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  • Seth Eric Springer, Esq.

What Are the Rights of a Wife in a Divorce?

When a couple exchanges their wedding vows, they do so under the assumption that their union will last forever. However, statistically speaking, many won’t. In the United States, around 50% of marriages end in divorce, which is the sixth-highest divorce rate globally.

The reasons for a failing marriage are many and varied. Nevertheless, the result is the same — a very stressful and emotionally draining divorce proceeding that brings a whole host of legal and financial issues. What’s more, depending on where the couple is located, the outcome of their divorce will vary.


Each state treats divorces differently in terms of how they distribute property, the cost of filing divorce papers, child custody laws, and more. Therefore, to make the process go as smoothly as possible, both parties should inform themselves on two key subjects — divorce laws in their state and the rights of a wife in a divorce.


What Are Grounds for a Divorce?

What Are Grounds for a Divorce?


Reasons for divorce are deeply personal and depend on the couple. But in a court of law, they’re classed into two categories — no-fault and at fault.


No-fault divorces usually happen when both parties agree on the terms of their separation. These divorces are the easiest to handle. For one, they can be done in the privacy of an office instead of a public court, and the couple doesn’t have to state a reason for their marriage failing. Additionally, courts can finalize a no-fault divorce in as few as 90 days, depending on the state.


In contrast, at-fault divorces are more complicated. In these cases, the plaintiff has to prove their spouse was guilty of marital misconduct, which caused the marriage to break down. Most states recognize six types of marital misconduct — adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, bigamy, imprisonment for a crime, and indignities.


In no-fault divorce cases, sorting out paperwork is fairly straightforward. However, in at-fault divorces, marital misconduct can influence how a state distributes property, child custody, alimony, court fees, and what rights both parties have.


If a divorcing couple has been married for 10 years or more, the court can continue to maintain jurisdiction over their case and monitor the spouses. This is referred to as the 10-year marriage rule.


If you want to know how long a joint divorce takes, we have another article on that.


What Are the Rights of a Wife in a Divorce?


In at-fault divorces, one of the biggest questions is how to divide the assets. The decision depends on the reason for the divorce and the couple’s home state. In certain states in the U.S., marital fault can play a big role in divorce outcomes.


1. Alimony

Establishing who was at fault in a divorce is crucial when it comes to alimony. For example, in Pennsylvania, if a wife was the one who filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery, the courts can demand the husband to pay her a monthly alimony fee.


However, fault alone won’t secure alimony. Courts in Pennsylvania will also look at other factors such as both parties’ earning capacity, age, and overall income. If they determine that the wife earns less than her husband, they can order him to pay a fee to cover her needs. What’s more, a wife can petition the courts for temporary alimony. This type of alimony is something she can get while the divorce is pending.


2. Custody

Possibly the biggest problems in all divorces arise when the issue of child custody comes up. While the prevailing societal belief is that women always win custody cases, this isn’t necessarily true. In today’s society, family courts value gender equality and don’t favor any parent in custody battles.


Instead, they grant custody based on what’s in the child’s best interest. This usually results in joint custody, so both parents can have equal rights regarding the child’s upbringing.

However, the wife may request sole custody if she proves the husband is dangerous or unfit to be a parent. In such cases, the courts may allow the husband supervised visits if they deem he’s safe enough to be around the child.


3. Property Rights

Dividing property during a divorce depends on what distribution model the state uses. States that use ‘community property’ will divide all marital assets equally, regardless of the title. This means that both parties are entitled to half of all their property unless they agree to divide the assets differently.


However, states that use ‘equitable distribution’ will divide property equitably, meaning that they will take into account who earned what during the marriage. In the state of Pennsylvania, other factors will also play a role, such as the length of the marriage, the economic status of both spouses, whether one party has custody of the children, etc. Pennsylvanian courts don’t take into account marital misconduct when distributing property. However, a wife has the right to claim the shared home if she’s the primary resident.


The courts may also grant her other financial rights if there’s a wage gap between the spouses. This also applies in cases where the wife made non-monetary contributions to the home, like being a homemaker.


If you are planning to file a divorce, you will be needing the help of experienced divorce attorneys in York.


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