I have had people get married on Saturday and contact me the following Monday about beginning a divorce. On the other hand, I have had couples separated for as long as fifty-eight years before the decision to file a divorce was made. Therefore, it can be stated that whether the marriage is minutes or decades old, it is never (at least, legally) too soon or too late to file a divorce action in Pennsylvania.
The speed of a Pennsylvania divorce is a very common question, second only, perhaps, to the total cost of the process. People who have done a little searching and/or reading may ask the length of the waiting period in a Pennsylvania divorce. For those separated either not at all or less than one year, the law imposes a required, non-waivable ninety-day waiting period. No, No! It is NOT a ninety-day divorce! That waiting period does not begin until the divorce is prepared, signed, filed in Court and the other party (the defendant) receives a copy (and receives it properly in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure). When the ninety days are concluded, both parties must consent to the divorce in writing, under oath, on the correct form. Then additional documents must be prepared and filed in Court. Then those and all of the previous documents are assembled and sent to the Judge. The Judge will, in due time (from one to three weeks or more depending on how busy with other things the Court may be), review the documents, and, if they are in proper order, grant the divorce and send the file back to the Court’s clerk (called the Prothonotary in Pennsylvania) who will, again in due course, make the Judge’s final Decree in Divorce available to the parties (through their attorneys if either is thus represented).
What about those separated over one year? (An aside here: When our no-fault divorce law was first effective in June of 1980, that one year was three years. A few years later, three was reduced to two years and, in 2016, two was reduced to one year.) In such cases, we are talking about real separations requiring separate residences, not separate bedrooms or other fictional separations. Nor are we talking about “on and off” separations. Get back together for more than “one night of passion” to quote a Judge, and you will have to begin counting those twelve months all over again. But let us get to the waiting period in such cases. First of all, review all of the above time spent with the paperwork being prepared, signed, and filed then bouncing around the Court offices. That remains the same and is beyond the control of any lawyer; however, the ninety days are shortened to 20 and even that can be bypassed if your attorney is skillful, imaginative, experienced, and uses the Court Rules to your advantage.
Any lawyer who tells you exactly how long our divorce will take is either too young, too old, too stupid, or just plain wants your money. The estimates which I provide are based upon my experience in this practice since 1980 and the way things work in the real world. As your attorney – like any attorney, really – I control only what goes on in my office, not you, not your spouse, not the Court, and not the postal system. I can promise you a simple, smooth experience… which will be over before you know it.