What Happens in a Contested Divorce?
Divorces are often difficult, but can be especially so where only one spouse is looking to end the marriage. In these cases, the spouse seeking divorce will need to pursue a “contested divorce.” Contested divorces involve an entry of divorce over one spouse’s objection. Whereas no-fault divorces involve the consent of both parties in proceeding towards dissolution of a marriage, contested divorces will require that the moving party prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage can include fault grounds such as adultery, abandonment, or abuse. The party alleging fault will need to present evidence and testimony to show that some such fault occurred, and if they are successful in doing so the Court will enter a decree in divorce once any other claims raised are satisfied.
Another way for the moving spouse to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken is to establish that the parties have been living separate and apart for one year. “Separate and apart” is defined under PA statute as a “cessation of cohabitation, whether living in the same residence or not.” That is, even in instances where the parties have been living under the same roof, the moving party may be able to show that they have “separated.” Like with fault grounds, the moving party will need to demonstrate evidence of parties living separate. This will often include sleeping in separate bedrooms, no intimacy, keeping separate bank accounts, and other common indicators of parties “separating” from one another. Where no prior date of separation can be established, the party seeking to proceed with divorce can establish a date of separation by filing a complaint in divorce. Under the Divorce Code, the filing of a divorce complaint will be seen by the Courts as the date of separation, absent some of the indicators above that would support an earlier date.
As always, the key to protecting your rights in a divorce is to stay informed on the law and how it fits into the facts of your case. Hiring an experienced family law attorney will ensure that you are able to do so. The lawyers at LaMonaca Law have decades of experience in providing valuable legal insight to assist you in making critical decisions. To schedule a consultation, call us or send us an e-mail.