What is the Waiting Period for Divorce in Pennsylvania?
Deciding on a divorce is a life-altering step, and once you are there, you strive to move along quickly. However, the legal side of this process comes with its own set of rules, making it feel longer than you would like. There are mandatory waiting times for living separately that can extend the time it takes for your divorce to be official.
To get a clear understanding of how long a divorce in Pennsylvania takes, and what actions can help speed it up, continue reading.
Waiting Period for No-Fault Divorces in Pennsylvania
A no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania is a way of ending a marriage where neither spouse blames the other for the breakdown of their relationship. In this type of divorce, you do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong (like cheating), instead, the divorce is based on the idea that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
There are two main ways to go about a no-fault divorce: mutual consent and separation divorce.
Mutual consent divorce
When both spouses agree that the marriage cannot be saved, they must file a document called a "Consent to Divorce." Once the Consent to Divorce is filed, there is a mandatory waiting period of 90 days, the purpose of which is to give both spouses some time to be sure about their decision. It is sometimes also referred to as the "cooling-off" phase.
After the 90 days are up, if both spouses still agree to the uncontested divorce, they can finalize it by filing the remaining paperwork. During these 90 days, spouses can use this time to negotiate and agree on important issues like division of marital property, child custody, child support and spousal support. These agreements can be made formally through a marital settlement contract.
The 90-day period is just a minimum time frame. Sometimes, it can take longer for the court to issue divorce decree if there are unresolved issues or if the divorce process of agreeing on key terms takes time.
Irretrievable breakdown divorce
When the marriage is irreparably damaged, and there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation, one spouse can choose to divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown. Also known as “separation divorce”, it is recommended when spouses may not agree on the divorce or cannot settle their differences amicably.
The divorce proceedings begin when one spouse (the petitioner) files a divorce complaint with the court, stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There is a mandatory separation period here – the divorcing spouses must live apart for at least one year before the divorce can be granted.
Pennsylvania law imposes this cooling-off time so both parties can have a chance to reflect on the decision to end the marriage. The one-year period starts from the time when the spouses begin living separately, not when the divorce complaint is filed.
Once the one-year separation period has elapsed, the petitioning spouse can take the next step to finalize it by filing an affidavit stating that the one-year separation has occurred and that the marriage is broken beyond repair.
The other spouse (the respondent) has the opportunity to agree or disagree with the affidavit. If they agree, or if they fail to respond within a certain period (usually 30-90 days), the court can proceed with the divorce. If there is no dispute over the terms of the divorce, the court can finalize it without a hearing. However, if there are unresolved issues, these may need to be settled either through negotiation, mediation, or a court hearing.
Remember that in an irretrievable breakdown divorce, there is no need to prove fault or wrongdoing by either spouse. The focus is solely on the fact that the marriage cannot be salvaged. If you have lived apart from your ex for at least a year, or if you have undergone marriage counseling or mediation without success, you can present it as evidence that your efforts to save your marriage were unsuccessful.
Waiting Period for Fault-Based Divorces in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania also gives you the option to file for a fault-based divorce in PA based on the following grounds:
- Your spouse left you or abandoned you maliciously for at least one year (no waiting period required)
- Your spouse treated your violently or cruelly (no waiting period required)
- Your spouse cheated on you (no waiting period required)
- You were married to who is already married, i.e., bigamy (no waiting period required)
- Your spouse being sentenced to prison for two or more years (no waiting period required; you can file right after the conviction)
- You are enduring demeaning behavior from your spouse that makes life unbearable (no waiting period required)
- Your spouse has been admitted to a mental institution for at least 18 months and is expected to remain there for another 18 months (you have to wait 18 months after the institutionalization)
As you can see, most of these fault grounds let you file for divorce without a separation period. However, it does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be finalized more quickly as well.
The court will first verify that the grounds you are claiming are valid. If they are, the divorce will proceed similarly to a no-fault divorce, with the same process for discovery and settlement. However, if one spouse alleges fault at any point, i.e., it becomes a contested divorce, it will become harder to reach a mutually-agreeable resolution. The case may go to trial and can take even longer to conclude.
Choose the Trusted Pennsylvania Divorce Attorneys Today
At Very Law, we have a track record of helping Pennsylvania residents achieve the best possible outcomes in their divorce and family law matters. We understand that every case is unique – because no two families are the same. Our goal is to provide you with the legal guidance and support that is right for your specific situation.
Whether it is a matter of divorce, child custody, property division, spousal support or child support, our attorneys with a deep understanding of the Pennsylvania divorce law can provide you dedicated legal representation.
Think you may have a case? Let’s talk.