If you are seeking a divorce in Pennsylvania, there are several factors out of your control that extend the divorce process, but there are others that are within your control that may shorten the time from filing to settling the divorce.
One of the reasons it can seem like a PA divorce takes a long time is the law. In our state, a couple must be separated for at least one year before filing for divorce. “Separated” means living in separate households and having no intimate relations.
Further, if the desire to divorce is uncontested and both parties sign an affidavit stating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” there is still a mandatory waiting period of 90 days after filing for divorce before the dissolution of the marriage.
Type of divorce
Pennsylvania divorce law offers “no-fault divorce” which is how most divorces are filed. However, the law allows for “fault” divorce for adultery, desertion, cruel and barbarous treatment, indignities, bigamy, and incarceration. These issues need to be proven and argued in court, thus lengthening the divorce process. However, sometimes a fault divorce is the best option, especially when dealing with an abuser who is unlikely to cooperate.
Divorce can also be filed following institutionalization, such as at least 18 months in a mental institution with no plan for discharge.
Timing can also be a problem. If you file for divorce before you start living separately, the one-year wait becomes a two-year waiting period.
A unilateral no-fault divorce, in which only one person wants the divorce, is a common situation in divorces and tends to be the cause of most delays. The spouse who filed for the divorce has already emotionally accepted and is anxious to proceed with the divorce. The other may have been blind-sided completely, may be hoping for reconciliation, or may have seen it coming but still cannot accept it. These painful emotions often cause a delay, and sometimes out of compassion, the filing spouse may slow things down to give the other spouse time to internalize the situation. This is also a good negotiating strategy, as a calmer spouse who has accepted the divorce will be more willing to negotiate.
Children can also slow down the divorce process. If you go too quickly in the divorce, children may not have time to adjust. Working out issues of child custody and support can also slow down the process.
One of the biggest issues that slow down a divorce is fighting during negotiation. If you fight, stonewall, or purposely cause roadblocks, the divorce will take longer. Hiding money or not providing necessary paperwork on a timely basis can also slow the process.
Even when it is difficult to agree, negotiation is still much faster than going to court. The courts are overloaded, thus making it difficult to get a timely court date. And you will need several court dates, plus time in between each to fulfill the requests of the court before another date can even be scheduled. Further, if your divorce has to go to court, it's likely there isn't a lot of agreement and cooperation between the spouses and their lawyers, which can make it even longer.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous or overworked lawyers may purposely delay the divorce process, either to play a strategic game or to increase their income. At the Law Offices of Blitshtein and Weiss, P.C., we never treat our clients in this manner. Our goal is to help you reach a beneficial divorce settlement as quickly as possible with the least amount of stress and emotional pain for you, your spouse, and your children.
How to have a quicker divorce
Some things may be out of your control, but you can shorten the delay in the following ways:
- Don't fight. Accept that your marriage is being dissolved and resolve to complete the process as quickly as possible in a way that is best for all parties involved so that you can move forward with your new life.
- Come to the negotiation table with a short list of non-negotiables, a list of high-level negotiating items, and some other items or issues you are open to negotiating or giving to your spouse that you believe your spouse would really want.
- Provide documents on a timely basis and stick to the schedule your lawyer gives you.
- Be completely honest and straightforward with your lawyer about all assets, debts, and issues that will impact the divorce.
At the Law Offices of Blitshtein and Weiss, P.C., we are experts in all matters of family law. We are committed to helping you resolve your divorce quickly and ethically and negotiating the best possible settlement for you but, if necessary, aggressively fighting for your interests in court. Call us today at our Bucks County office, (215) 364-4900, to discuss your case.