Affidavit of Consent
Under Section 3301(c) of the Divorce Code, one way to obtain a no-fault divorce is by mutual consent of the parties ninety (90) days after filing and service of the divorce complaint. This is often the quicker option for a no-fault divorce however it is contingent on both parties signing the consent. Case law provides that a party cannot be forced to consent. This is true even if the party previously entered an agreement indicating they would timely consent to the divorce. The court has stated “[a] person has an unqualified right to change his or her mind and refuse to consent to be divorced, at least, as here, where the consent, though signed, has not been delivered or filed.” Berman v. Berman, 33 Pa. D. & C.3d 134 (1983). This position supports the Divorce Code policy of preservation of marriages wherever possible.
There is also the potential that an affidavit of consent could be withdrawn even after having been filed with the court. This is only possible if the court grants the request for withdrawal. The courts have previously referred to Rule 1920.42(c) as granting the power to deny a petition to withdraw consent. The rationale being that an affidavit of consent could always be withdrawn and there would be no reason to seek the court’s permission if withdrawals were automatic. Instead, the court laid out a standard to be used when determining whether to allow withdrawal which examines whether the affidavit was signed under duress, fraud or undue influence. Duress would include threats of physical harm or actual harm. Fraud, which must be established by clear and convincing evidence, would demonstrate a misrepresentation with the intent to induce signature to an affidavit of consent. Finally, undue influence is influence obtained by excessive persuasion or other means such that the other party lacks free will and is unable to refuse. In addition to the above factors, the court should also look at the totality of the circumstances in order to effectuate justice among the parties and fulfill the intent and purposes of the Divorce Code.