If you are thinking about ending your marriage, you may be wondering if there is such a thing as a quick divorce in Pennsylvania. In truth, the timeline of each divorce depends on the approach the couple chooses as well as their assets and debts, their ability to agree on the terms, and other factors. Below is a brief breakdown of these considerations.
Waiting Period for No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania
Each approach to divorce in PA has a specific waiting period to get started.
Unilateral No-Fault Divorce (Only One Spouse Wants to Divorce)
As of December 2016, the waiting period for filing a unilateral no-fault divorce – meaning only one of the spouses wants to divorce – decreased from two years of living separately to one year. However, for those who file for divorce prior to physically separating will have to live apart and wait two years to file. Timing is key for those interested in filing a unilateral no-fault divorce.
Mutual Consent Divorce (Both Spouses Agree)
In a mutual consent divorce, both spouses file an affidavit that says they agree to dissolving their marriage. The spouses do not have to live separately for one year before filing the affidavit. Rather, Pennsylvania law imposes a 90-day waiting period after filing to finalize the divorce agreement – just in case one spouse changes his or her mind. When it is appropriate for a couple, a mutual consent divorce is by far the fastest and simplest path.
The Divorce Process
Once the waiting period is over, the process of ending the marriage may begin. All divorces follow the same basic steps in Pennsylvania. These steps include:
- Filing a divorce complaint
- Gathering of records
- Negotiation and hearings
- Resolution and judgment
A Pennsylvania divorce begins with filing a form called a complaint. One spouse must “serve” a copy of the complaint to the other spouse within 30 days. Once the paperwork is filed, the spouses gather records relating to their assets and debts. They then work toward an agreement about the division of property, child custody, and financial support. Finally, the court files a divorce decree to officially dissolve the marriage.
How long these steps take depends on how easily the spouses agree to the terms of the divorce. Pennsylvania follows the rules of equitable distribution regarding marital property and debts. Equitable distribution does not always mean equal; rather, the goal is to achieve a fair divide of all property and debts. If a divorcing couple cannot reach a settlement prior to entering the court system, the court will separate the assets and debts in a way it deems fair under the circumstances.
Other factors that affect how long a divorce will take in PA include:
- The spouses’ assets, including real estate, cars, businesses, and others
- The spouses’ debts, including outstanding loans, credit card debt, and others
- Whether the spouses filed a prenuptial agreement
- Whether the spouses have kids, and if they do, how old they are
- How quickly the court can review the terms of the divorce, hold hearings, and file any necessary orders
If a divorce is contested, meaning the spouses cannot agree to the terms of the divorce (or to divorce at all), the parties will need to take additional steps. Court hearings and negotiations among the spouses’ lawyers will require extra time.
Why Go Through the Divorce Process?
It may be difficult for some individuals to decide whether divorce is worth the time and effort. After all, simply separating into two households may resolve some of the biggest issues in the marriage. However, filing a divorce agreement and officially ending a marriage comes with some important protections. Property and debts are no longer legally shared. Custody and support arrangements are enforceable by law. Should your needs, your ex-spouse’s needs, or your children’s needs change in the future, there is always the option to modify a court order.
If you are considering dissolving your marriage, the best first step is to contact an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer for advice. You can reach Petrelli Previtera Schimmel at (215) 523-6900.