Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
You and your spouse have decided to part ways in Pennsylvania, but you both want a more amicable, cost-effective approach than attorneys battling it out in court. If you both can agree on the major issues such as property division and child custody, you may be able to simplify your divorce and cut costs by seeking an uncontested divorce.
How to know if you can file for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania
At the heart of an uncontested divorce is mutual agreement. In this type of divorce, both spouses agree (or can come to an agreement with a little help) about the significant terms of their divorce without the court making those decisions for them.
But even if you and your spouse agree that a divorce is the right decision – and you agree on most of the important terms – there are still some requirements you must fulfill to file for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania.
Requirement: Agreement on settlement issues
Marriage isn’t just an emotional uncoupling. It is also a legal and financial one.
In order to get divorced in Pennsylvania, you and your spouse need to settle these legal and financial issues according to state laws:
As a couple, you and your spouse have accumulated property, belongings, and debt during the course of your marriage. You may share an investment account or even co-own a business. An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse agree on the division of assets – how all of this marital property will be divided between the two of you.
Do both of you have the ability to be self-supporting after your divorce? If one of you has put their career on hold to raise your children or while the other pursued further education – or if one of you makes significantly less money than the other – spousal support may be on the table. For example, spousal support may be needed temporarily so one spouse can afford to get the training or career traction needed to balance this fairly.
Child custody and support
If you have minor children, you will likely want to make sure both of you have fair access to them so you both can be proactively and consistently involved in their lives. You will need to decide who will have primary custody and how will you share parenting time. You will also need to equitably share the financial responsibilities of bringing them up.
Requirement: State residency
Each state has its own divorce laws. In the state of Pennsylvania, either you or your soon-to-be ex must have lived in Pennsylvania for a minimum of six months before the filing of your divorce paperwork.
Requirement: Grounds for divorce
To file for a divorce, you need a reason. This reason is referred to as “grounds” for divorce. In Pennsylvania, grounds for divorce can be fault-based, or you can seek a no-fault divorce.
When one spouse is seeking an at-fault divorce from the other, the petitioning spouse must prove to the court that the respondent is “at fault” using at least one of the following grounds:
- Desertion without cause for over one year
- Cruelty, including domestic violence, which has endangered the life of one spouse
- Conviction of a crime where sentencing results in over two years in prison
- Subjecting a spouse to indignities that make life intolerable and burdensome
Pennsylvania also offers no-fault grounds where both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Neither spouse is considered at fault, and nothing needs to be proven to the court to support the grounds for the divorce.
A fault-based divorce can be difficult and costly to prove. There is typically little benefit to filing for an at-fault divorce, and most divorces in Pennsylvania are no-fault divorces. If you are seeking an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania, you must use no-fault grounds when filing.
How to get started
First, you and your spouse should agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that you will attempt to mutually work through the terms of your divorce settlement compassionately and cooperatively without relying on court interference. This will set you up for a more cooperative mindset as you begin to negotiate terms.
To file for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania, as mentioned, you must first fulfill the residency requirement. Then, one of you must file a series of forms and pay the necessary filing fees to set your uncontested divorce in motion. A copy of the divorce paperwork will then need to be served on the other spouse, who will then file a response.
You can find the necessary forms and directions to file for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Judicial System website. Individual counties in Pennsylvania may also have their own forms, so it’s important to ensure that these are signed and filed as well.
A collaborative divorce is one where you and your spouse are dedicated to working out the issues of your divorce amicably without relying on the court system to make decisions for you.
With or without the aid and guidance of attorneys, you and your spouse will negotiate a marital settlement agreement that works well for both of you while satisfying legal requirements and responsibilities. When an agreement is reached, you and your spouse will sign it, and it will become part of your divorce judgment. You will both be subject to its terms once your divorce is final.
In mediation, you and your spouse agree to work with a neutral third party whose job it is to guide you toward a mutual agreement about the issues surrounding your divorce.
A mediator doesn’t represent either one of you. They understand the laws, and they are trained to help you come to a mutual agreement. With mediation, you can benefit from interacting directly in an informal setting while avoiding the cost of separate attorneys and the stress of a potentially contentious back-and-forth. In the meantime, you and your spouse maintain control and make your own decisions, not the court.
If you’ve decided you want an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania, chances are you and your spouse will need help making important decisions that will fulfill your own needs and Pennsylvania’s legal requirements. Fortunately, help is available. If you’re looking for a mediator, we invite you to check out our divorce mediation service. And if you want a structured divorce plan with helpers who guide you through each step as you need it, we’re here for you.
Is there a separation requirement for divorce in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, there is no separation requirement in order to file for divorce. But there is a mandatory 90-day waiting period between filing for divorce and the final divorce judgment.
Who is the petitioner? Who is the respondent?
In a divorce setting, there are two main characters. The petitioner is the spouse who files the divorce petition and initiates the divorce process. The respondent is the one who receives a copy of the divorce papers and “responds” to the petition.
During the divorce proceedings, you and your spouse will be referred to as either the petitioner or the respondent. But it has no bearing on who was “at fault” in the case of an uncontested divorce.
Can I talk to someone?
If you’re curious about Hello Divorce, you’ve come to the right place. Our account coordinators provide free 15-minute phone sessions where you can ask questions and find out more about your options. Schedule a free call, and relax in the knowledge that you don’t have to do this alone.