Divorce lawyers often recommend mediation when there is any hope of achieving an uncontested divorce as it leads to an agreement in upwards of 80% of cases. The average mediation is completed in three to six months whereas the average contested divorce is far lengthier. In addition, the cost of a traditional divorce can be 10 times higher than the cost to have your divorce mediated.
Qualifying for an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
If you would like a “no court” divorce, you must meet three criteria. At least one of you – you or your spouse – must be a resident of Pennsylvania for no less than six months before filing. Both spouses must agree on whether the case involves fault grounds or no-fault grounds. Many uncontested divorces are filed based on the ground of mutual consent, which has some special requirements that your mediator can assist with, such as affidavits and a 90-day waiting period. Both spouses must also agree on the issues in the divorce, and this is where a mediator can be especially helpful.
Agreement on Divorce Issues
Even if the spouses have a good relationship and fully intend to compromise with each other, reaching agreements on all the issues that need to be resolved can be difficult. The mediator does not represent one spouse or the other but, rather, guides both parties through this process. This includes determining how to divide marital property, how to allocate responsibilities for outstanding debts, whether one spouse will pay alimony and the amount, child support for dependent children, and child custody and visitation. While the mediator does not represent either party, both spouses can opt to have their own legal representation whose job it is to preserve their client’s rights.
Preparing, Filing and Serving Uncontested Divorce Papers
Paperwork must be completed and filed to begin the uncontested divorce process. Some Pennsylvania counties have their own forms as well, and your divorce lawyer can help ensure that all necessary documents are prepared and filed. The lawyer will also help you determine where to file. Typically, you should file in the county where your spouse resides, but that may not be the case if a couple is separated, or where they live presents issues. Once the documents have been filed, the divorce papers must be served to each spouse, which is an official process that the firm can oversee as well.
Uncontested Divorce Time Frame
As mentioned above, the average traditional divorce involving the courts takes 24 months. A mediated divorce will usually take at least three months as there is typically a 90-day waiting period requirement. It is unusual for a mediated divorce to take longer than six months to finalize.
Uncontested Divorce Expenses
There are costs to file with the courts, which are usually $200 to $300. The cost for mediation is typically $1,500 to $4,000 per person. There may be additional legal fees if you opt for personal representation. There can also be some additional expenses if you have to, for instance, make changes to retirement accounts. The average cost per person of a divorce that requires litigation is $20,000, and there can be many additional expenses as the case extends for months or even years.
Other Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation puts your children first as it creates a harmonious family environment and eliminates the need for them to take the stand. It lets you shape the divorce to the specifics of your family. It is much less stressful and protects your privacy as you are not exposed to public court cases.
Divorce Mediation in Pennsylvania
If you’re considering divorce mediation, the Law Office of Joanne E. Kleiner is here to help. Our law firm has more than 25 years of experience helping both men and women get divorced and move forward with their lives. If you would like to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer, you can contact our Jenkintown office online or call us at 215-886-1266.