An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties to the divorce agree on all of the main issues of the divorce. A couple may agree to property division, alimony and child support. However, the couple will still need to file a number of forms with the court, whether or not it is contested.
In addition, one party in the divorce must have been a Pennsylvania resident for six months prior to the beginning of the divorce. There must also be grounds for the divorce.
Two no-fault grounds exist in Pennsylvania. To obtain a divorce by mutual consent, both parties must agree the marriage is irretrievably broken and wait 90 days after the divorce action is served on the other side. The other no-fault divorce is a separation in which one party does not consent to the divorce and the parties have lived apart for a certain period of time. For divorces in which separation occurred prior to December of 2016, there is a two-year separation divorce, and for those who separated after December of 2016 there is a one-year separation divorce. Less common is a divorce on fault grounds, which include desertion, adultery, endangerment, “cruel and barbarous treatment,” one spouse’s imprisonment for at least two years or for “indignities.”
For a consensual no-fault divorce, the couple must agree to a Property Settlement Agreement if there are assets or issues of alimony. This agreement will divide the marital property according to a mutually negotiated settlement and award or waive alimony. The agreement may also lay out custody and child support, or these can be left to separate agreements or to court. Custody and support in Pennsylvania are not necessary to resolve before a divorce is granted. If there are no assets and no issues of alimony, you will not need an agreement just the divorce.
If the couple cannot agree completely on all issues, the divorce may still be no-fault but the issues will need to be litigated. In a contested divorce a family court judge will decide all issues according to Pennsylvania state law. This includes dividing marital assets equitably (not necessarily equally) and ordering child custody according to the best interests of the child as well as child support. In Pennsylvania these are all heard separately.
An uncontested divorce is often the result of mediation. In mediation, both parties to the divorce use a trained mediator to agree to the basic terms of divorce. Each party is still represented by an attorney, but the issues are all decided out of court. Mediation can provide the divorcing couple with a less acrimonious process, one that is managed privately.
Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, each party should be represented by an attorney. A divorce lawyer can protect your rights and interests in divorce and ensure that your transition to post-divorce life goes as smoothly as possible.