What do I do if my spouse won’t agree to a divorce?

You have reached the painstaking decision that your marriage no longer works, and you want a divorce. But after discussing your wishes with your spouse, they don’t agree.

While this can be an extremely emotional conversation, it’s more unusual that both spouses reach the same conclusion at the same time. However, most come to accept it knowing that one person can’t make a marriage succeed.

No-fault and fault-based dissolutions of marriage

Pennsylvania allows spouses to file two types of divorces. When spouses agree, they can file for a no-fault divorce, which is typically quicker and easier. But agreement isn’t necessary in all cases. No-fault divorces include:

  • Mutual consent: Both spouses agree that the marriage is over. They file the paperwork and enter a 90-day waiting period. Once the waiting period is over, the court typically finalizes the divorce.
  • Divorce after separation: After one spouse declares the marriage as “irretrievably broken,” and they have lived apart for at least one year, one party can file for a no-fault divorce. No waiting period exists unless the judge believes that a reconciliation is possible.

Fault-based divorces can be more challenging but are generally granted over adultery, cruelty, desertion and other grounds.

Be honest and respectful when discussing divorce

Unless your spouse is abusive, it’s advisable to be forthright when addressing divorce and to approach the subject sensitively. Here are some things to think about:

  • Consider whether counseling is an option to save the marriage.
  • If the relationship is broken beyond repair, be clear about the reasons why.
  • Share your decision and reasoning with your spouse.
  • If they are shocked and want an explanation, be ready for a tough conversation, but one that’s respectful, compassionate and calm.

Divorce can be incredibly sad and challenging in any situation. But taking a sensitive approach can help avoid a contentious court battle and lead to a more amicable outcome through mediation or collaboration.