How Long Will It Take Me to Get Divorced in Pennsylvania?
The answer to this question, as well as every other legal question, is: “It depends.” To simplify the answer to this question, let us examine three separate scenarios. In the first scenario, a fault based divorce, one spouse committed an act which “injured” the other spouse. In the second scenario, a divorce based on the spouses’ mutual consent, both spouses wish and agree to become divorced. In the third and final scenario, one spouse desires a divorce, while the other does not.
First Scenario: Fault Based Divorce
We will begin by examining the first scenario, a fault based divorce. As I briefly stated above, in a fault based divorce, one spouse committed an act which “injured” the other spouse. We must keep in mind that the “injuries” establishing the grounds for a divorce based on fault may be physical, mental, or a combination of both. Under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a), a Pennsylvania court may grant a divorce to the injured spouse when the other spouse has:
deserted the injured spouse for over one year;
cheated on the injured spouse;
endangered the life or health of the injured spouse;
married the injured spouse while still married to another person;
been sentenced to prison for more than two years after being convicted of a crime; or
humiliated, dishonored, disgraced, mentally abused, or disrespected the injured spouse.
Prior to a Pennsylvania court granting a divorce based on fault, a divorce complaint must be filed and a hearing must be scheduled. At the hearing, the injured party will be given an opportunity to present evidence of the injury caused by the other party. If the court accepts the evidence, a divorce will be granted. It is impossible to determine how long a fault based divorce will take because the injured party is at the mercy of the court’s schedule, and the other spouse may challenge the injured party’s evidence.
Second Scenario: Mutual Consent
The second scenario, a divorce based on the mutual consent of the parties, is the fastest and easiest way for two spouses to obtain a divorce. Under 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(c), if the parties desire to become divorced and agree to complete the required paperwork, a divorce may be obtained in as little as ninety (90) days after service of the divorce complaint.
Third Scenario: No Consent
In our third and final scenario, one spouse wishes to obtain a divorce, while the other spouse does not. Divorces falling under this scenario are governed by 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(d). No breakup is created equally, and every party has a different reason for desiring a divorce, disagreeing to a divorce, or hoping to repair a marriage.
On October 4, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 380, which dramatically changed the Pennsylvania divorce process. Prior to the passage of House Bill 380, the parties were required to wait at least two (2) years after the date the parties separated before a court would grant a divorce. After the bill’s passage, the waiting period has been reduced and the parties are only required to wait one (1) year after the date of separation before a court will grant a divorce. However, House Bill 380 does not take effect until December 3, 2016.
When the parties’ date of separation falls before December 3, 2016, the parties must be separated for two (2) years before a court will grant a divorce. Conversely, when the parties’ date of separation falls on, or after, December 3, 2016, the parties must only be separated for one (1) year before a court will grant the divorce. Therefore, where the parties have separated on, or after, December 3, 2016 and only one spouse consents to a divorce, the earliest date a court will grant the divorce is on, or after, December 4, 2017.
In summary, prior to December 3, 2016, a divorce under this scenario may take at least two years, whereas after December 3, 2016, a divorce under this scenario may take at least one year.
We at the Law Offices of Max C. Feldman are here for you. Call us at (412) 262-6161 or email us at email@example.com for a free consultation as soon as you are ready to discuss your divorce matter.