Pennsylvania permits parties to obtain a “no-fault” divorce – typically the least expensive and least emotionally draining method of ending a marriage. A Chester County No-Fault Divorce can be finalized within approximately four (4) months of the filing of the divorce complaint, assuming that both parties consent to the divorce and all other ancillary issues (e.g., equitable division of property and alimony) have been resolved.
If one spouse does not consent to the divorce, Pennsylvania allows for the entry of a no-fault divorce after two (2) years have elapsed from the date of separation. This does not mean, however, that a divorce will automatically occur if other issues are outstanding. It means only that the matter can proceed even if one party opposes the entry of a divorce.
Pennsylvania still retains the traditional fault grounds. While it is not uncommon to assert one or more fault grounds in the divorce complaint as a fallback position, pursuing a divorce on a fault basis will require an evidentiary hearing before a Master. These types of divorces are the least common and the most costly – financially and emotionally.
If the parties cannot agree on the division of marital property and debt (equitable distribution), or the amount and duration of alimony, if any, a Master will be appointed. The Master, an attorney paid by the Court to hear these matters, will schedule a preliminary conference with the parties’ attorneys to determine the issues involved. At the preliminary conference, the Master will also set a date for a settlement conference. At the settlement conference, the attorneys appear with the parties in an effort to come to a resolution of the outstanding issues. If a resolution is reached, the parties place their agreement on the record and the Master issues a report and recommendation. If the matter does not settle, the matter is placed on the trial list. As with support, the trial before the Master is a full evidentiary hearing conducted on the record. The Master will thereafter issue a report and make recommendations to the Court regarding all outstanding issues.
 The six traditional fault grounds for entry of a divorce include: (1) willful and malicious desertion without reasonable cause, (2) adultery, (3) cruel and barbarous treatment that has endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse , (4) knowingly entering into a bigamous marriage, (5) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of two or more years, or (6) committing such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome.