Pennsylvania, like all other states, has both fault and no-fault divorces in our law. Both types may be either contested or uncontested. I handle only uncontested no-fault divorces and only low-cost and simple ones. Those are the only kind that can be done so inexpensively. Before I explain further, I will point out here that when I use the term “uncontested”, it does not mean that I handle divorces that your spouse cannot contest. Some folks seem to think that is what “uncontested” means. ANY divorce, no-fault or fault, with a one-year separation or not, can be contested. There are NO automatic divorces, no matter how long you have been separated, no matter what you may have heard, read or seen.
Uncontested no-fault divorces, wherein the couple has or will settle everything between themselves without the Court being required to make such decisions for them, with or without a written, enforceable agreement, require no hearing or Court appearance. In a no-fault divorce action, no one is blamed for being the cause of the divorce. That’s what “no-fault” means. Because of that, there is no need to prove to the Court that your spouse’s actions have caused the divorce; therefore, there is no need for a hearing in Court to prove that you have grounds for divorce.
Before 1980, all we had in Pennsylvania was fault divorce which, once again, could be contested or uncontested. Contested fault divorces were relatively rare as many thousands of dollars are required and the result can not be guaranteed. More typically, both parties would agree to get a divorce and one of them would hire a lawyer and file an uncontested fault divorce. The divorce had to state the reason for the divorce. Those were the “grounds” for the divorce. Fault grounds in Pennsylvania are adultery, physical abuse, desertion, bigamy, conviction of certain crimes and indignities. Virtually all uncontested fault divorces used indignities which are the real-life version of incompatibility (as you hear in television dramas). Moreover, all of the other grounds are also indignities anyway. All fault divorces have hearings in Court, but the hearings for an uncontested fault divorce last only ten to fifteen minutes or so, and only the party who filed it has to be there. That party simply told the Court (actually a lawyer appointed to hear such testimony called a Master in Divorce) about the other party’s bad behavior and not much dirty laundry was required for the divorce – an uncontested fault divorce – to be granted. Unless one was married to a saint, enough bad behavior testimony was easy to state for this kind of case. One did not have to lie… unless one WAS married to a saint – but then, why would one want a divorce?
Uncontested NO-fault divorces in Pennsylvania have no hearing or Court appearance. Of course, uncontested no-fault divorce means that the Court will not be needed to settle any issues for the parties. If the Court IS needed to resolve anything that the parties could not, the divorce becomes a contested no-fault divorce. Any Pennsylvania divorce action, fault or no-fault, wherein the parties cannot or will not settle up or otherwise cooperate to end the marriage, is a contested divorce and a hearing will be required so the Court will settle for you and end your marriage.