Although most divorce complaints filed today allege either Section 3301(c), consensual grounds, or 3301(d), the expiration of a statutory two year separation period, as a reason for the parties’ marriage dissolution, a party to a divorce action still has the option of raising fault grounds under Section 3301(a), if the person raising the fault grounds is “an innocent and injured spouse.” This means the person alleging the fault ground/s cannot also be accused of fault grounds.
Pennsylvania currently has six different types of fault grounds available under Section 3301(a) of the Divorce Code. If one of these actions is raised in a divorce proceeding and the fault ground is proven to be true, the court will grant the divorce to the innocent and injured spouse.
The six fault grounds under Section 3301(a) are as follows:
- Desertion, which is defined as willful and malicious, and lasts for one or more years. The deserting spouse must not have reasonable cause to leave the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse or the ground of desertion may be disproved.
- Cruel and barbarous treatment, which endangers the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.
- Entering into a bigamous marriage, with knowledge that a former marriage is still valid.
- Imprisonment for a period of two or more years upon conviction of a crime.
- Indignities, which is defined as acting in such a manner toward the innocent and injured spouse as to render his/her condition intolerable and life burdensome.
Although a judge is not permitted to review or consider an allegation of fault when determining the equitable distribution of the parties’ marital assets, a judge must review and consider an allegation of fault when determining an award of alimony, albeit, it is one of seventeen separate factors the court reviews.
If the guilty spouse is filing for spousal support against the innocent and injured spouse, in most cases, the award of spousal support will be denied.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.