Going through a divorce is a stressful experience, no matter the circumstances. Some couples, however, want to end their marriage while remaining on good terms, whether because they have kids to take care of or simply because they've mutually agreed to a divorce. For these situations, there's an uncontested divorce, or mutual consent divorce. In Pennsylvania, an uncontested divorce process can go much more smoothly than a contested one and typically takes less time.
If you and your spouse are considering an uncontested divorce, there are some important facts you should know first. This guide to mutual consent divorce in Pennsylvania will explain the details.
Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, divorces can be with fault or without fault. Fault divorces usually require one party to prove the other has done something to justify getting a divorce. No-fault divorces—also known as uncontested divorces—typically mean that both parties agree a divorce is necessary.
There are two types of uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania:
- Mutual consent divorce: Both parties agree to the divorce. One party must file for the divorce and become the "plaintiff." The party that receives the divorce papers is the "defendant."
- One-year separation divorce: If one spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, the other spouse has the right to separate from them. After one year has passed with the spouses separated, the party that wants a divorce can claim the marriage is "irreparably broken" and ask for a divorce. Even if the other spouse never responds, the court can grant the divorce at this point.
When it comes to a separation divorce, it's important to note that spouses can be separated but still live together. In this situation, the parties should consult a divorce attorney to determine if they've met Pennsylvania's separation requirement.
Time Frame for Uncontested Divorce
Getting divorced in Pennsylvania can take anywhere from 90 days to 12 months, depending on the issues involved. Uncontested divorces typically have the shortest process. Once one spouse files for divorce, the couple has to wait 90 days before filing their consent. During this time, the parties can work through other matters like child support, custody, alimony, and property division.
If everything is settled once the 90 days are up, the divorce becomes finalized, and the two parties can sign the divorce papers. The process goes faster in uncontested divorces, where both parties remain amicable and open to negotiation. Generally, uncontested divorces take between four to six months.
Even in uncontested divorces, the issues of child custody and support, as well as the division of property, can lead to some disagreements or may take a long time to negotiate. If these matters cannot be agreed upon, the case goes to a hearing before a judge.
How to File an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
To file for an uncontested divorce, you must download and fill out the proper forms from the Pennsylvania Judicial System website. You'll then have to sign them and provide copies to the court clerk in the county where your spouse lives.
The uncontested divorce forms can be long and complex; if you don't complete them correctly, the clerk won't accept them. To prevent this issue, you can consult with a divorce lawyer instead, and they can help you fill out the forms properly the first time. They'll also make sure you understand everything and that you deliver the forms to the correct place.
Uncontested Divorce and Child Custody
Although filing for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania is usually simpler than a fault divorce, there are still several issues you and your spouse will need to agree upon before you can finalize it. Child custody and support are two of the most critical matters to consider, as well as the division of marital property and alimony.
Couples filing for an uncontested divorce often want a joint custody arrangement for their children. The courts will always consider what's in the child's best interest when deciding custody matters, so to keep things impartial, it's usually best to have an attorney help you with the custody arrangement.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce?
In Pennsylvania, you don't need to hire a lawyer to file for a mutual consent divorce. Many believe that not hiring a lawyer will make things go faster and cost less. They don't realize that child custody, support, alimony, and even divorce agreements can be complex issues to work through that often require deep knowledge of Pennsylvania's civil laws. Without a lawyer, neither party is fully aware of their rights, and may not know how to stand up for themselves or ask for what they deserve.
The final reason hiring a lawyer for an uncontested divorce is a good idea is because lawyers are impartial about the process. Even if you and your spouse are amicable and mutually agree to end your marriage, ending a relationship can become emotionally charged, making both parties unable to think clearly and do what's in their own and their children's best interest.
Consulting with a Pennsylvania Uncontested Divorce Attorney
When you and your spouse are ready to end your marriage while remaining on good terms, the best thing you can do is hire a lawyer for an uncontested divorce. Ideally, both parties will have their own lawyers experienced in divorce and family law in Pennsylvania and know how to negotiate and stand up for your rights. An attorney can also ensure all your documentation is correct and submitted on time.
When you're going through a divorce—amicable or not—you can feel stressed out or downright overwhelmed. Joseph D. Lento not only represents your interests in an uncontested divorce but he also guides you through the process and helps you understand each step. He offers the support you need. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 to get started.