Divorce Glossary

MARRIAGE - A civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife. A marriage between persons of the same sex entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction is void in Pennsylvania, even if it was valid when originally contracted.

COMMON LAW MARRIAGE - In Pennsylvania, any common law marriage contracted after January 1, 2005 in Pennsylvania is invalid. This does not affect any common law marriage contracted on or before January 1, 2005.

ANNULMENT - An order of court that declares a supposed or alleged marriage as void.

ALIMONY - An order for support of a spouse or former spouse entered by a court in
conjunction with a decree granting a divorce or annulment.

ALIMONY PENDENTE LITE - An order for temporary support granted to a spouse during the pendency of a divorce or annulment proceeding.

DIVORCE - Legal termination of a marriage.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE -  In Pennsylvania, a divorce may be granted on the basis of fault or non-fault grounds.

Fault Grounds

A divorce may be granted to an innocent and injured spouse whenever the court finds that the other spouse has:

  • Committed willful and malicious desertion and has not resided with the innocent and injured spouse, without reasonable cause for one or more years.
  • Committed adultery.
  • Endangered the life or health of the innocent and injured spouse by cruel and barbarous treatment.
  • Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while still married.
  • Been sentenced to imprisonment for two or more years upon conviction.
  • Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse's condition intolerable and life burdensome.

The court may also grant a divorce upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months immediately before the divorce action commenced and there is no reasonable prospect that the spouse will be discharged from inpatient care during the 18 months after the action commenced.

No-Fault Grounds

The court may grant a divorce where it has been alleged that the marriage is irretrievably broken and at least 90 days have elapsed from the date of commencement of an action and both spouses filed an affidavit evidencing consent to the divorce.

Finally, the court may grant a divorce where a complaint has been filed alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and an affidavit has been filed alleging that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least 2 years. If the other spouse disagrees that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least 2 years and files a counter affidavit, the court will conduct a hearing to determine when the parties began to live separate and apart.

SEPARATE AND APART - The cessation of cohabitation, whether the parties continue to live in the same residence or not. If a complaint is filed and served on the defendant, it is presumed that the parties began to live separate and apart not later than the date that the complaint was served.

MARITAL PROPERTY - All property acquired by either party during the marriage and in the increase in value of any nonmarital property as defined in the divorce code. Certain exclusions apply to defining marital property and you should consult an attorney to discuss your individual situation.

ALIMONY - An order for support of a spouse or former spouse entered by a court in
conjunction with a decree granting a divorce or annulment.

ALIMONY PENDENTE LITE - An order for temporary support granted to a spouse during the pendency of a divorce or annulment proceeding.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT - An order for the care, maintenance and financial assistance of a spouse. A divorce complaint does not have to be filed to request an order for spousal support.