Divorce in Pennsylvania can take between 90 days and 12 months on average, depending on whether it is a fault or a no-fault one. The mandatory waiting period for a no-fault marriage dissolution is 90 days. The average contested divorce takes 5-12 months, and an uncontested one – around 4-6 months.
Getting a divorce in PA, it is important to understand that a lot will depend on the court’s caseload where the case is filed. If it is legally possible, you and your spouse may choose a court that is less busy than the one in your area.
No-Fault Divorce in PA: How Long Does It Take?
The no-fault divorce takes at least 90 days, given that it is uncontested. This is a mandatory waiting period before such a marriage dissolution can be finalized. Moreover, before the process is initiated, spouses have to be separated for at least one year.
Pennsylvania no-fault divorce presupposes that spouses do not put the blame on each other for their marriage ending and file on the ground of irretrievable breakdown. However, such a divorce can still be contested and take a few months or years to finalize.
How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce?
In Pennsylvania, the mandatory period of separation for a no-fault divorce is one year. A two-year separation divorce in PA was reduced to 1 year after Governor Tom Wolf signed a new law in 2016.
Separation implies that spouses maintain separate households and do not have any intimate relationships. If spouses decide to end their relationships but still have to live under the same roof, it may be hard to prove they were separated and initiate a PA divorce process.
In fact, spouses who separated but still live together might require legal help to confirm that they met a separation requirement in Pennsylvania.
How Long Does a Mutual Consent Divorce Take in Pennsylvania?
Mutual consent divorce takes at least 90 days and is usually finalized within 4-6 months in total. The lower the caseload in your county court, the sooner you will be able to receive a decree. If you want an easy and fast divorce in PA, a mutual consent one is your best chance to get it.
To qualify for it, you and your spouse have to:
- Reach an agreement on alimony, custody, child support, and asset and debt division.
- Confirm your mutual consent to end the marriage on paper.
- Create and file a legally binding document detailing your agreement, which a judge will review and enforce.
A mutual consent divorce is filed on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown and cannot be based on any of the fault grounds.
How Long Does Contested Divorce Take?
A contested divorce takes anywhere from 6 months to a few years, depending on how complex the case is. In general, it is longer, costlier, and more stressful than any other option.
Factors that influence the length of a contested case include but are not limited to:
- The caseload of a lawyer.
It is very likely that you are not your lawyer’s only client. While most attorneys have legal teams that help them with cases, it might still take a while for them to prepare your paperwork and arrange the meetings.
When it comes to the latter, your schedule will also affect the timeline, as the meeting dates and times will have to be suitable for you as well.
- Child-related disputes.
PA courts review cases involving children with caution in order to make decisions that would be in kids’ best interests. If parents’ actions or lack of thereof affect children in any way, it will influence the outcome of the custody battle.
When spouses fight for sole custody and/or want another parent not to have any visitation rights, a court might not deem this appropriate for a child. It will take a lot of effort to prove that another parent is an unfit one, and a child would benefit from not having them around.
- Asset- and debt-related disagreements.
Determining which assets and debts are subject to division might take a while. Moreover, to properly divide them, it would be crucial to find out their current value.
Therefore, it is very likely that you will have to hire appraisers, who will review different types of property and accounts that you own and produce a report detailing the prices.
After that, your lawyer will have to figure out what factors a court will deem appropriate enough to award you certain assets or their parts, so it will be crucial to gather proper evidence.
- The willingness of parties to cooperate.
It is always easier to get a mutually satisfactory result when people work together to resolve their differences. If, for some reason, you and/or your spouse have troubles communicating, are not budging on certain decisions, or are declining the offers of the other one, you will spend a lot of time in court.
- Court schedule.
The more disputes there are to resolve in a single case, the more hearings there will be. If a court schedule is packed, and given that lawyers of both spouses will need ample time to prepare for the next hearing, it is likely that your case will be heard again in weeks or months.
- Your wants and needs.
While you might be sure that your requests are reasonable, it may be hard to prove in court. If your lawyer says that specific outcomes are unlikely, but you would like to pursue them regardless, it will take a while for them to build a strong case.
For instance, if you want to get a certain property but would not be able to pay for it or maintain it, an opposing party would use it to their advantage, and your lawyer will have a hard time fighting such claims.
How Long Does a Fault Divorce Take?
A fault divorce in PA may take half a year to a few years to finalize. Gathering and presenting proof that a fault basis is valid in this case will add to the abovementioned factors influencing the length of the proceedings.
According to the state laws, if one of the spouses can prove fault in divorce, there will be no waiting period. To establish fault, the filing party has to present substantial evidence such as witness testimonies, visual materials, message threads, and other proof admissible in court.
How Long Does It Take for Divorce to Be Final?
There can be no definite answer to that question as the timeline can only be estimated based on each individual case. If you and your spouse settle all or most of your disputes amicably, you can end your marriage in approximately 4-6 months. When either or both spouses are unwilling to negotiate, the proceedings may last for years and span decades in rare cases.
How Long After Being Served Divorce Papers do you Have to Respond?
Depending on the case, a Defendant has 20-30 days to respond with a formal answer. If you are represented by a lawyer, they will let you know the exact time. You are also welcome to contact the court clerk to inquire about the deadline.