Going through a divorce is one of the most challenging, confusing and heartbreaking experiences someone can face. Whether you’ve reached the decision to end your marriage on your own, been told it’s over by your spouse or come to the decision mutually, the process is not easy and can be confusing. In Pennsylvania, divorce can be pursued as either fault or no fault. No-fault divorces are the most common and they can be contested or uncontested. As its name suggests, an uncontested divorce is the best way to end your marriage quickly, amicably and cheaply.
In Pennsylvania, there are two ways to obtain an uncontested divorce; you and your spouse either have to be separated for at least one year or mutually agree to end the marriage.
The requirements for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania are as follows:
- Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- Both parties agree to get a divorce;
- Both parties are willing to sign an affidavit consenting to the divorce; OR
- The parties have been separated for at least (1) year and both agree to sign all documents necessary for the divorce.
When these criteria are all met, the process is fairly straightforward. One spouse files divorce papers with the Court, listing themselves as the Plaintiff and their spouse as the Defendant (the designations of “Plaintiff” and “Defendant” do not favor either spouse and are used strictly for administrative purposes for the Court). At least one spouse needs to have been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six months for the divorce to be filed, though the paperwork can be filed in any Pennsylvania county if both spouses agree to file in that county. After filing the paperwork and paying the appropriate fee, the filed paperwork must be served to the Defendant spouse within thirty days of the filing. Once received, the Defendant spouse must sign an Acceptance of Service, which needs to be filed with the Court within ten days after signing.
Concluding Steps in an No Contest Divorce in PA
Once served, the next steps depend on the length of separation. If you and your spouse have been separated for a year, 20 days after service, both you and your spouse will have to sign a Waiver to skip any remaining waiting periods before filing the paperwork for the decree. If the Defendant spouse does not sign the Waiver, then the Plaintiff spouse has to given written notice to the Defendant spouse that he/she will be filing for the divorce decree in 20 days. After that second 20 day waiting period is over, the Plaintiff spouse can file the paperwork for the decree.
If you and your spouse have not been separated for a year, 90 days after service, both spouses must sign an Affidavit consenting to the divorce and the Waiver asking to skip any additional waiting periods. After that, the final paperwork for the decree can be submitted to the Court. The Court will then issue the final divorce decree, without you or your spouse ever having to step foot in a Courthouse.
An uncontested divorce is possible even if you have marital property to divide, so long as you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement regarding that property prior to finalizing the divorce. If you are able to come to an agreement, the agreement is filed along with the final divorce paperwork and becomes part of the divorce decree. Issues concerning child support and custody can be handled in this agreement, or in Court if you cannot agree; custody and child support are treated as separate issues from divorce in Pennsylvania so it is possible to finalize an uncontested divorce while still going to Court on unresolved custody and child support issues.
Couples who utilize the uncontested divorce process save themselves significant amounts of time and money and are able to avoid the often adversarial trial process. For information on how we can help you navigate your divorce, please contact our office.