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Grounds for Divorce in Pennsylvania


Divorce is a difficult process, and the laws governing it can vary from state to state. If you are considering divorce in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand the grounds for divorce and the requirements of the process. In Pennsylvania, both fault-based and no-fault divorces are recognized. 

Fault-Based Divorce in Pennsylvania  

Fault-based grounds for divorce require one spouse to prove that the other spouse has done something wrong or contributed to the breakdown of their marriage. Each type of fault has its own set of legal requirements that must be met before it can be used as grounds for divorce, which we discuss in further detail below.  


Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between someone married and not their spouse. To prove adultery as grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania courts require clear evidence that one spouse had sexual relations with someone else while still married to their current partner. This evidence may take many forms including testimony from witnesses or even physical evidence such as:  

  • emails or text messages between parties involved in an affair,  

  • hotel records or receipts,  

  • photographs or videos, and/or  

  • expert testimony from a private investigator or forensic accountant.  


Desertion occurs when one spouse voluntarily leaves their partner without consent or justification and refuses to return home despite being able to do so. To prove desertion as grounds for divorce, the filing party may submit evidence such as:  

  • evidence of the spouse’s refusal to provide financial support for an extended period,  

  • evidence of the spouse’s intent to abandon the marriage (i.e. a letter or text),  

  • proof that the spouse left the marital home without any intention of returning, 

  • lack of communication and contact from the spouse for an extended period of time,  

  • evidence that the spouse has established a new residence or relationship, or  

  • proof of the spouse's absence for a significant period of time, such as travel or incarceration.  

Cruel and Barbarous Treatment 

Cruel and barbarous treatment occurs when one spouse engages in conduct which endangers another’s life or health over an extended period. You may submit the following evidence to substantiate this assertion:   

  • Medical or police records documenting injuries sustained due to abuse by one party against another over time 

  • Photographs of injuries, past and present, or of property damage  

  • Testimony from witnesses who have seen or experienced the spouse's cruel or violent behavior 

  • Written or electronic communication, including emails, texts, or social media messages, indicating the spouse's abusive behavior 

  • Reports from therapists, counselors, or other mental health professionals documenting any emotional or mental abuse 

  • Documentation of any restraining orders or protection orders obtained against the spouse 

  • Testimony from the victim or victims of the abuse detailing the nature, frequency, and severity of the abuse 

  • Any evidence that the abuse has had a lasting impact on the victim's mental or physical health, including medical records, prescription medication and psychiatric treatment 


Bigamy occurs when someone marries while already legally married to another person under law at the same time (i.e., two marriages). To prove bigamy, you may submit evidence such as testimony from witnesses or even physical evidence such as marriage certificates proving multiple marriages at once by one party against another over time. 


Imprisonment occurs when one spouse has been convicted of certain felonies which result in them being incarcerated for at least 18 months prior to filing for divorce proceedings beginning with filing a complaint with the court system. To substantiate this claim, you may submit evidence, including:  

  • Official court records indicating that the spouse has been convicted and sentenced to incarceration. 

  • Certified copies of the conviction and sentencing documents from the court. 

  • Written correspondence from the spouse while in prison, such as letters or emails. 

  • Testimony from witnesses who have visited the spouse in prison or have knowledge of the spouse's situation. 

  • Documentation showing the dates and duration of the spouse's imprisonment. 

  • Any evidence showing that the spouse is unable to contribute to the marriage while in prison, such as the inability to pay bills or provide emotional support. 


Indignities occur when behavior by one spouse towards another becomes intolerable due to persistent insults, humiliation, ridicule, mental cruelty, neglect, lack of care, etc. To prove indignities as grounds for divorce, you can submit physical evidence or ask witnesses to speak in court.  

No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania 

When a couple decides to divorce in Pennsylvania, they can choose to pursue a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces in Pennsylvania are available:  

  • Based on mutual consent. Mutual consent no-fault divorce is an option when both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, consent to the divorce, and sign sworn statements acknowledging their consent. The court also imposes a 90-day waiting period, beginning when the complaint was filed.  

  • After a one-year separation. You can also obtain a no-fault divorce if you can prove that you have lived apart from your spouse for at least one year, the marriage is irretrievably broken, and the other party or the court cannot deny the claims that you live apart.  

  • Based on a spouse’s mental health. If your spouse has been placed in a psychiatric institution for at least 18 months before the start of your divorce and they will not be released during the 18 months at the start of the divorce, you can file for a no-fault divorce (based on the other party’s institutionalization).  

Get Legal Help 

William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys can help you or a loved one file a no-fault or fault-based divorce. Our attorney has over 20 years of legal experience and is known for providing compassionate, personalized legal counsel to our clients.  

Call (215) 515-9901 to learn more about our divorce services.