While many divorces are the result of marriages simply collapsing over time, others are the result of a specific act or acts after which marriage cannot and should not continue. Those acts include infidelity, domestic violence and desertion. When one spouse is to blame for a marriage falling apart, an at-fault divorce, also referred to as a “contested divorce”, may be the best option to move forward.
Lawyer for an At-Fault Divorce in West Chester, PA
If you believe this might be the best option for you, or if your spouse is pursuing this process against you, discuss it with the dedicated legal team at Ciccarelli Law Offices. Our attorneys will carefully examine the facts of your case and advise you on the wisest way forward. We use a team approach, pooling our experience together, and will aggressively protect your short-term and long-term interests.
Call (610) 692-8700 or send an online message for a free consultation so we can act as soon as possible. We are based in West Chester PA and serve clients throughout Chester County, Lancaster County and suburban Philadelphia including West Chester, Kennett Square, Oxford, Avondale, Landenberg, West Grove, Paoli, Malvern, Downingtown, Coatesville, Exton, Parkesburg, Berwyn and Devon. We have convenient meeting locations in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor. Our family lawyers serve those with immediate legal needs in Chester County, Montgomery County, Delaware County and Lancaster County.
Contested Divorce Process in Pennsylvania
Determining Fault in Contested Divorce Cases
Traditionally, this process has required specific bad behavior that gives the court reason to grant one of the spouses a divorce against the other. No-fault marriage termination was instituted in Pennsylvania in 1980, removing the requirement to prove mistreatment or bad acts to obtain a divorce. However, at-fault filing remains an option.
To obtain an at-fault divorce, the filing spouse must make one of several allegations that his or her spouse committed a certain bad act or mistreated him or her in some way. The most common is adultery. If Spouse A is unfaithful to Spouse B, Spouse B may be able to obtain an at-fault divorce against Spouse A. However, to use adultery as grounds for divorce, Spouse B cannot have been unfaithful himself or herself. Also, if Spouse B has sex with Spouse A after finding out about Spouse A’s adultery, Spouse B can no longer allege adultery as grounds for divorce.
Also, if the alleged adulterous act was Spouse A’s prostitution and Spouse B allowed it or profited from it, or if it was when the spouses were involved in a threesome or other consensual act involving others, then adultery cannot be used as grounds.
Also, if Spouse B has sex with Spouse A after finding out about Spouse A’s adultery, Spouse B can no longer allege adultery as grounds for divorce. Also, if the alleged adulterous act was Spouse A’s prostitution and Spouse B allowed it or profited from it, or if it was when the spouses were involved in a threesome or other consensual act involving others, then adultery cannot be used as grounds.
Another common reason for considering this process is domestic violence. The law holds that, if by cruel and barbarous treatment, one spouse endangers the health or life of his or her spouse, it is grounds for divorce. The victim will likely want to end the marriage as quickly as possible for his or her own safety.
If Spouse A willfully and malicious deserts Spouse B for at least a year without reasonable cause, Spouse B may seek an at-fault divorce. If Spouse A either marries someone else or was married to someone else when he or she married Spouse B, thereby committing bigamy, Spouse B has grounds for an at-fault divorce. If Spouse A is sentenced to two or more years in prison, Spouse B can file for an at-fault divorce.
Lastly, it is grounds for an at-fault divorce under Pennsylvania law if one spouse offers “such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.” This is not very specific, but can generally be interpreted to mean that one spouse was acting in a way so that the other could no longer stand it.
Reasons to File an At-Fault Divorce
An at-fault divorce is usually more difficult to obtain than a no-fault divorce. In a no-fault filing, if there is mutual consent between the spouses, there will typically not even be a hearing required. By its very nature, an at fault divorce pits the two spouses against each other. One must make allegations against the other and prove those allegations with evidence.
Sometimes, contested divorce may be necessary. For a no-fault divorce, when the other spouse refuses to give consent for the marriage termination, the couple must live apart for two years before the court will grant it. If the spouse refuses to consent and there is reason to proceed as quickly as possible, including domestic violence or when one spouse is subjecting the other to severe financial liability, pursuing the at-fault process may be the best option.
At Ciccarelli Law Offices, we will advise you on what is the best option to meet your needs. We will always advise against seeking contested divorce out of anger, no matter how justified the anger might be. If you decide to seek an at-fault, however, we will be your aggressive, tough advocates, seeking to get you the best results possible.
We can also defend your interests if your spouse seeks this process against you. Your spouse could seek to blame you for things that aren’t your fault, or for which you have valid defenses. We’ll be on your side during this difficult time.
Finding the Best Contested Divorce Attorneys in Pennsylvania
West Chester’s own Ciccarelli Law Offices will fight for your interests and advise you on your best options. We represent spouses in even the most complex divorces in Downingtown, Phoenixville, Exton, Landenberg, Concordville, Media, Ardmore, Swarthmore, Newtown Square, and surrounding areas. Call us today at (610) 692-8700 or send an online message to set up a free consultation to go over the unique details of your situation.