Understanding Pennsylvania’s Waiting Period for Divorce
When a married couple residing in Pennsylvania wishes to legally divorce they desire a swift resolution to divorce proceedings. Couples who want to end their marriage pursuing a “no-fault” divorce have to be separated for 1 year before filing. However, in some situations spouses can get divorced quicker.
Am I Automatically Divorced In Pennsylvania If I’ve Been Separated From My Spouse For One Year?
There is much misinformation with regard to this topic. Separated spouses are not automatically divorced after living separate and apart for a year. In fact, there is no divorce circumstance in Pennsylvania where a marriage is automatically terminated after the passage of a period of time.
The one year separation period, however, is important. After spouses have been separated for a year, one spouse may ask the Court to grant their divorce. If the other spouse does not object or does not notify the Court that there are economic issues that need to be resolved (including but not limited to issues related to property distribution or support for a dependent spouse), the Court can grant the divorce decree.
The date of separation is important as it initiates the countdown for specific mandatory waiting periods necessary to file for divorce and it is the date that marks the endpoint for acquiring marital property.
The Divorce Waiting Period in Pennsylvania
When a couple wishes to pursue a divorce without specifying fault grounds, Pennsylvania family law mandates a waiting period of one year from the date of separation before either spouse is eligible to initiate the divorce proceedings.
However, spouses who both agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken and consent to the entry of a divorce decree can be divorced more quickly.
The Impact of Mutual Consent on the Waiting Peirod
Pennsylvania allows for the entry of a divorce decree after 90 days have passed from the date the Defendant in the divorce action was served with the divorce complaint. This only happens when there are no economic issues that require resolution by the parties. This divorce process is filed based on the ground of mutual consent and is referred to as an uncontested divorce proceeding. Spouses must agree in all terms of their divorce including the distribution of assets and debts. Support between spouses (Alimony Pendente Lite, Spousal Support, Alimony) must be dealt with before a divorce decree is granted or you could lose those rights permanently.
Child custody and child support matters are separate and distinct from divorce cases.
When Spouses Can’t Agree
If for any reason, you and your spouse are not in agreement on a matter, but still wish to pursue an uncontested divorce, you may need to seek mediation. If the defendant chooses to file a counter–affidavit contesting the one-year separation or that the marriage is irreversibly broken; the court sets a hearing to decide whether to grant the divorce. In a contested divorce, the timeline of your divorce can be affected by whether you resolve the terms through mediation or court proceedings and the willingness of each party to cooperate.
Both fault and no-fault divorces can be contested.
Fault-Divorces Have No Waiting Period
Pennsylvania divorce laws allow for both “fault” divorces and “no-fault” divorces. If one of the spouses can establish fault ground, there is no waiting period to file for divorce.
While rarely used, fault grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania include:
- Desertion: willful absence from the habitation of the innocent spouse, without a reasonable cause, for the period of one year or more
- Cruelty: endangering the life or health of the spouse by cruel and barbarous treatment.
- Bigamy: knowingly entering into a bigamous marriage while a former marriage is still subsisting.
- Imprisonment for a term of two or more years upon conviction of having committed a crime.
- Indignities: the filing spouse’s condition is intolerable and life is burdensome.
If the defendant successfully demonstrates that the plaintiff is neither innocent nor harmed, or if the plaintiff’s stated facts are found to be untrue, the court may deny the divorce request.
How Can Our Divorce Be Granted Within a Reasonable Time?
Our compassionate divorce attorneys at Colgan & Associates can help you resolve your divorce case effectively, be that on the grounds of mutual consent or a contested divorce.