An uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania may seem rather straightforward. After all, a mutual-consent divorce is an option only when both parties can agree on key issues, like division of assets and child custody. You still must take great care to protect your best interests in the course of an uncontested divorce. Failure to do so may jeopardize your financial and emotional wellbeing.
Having an advocate for the duration of the divorce process is important to ensure your rights are protected. Our firm is focused on realistic solutions to leave you in the best possible position at the conclusion of your divorce. Please read on to find an overview of the state’s process for uncontested divorce.
The Grounds for Seeking a Mutual-Consent Divorce
Pennsylvania laws allow for a no-contest divorce in cases where one spouse (the plaintiff) presents the court with a complaint. This petition must state the marriage is irretrievably broken. The mutual consent divorce process may proceed if both spouses agree with the assertion that the marriage is beyond repair.
An uncontested divorce is possible even in cases where one spouse does not wish to get a divorce. However, the process must involve:
- the couples living separately and apart for a minimum of two years; and
- the plaintiff proving the marriage is beyond repair.
Note that for the purposes of an uncontested divorce, living “separate and apart” typically means the spouses live separate lives and have very little engagement or interaction. This is possible even in cases where the spouses share the same residence. However, it is important to maintain a separation during the entire two-year period. Abstain from marital relations or other activities that contradict the argument of your having lived “separate and apart.”
The Timeline of an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
The typical uncontested divorce involves a waiting period of 90 days. This timeline begins with the initial filing of the complaint. At the conclusion of this waiting period, each spouse must file a sworn statement asserting the marriage is irretrievably broken. Each party will also request the Court to grant a divorce.
A more complicated uncontested divorce – such as one involving a period of living separate and apart – may involve as much as a two-year waiting period before the finalization of the divorce. A family law attorney can advise you on the timeline you may expect from your own divorce.
Significant Factors in an Uncontested Divorce: Child Custody and Property
Child custody and child support may be addressed either during the divorce proceedings or after the divorce has concluded. In fact, you may have the option to modify court orders at a later date. However, these crucial topics should be addressed early in the proceedings to protect your child’s best interests and your rights as a parent.
Other matters must be addressed before the divorce is granted. These include:
- division of marital property;
- division of marital debt; and
- alimony (spousal support to be paid by one party to the other after the divorce).
A party may lose the right to request alimony if the divorce is finalized prior to his or her request for such spousal support.
Alternatives to the Courtroom
The division of assets, alimony and child custody may be negotiated outside of the court. Mediation is a popular option for couples seeking a private, efficient resolution to potentially contentious issues. Each party should retain his or her own legal counsel to act as their advocate, whether these decisions are made inside or outside of a courtroom.
Where to Turn When You Are Ready to Pursue an Uncontested Divorce