It is an unfortunate reality: couples living in misery because both are discouraged from seeking a divorce because of the specter of costly legal fees, property disputes and other financial issues. However, leaving a troubled marriage may not be so difficult when you know about the process of obtaining an uncontested divorce, otherwise known as a “mutual consent” divorce. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, have no minor children born of the marriage, and you agree on the distribution of assets and debts, if any, you may file for an uncontested divorce. This article will highlight the filing process.
First, to be eligible for divorce in Pennsylvania, you, or your spouse, must be a resident. This means you must have resided in the state continuously for six months or more. Next, your lawyer must complete and file the Complaint in Divorce, which identifies the parties and cites the no-fault reason for divorce (that the marriage is irretrievably broken with neither party being blamed). After the divorce complaint is filed and the other party receives a copy of it, the legally-required 90 day waiting period begins for couples who have lived apart less than two years as of that time. For couples apart at least two years, the wait is considerably shorter.
In cases in which the parties have decided to resolve possible future issues and obligations after the divorce is final, a written agreement is prepared, signed and made part of the final decree. However, typically in these cases, the parties resolve these issues – or frequently have none to resolve – before the divorce is final. Under Pennsylvania law, once the court issues the final decree, neither party can change his or her mind and decide something is wanted from the other. Possession, to modify slightly the old adage, becomes ten tenths of the law. When the divorce is final, the parties are no longer husband and wife, but if they have minor children, they remain mother and father and have the ability to go to court if changed circumstances require alteration of formal or informal custody or child support issues. Pennsylvania law wisely does not require child custody or support be part of the divorce process if neither party wants either issue to be.
After the required waiting period, the parties must then sign an affidavit consenting to a final divorce decree. The lawyer then prepares and files documents requesting that the divorce be granted. After the judge signs the final decree, the court clerk, through the lawyer(s), issues copies for the parties, who are now free to move on with their new lives as single persons.
As one can see, a simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania is straightforward and does not even require a court appearance by the parties.