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8 Basic Types of Divorce: Learn the Difference

— October 14, 2021

If you feel that you and your spouse can come to an agreement, you may try an uncontested divorce.

How hard is it to get a divorce in Pennsylvania? As much as it may be a lengthy and exhausting process, it may as well take you just a few weeks and a couple of completed divorce forms. This will largely depend on the case you have. Is it a fault divorce? Can you settle your marital conflicts out of court? Do you need any extra help? 

If you’re planning to divorce in PA anytime soon but these questions make no sense to you, learn different types of divorce available in the state. They are the following: 

Fault Divorce

A fault divorce is the most tedious and expensive divorce couples can have in Pennsylvania. Like in the old times, a petitioner must prove that the other party is guilty of any wrongdoing, based on which a divorce should be granted. 

While fault divorces happen to be, most couples try to avoid it. Largely, because of their skyrocketing costs and nearly infinite duration. You’ll have to open your wallets really wide to cover attorney and court fees, let alone that the process itself may turn into a cat-and-mouse game. Furthermore, if the petitioner fails to prove the fault, the divorce won’t be granted. This is why most cases in PA are no-fault divorces.

No-Fault Divorce 

Divorce due to irreconcilable differences (which is a no-fault reason for ending the marriage) allows couples to break their relationship on the basis that it doesn’t have any future anymore. Spouses don’t have to prove the fault of either of them, which makes the process significantly simpler, cheaper, and less stressful. However, a no-fault divorce isn’t a guarantee of a fast procedure as there are other factors that may influence its duration. More about them in the next paragraphs.

Contested Divorce

Relationship problems. Unhappy man and woman; image by Yanalya, via
Relationship problems. Unhappy man and woman; image by Yanalya, via

In Pennsylvania, there are two ways to get a divorce. They are contested and uncontested. Let’s figure out the divorce differences between these two processes.

A contested divorce is a traditional in-the-court process. In many cases, it includes turbulent litigations between spouses and/or their attorneys. Therefore, it’s a rather expensive, emotionally hard, and lengthy way to end the marriage. On average, the cost of such divorce runs as high as $15.000 and may last from 9 months up to a few years. A contested process isn’t the easiest way to break your relationship in Pennsylvania. However, if peaceful conflict settlement isn’t your forte, you have no option but to have the court solve your issues.

On the other hand, if you feel that you and your spouse can come to an agreement, you may try an uncontested divorce.

Uncontested Divorce 

A mutual consent divorce, which is another way to name an uncontested process, is the most optimal divorce option available in Pennsylvania. Ideally, it would take you around 4 months to submit the papers, serve your spouse, and receive the final decree of divorce, with 90 days of waiting period included. In an uncontested case, the average cost of divorce in PA will be about $300, which is an average filing fee in most of the counties. 

To get an uncontested divorce in PA, both spouses must demonstrate their eagerness to end their marital relationship and ability to settle their divorce issues tête-à-tête – without a court’s assistance. A Settlement Agreement must be submitted together with other divorce papers. If you have minor kids, child-related issues can be added to the agreement. Alternatively, you can solve their case later in the court.

Spouses must be unanimous about the terms of their divorce. If there’s at least one unsolved matter, the case will be deemed contested.

Divorce After 2 Years of Separation

If your spouse refuses to grant you a divorce, Pennsylvania State allows couples to end their marriage based on two years of separation. This is a lengthy process. And it requires two years of patient waiting before you can split your marital assets and legally start dating again. On the other hand, it’s still the way to end the relationship even when your second half hinders your steps. All you need to do is to submit the petition and use 2 years of separation as the reason for divorce. If the other party will continue disputing the case, the court will decide in an open hearing whether you should be divorced.

Divorce due to One Spouse Being a Mental Hospital Patient

There are many different types of divorce in PA, and divorcing a mental facility patient is among them. If your spouse has spent 18 months in a mental facility and is going to stay there for as many more months, a Pennsylvania court will grant you a divorce. 

Default Divorce

In Pennsylvania, both fault and no-fault, contested and mutual consent divorces require the service of process. It means that the responding party must be mailed or delivered in-person all the divorce papers and respond to them in some way. Normally, the respondent would agree to the divorce terms (like in mutual consent case) or file a counterclaim with alternative divorce terms (a contested divorce). However, sometimes the responder may ignore the procedure or fail to respond within 90 calendar days. Then, a divorce will be granted and all the terms of the petition satisfied. It will be a default divorce.

Mediated Divorce

A mediated divorce isn’t an official type stipulated by Pennsylvania law. Any case can become mediated. And yet, mediation is usually required and used for highly contested cases. 

The job of a mediator isn’t to pick the sides but to be an unbiased third party helping both spouses settle their conflicts and achieve a win-win result. As much as mediation may be forced by the court, parties themselves may choose it as a cheaper and less stressful way compared to attorney-assisted litigations. 

If mediation helps parties to set aside their conflicts and solve their divorce issues peacefully, the case will be considered mediated.

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