Uncontested and Contested Divorce in Pennsylvania
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health statistics, nearly 34,000 Keystone State residents ended their marriages in 2018 either through divorce or annulment. Deciding to divorce is never easy, but the counsel and support of an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can make the marriage dissolution process much less stressful. Depending on the circumstances, spouses may have an uncontested or a contested divorce.
Choosing the Right Legal Divorce Process
Technically, a divorce is a kind of lawsuit in which one party is deemed the plaintiff and the other, the defendant. Though most Pennsylvania divorces are not tried in a court, divorce petitions are processed through the court system, and a judge will ultimately sign the divorce decree.
In Pennsylvania, two divorce options are available. In a contested divorce, the court is called upon to rule on the various issues involved in dissolving the marriage. These issues include:
- Child custody disputes
- Child and spousal support payments
- The division of marital assets
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses can agree about the various issues that have arisen during the separation process. In Pennsylvania, an uncontested divorce is often referred to either as a “no-fault divorce” or as a “mutual consent divorce.”
The requirements for these two classifications of divorce are stipulated under Title 23, Section 3301 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.
Uncontested Divorces in Pennsylvania
Most Keystone State couples that dissolve their marriages opt for uncontested divorces. For the most part, these types of divorces are far less stressful and less time-consuming. Typically, a mutual consent divorce will only take 15 or 16 months to complete. On the other hand, a contested divorce can take longer than two years.
To obtain an uncontested divorce in the Keystone State, you must meet Pennsylvania’s residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for six months or longer before you can file for divorce.
Additionally, you and your spouse must be separated for a year before you can file for the divorce. You’ll need to provide the court with the date you separated. Most often, this will be the date that one spouse moved out of the marital home. However, in situations where spouses are not living together but are continuing to have sexual relations, the court may not view the date that a spouse moved out as a legitimate separation date.
In some situations, couples that are sharing the same address can still be considered separated. This may be the case when that couple sleeps in separate bedrooms, does not engage in sexual relations and does not share meals together.
Once residency and separation prerequisites are fulfilled, three more requirements must be met to file for a mutual consent divorce decree. They are as follows:
- The marriage must be irretrievably broken.
- Both spouses must agree that they want to end the marriage.
- Both spouses must be willing to sign an affidavit consenting to divorce.
Contested Divorces in Pennsylvania
What happens when one or both spouses refuse to sign an affidavit consenting to divorce? The court will become involved in these contested divorces, and new stipulations will apply. Keep in mind that even if the spouse who’s balking previously promised to sign the divorce papers, the court will never order him or her to do so.
In such cases, the necessary period of separation is 24 months. This may also become a point of contention since Pennsylvania will still require you to file a form that verifies the date of separation, and your spouse will have 40 days to respond. If he or she contests the date, your divorce may take longer than two years to process.
Even in cases when a divorce is uncontested, a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can be a valuable resource in helping a partner meet the legal requirements necessary for the dissolution of a marriage. The Law Office of Joanne Kleiner in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, can help keep you focused on the bigger picture and the issues that matter most during trying times. Call us today at (215) 886-1266 to arrange a confidential consultation.