I bet THAT got your attention. Now, forget it. The problem is that the “automatic” divorce does NOT exist. I do not know who was responsible, but when Pennsylvania got no-fault divorce in 1980, stupid and wildly inaccurate information about it immediately spread like wildfire. That falsehood, that myth, was that if you were separated long enough (three years back then, one year now), you could get your divorce without your spouse’s signature and whether or not your spouse liked it. My guess is that news reporters – who were not lawyers – read the new law and got it wrong.
The fact of the matter is that if your spouse does not want to be divorced, for any reason, no matter how long you have been apart, your spouse can contest such a divorce driving your legal fees into the stratosphere; moreover, your attorney must send your spouse a document your spouse can use, without a lawyer or fee, to contest your divorce.
Judges have heard things you cannot imagine. Stupid, easily disproven things. Such as? “I’ve been separated for 15 years and I don’t know where my spouse is” when the truth is that person’s spouse is home and they still live together. In The U S of A, we are all entitled to our day in court if someone brings a legal action against us. A divorce is a legal action so the defendant spouse must be notified of it in accordance with the court’s rules before it can move ahead.
It is correct that if a divorce, through a local, full service law firm for $3000 to $4000, is filed based upon a separation of more than one year and the defendant is properly notified and does not file the contest document provided to the defendant by YOUR attorney (or does not otherwise contest in accordance with our law), such a divorce would be granted. Keep in mind: $3000 to $4000 in legal fees. In such an action, the defendant was properly notified and given the chance to contest but failed to do so. It was not “automatic”. The defendant could have filed that contest document just to cause problems. Doing so would result in a court hearing being required…and many thousands more in legal fees and court costs. How deep is your wallet?
Let’s get back to reality. Since you are at my website reading this article, either you refuse to spend $3000 to $4000 on your case or, far more likely, simply do not have that kind of money. I handle ONLY low-cost, simple, uncontested no-fault divorces. For THAT kind of divorce your spouse MUST sign…even if you have been apart for 25 years. That is just the way it is for a LOW-COST divorce. Yes, I know that may not be “fair” but those are the simple, unvarnished facts about a cheap divorce. If your spouse is available and cooperative, there’s frankly not a lot of legal work and time involved. That allows me to charge so little.
So, please, get this ridiculous idea of the “automatic” divorce out of your head. With your spouse’s cooperation, it can be low-cost and simple, but never “automatic”.
Summary: In Pennsylvania – and in other jurisdictions as well – there is no “automatic” divorce regardless of the length of separation. Your spouse must be legally notified in accordance with the laws and rules of court, given the chance to contest AND then, not do so. For a LOW-COST divorce, your spouse must be and remain available and cooperative AND willingly sign the document provided no matter how long you may be separated.