Each year in Pennsylvania, there are about 70,000 marriages and nearly 35,000 divorces filed for a variety of reasons.
One of the easiest ways to get divorced is when both parties agree to the divorce and no one is interested in contesting it for any reason. Getting an uncontested divorce in PA allows both parties to complete the process without added stress or drama.
Uncontested divorces, or mutual consent divorces, are simple because they’re considered a “no-fault” divorce where both parties are in agreement.
Here is what you need to know if you and your spouse want to get one of these divorces and file it on your own.
Before you can file for a mutual consent divorce in Pennsylvania, you need to put together your argument. You need to prove that the marriage issues are irreconcilable, that both parties agree to the divorce, and they both are willing to sign an affidavit.
After the divorce is originally filed, both parties must give a written declaration that they both consent to the divorce. After the court looks them over, they’ll be able to grant a divorce with no formal hearing.
This type of divorce can be obtained whether or not you have children. Child custody or support issues can be worked out separately to file it all at the same time. Alternately, you can state that you’ll be managing those issues later.
All financial issues need to be dealt with before you can get a divorce. You can’t get property or alimony settled after the divorce is completed.
Filing Your Mutual Consent Complaint
Filing mutual consent can be done with a lawyer or without one. However, if you’re going to do it on your own, you need to follow each step carefully. While an attorney may cost you money, it ensures you don’t make any mistakes, starting with this first step.
The Clerk of Court’s office has the documents that you need. The spouse filing the divorce is the plaintiff while the other spouse then becomes the defendant. Take a look at the county clerk’s website before you visit the office so that you know what information you need.
Before filing for divorce in the state, one of the two spouses must be a resident of the state and have been there for at least six months. Divorces can be filed in whatever county one party lives. If you’ve moved recently, you may have to file for divorce in the previous state you lived in.
Papers should be filled out and two copies should be made before you head to the clerk’s office. The office is going to want one set and will stamp a second set, while you keep the third. The second set that gets stamped at the office gets served to your spouse.
There are filing fees when it comes to divorce, so make sure that you’re ready to pay them. If you have low income and can prove it, you may be able to file for free.
Serving Your Spouse
If you’re on good terms with your spouse, you can serve or deliver papers yourself. However, there are some special legal rules that govern how this works.
If you can get your spouse to sign the “Acceptance of Service” form saying that they received the papers, it can be mailed by regular mail. It’s often good to get a package sent via certified mail so that you can ensure that the envelope gets into their hands.
There are only 30 days in Pennsylvania to get the papers served to your spouse after you’ve first filed. After you get the signed Acceptance of Service form, you have to file it with the clerk. They’ll also need a verification form to complete the filing with the clerk’s office.
Consents and Documents
Within three months or 90 days from the date you file your divorce papers, you can sign your Affidavit of Consent form. You have to sign one and you need your spouse to sign one too.
After you sign your affidavit, you need a to send your spouse a Waiver of Notice. Once they’ve signed both and mailed them to you, you can bring it all to the clerk of court and wrap up the filing there.
Now, you have to file a Praecipe to Transmit Record and your Final Decree of Divorce form. If you’re about to change your mind, this is your last shot. Again, you may have to pay a fee to file these depending on your income.
Finalizing Your Uncontested Divorce in PA
After you’ve filed all of the above forms, you’ve finished filing for your uncontested divorce in PA. However, it’s still up to a judge to make the final decision and to review the veracity of your filings, to ensure that no one is fraudulently getting divorced.
Once they sign the decree, you can go to the clerk’s office with that and you’re now finally divorced.
Divorce is Complicated So Get Some Help
While it’s possible to file for your divorce on your own, there are clearly a lot of steps to filing an uncontested divorce in PA. Messing up one step of the process, filing your paperwork past the deadline, or missing a key piece of info can drag out the process. Instead of taking this risk, you might want to get an attorney to look over your documents for you.
IF you’re struggling with the emotions or stress that surround divorce, check out our guide for some tips for coping.