incarceration, and Indignities. Even if a divorce complaint is filed alleging one or more of the fault-related grounds for divorce, the no-fault grounds are almost always also included in the complaint.
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ABOUT MEGAN SMITH
Megan E. Smith devotes her practice to matrimonial, divorce, and family law, and is a trained collaborative lawyer and divorce mediator. She works with clients in all areas of matrimonial and family law, including the developing area of LGBT law as it relates to children and families. Her practice is concentrated in divorce, dissolution of civil unions, termination of domestic partnerships, custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, equitable distribution and pre-nuptial planning as well as related post-judgment issues, such as emancipation, support enforcement, and implementation of settlement agreements.
In 2008-2015, Ms. Smith has been a co-chair and speaker at the New Jersey Association for Justice annual convention in Atlantic City. Ms. Smith was recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in 2016 and a Super Lawyer 2017-2018. She was also recognized as an Awesome Attorney in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by South Jersey Magazine.
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