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Fault Grounds for Divorce Based Upon Indignities

Posted by attorney Alyssa Knisely

Although no longer required for the entry of a final decree, the establishment of "fault grounds" in a divorce action may be necessary.

Although no-fault divorces are now more common, a court may grant a fault divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render the spouse's condition intolerable and life burdensome. There are two requirements for divorce based on indignities: (1) the existence of indignities (See Divorce Code infra); and (2) the direction of them to an innocent and injured spouse.

3 elements for proving the existence of indignities

To make out a charge of indignities, three elements must be proved:

  1. a course of conduct that, although varying according to the circumstances of each case, must in every case;

  2. be inconsistent with the marital relationship; and

  3. so to render the condition of the innocent party intolerable and his or her life burdensome.

The party filing for divorce must prove that he or she is the innocent or injured spouse in order for indignities to be the basis for divorce. A single act of indignity is not sufficient, but a course of treatment of such character as to render the condition of any spouse of ordinary sensibility and delicacy of feeling intolerable and the spouse's life burdensome will present grounds for divorce.

Direction of these indignities as grounds for fault divorce

§ 3301. Grounds for divorce (a) Fault.-- The court may grant a divorce to the innocent and injured spouse whenever it is judged that the other spouse has:

  1. Committed willful and malicious desertion, and absence from the habitation of the injured and innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one or more years.

  2. Committed adultery.

  3. By cruel and barbarous treatment, endangered the life or health of the injured and innocent spouse.

  4. Knowingly entered into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.

  5. Been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime.

  6. Offered such indignities to the innocent and injured spouse as to render that spouse's condition intolerable and life burdensome.

If you've been placed in a situation with your spouse where you believe you have been treated poorly and need to file a divorce on "indignity grounds," you should seek the assistance of experienced counsel. The establishment of indignities may prove useful in other areas, such as child support.

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