Many individuals facing a divorce in Pennsylvania view it as a one-two punch. First, there are the rather deep emotional challenges of breaking up with your spouse and starting a whole new life for yourself and all of the uncertainties that go along with that. Second, there are the legal challenges that include lawyers and the judicial system that you may be facing for the first time in your life. Fortunately, the legal challenges in the divorce process can be greatly reduced if the other spouse agrees to an uncontested divorce.
In the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, couples have the option of pursuing a “no-fault” divorce. This means that one spouse does not have to prove that the other spouse committed adultery or abuse, for example, for a court to award a divorce decree. Instead, under the no-fault statute, a spouse only needs to allege an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. The other spouse then has the choice of contesting the divorce, meaning he/she does not want to agree to a divorce. Or, the other spouse can consent to the divorce.
PRO: Uncontested Divorce Can Be Cheaper and Faster
With an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are basically saying that you agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Procedurally, this allows the parties to request a divorce decree as soon as 90 days after the divorce complaint is filed and served on the other spouse. In a contested divorce, the plaintiff-spouse must prove that the parties have continuously lived separately and apart from one another for one full year before the court can award a divorce decree.
PRO: Other Divorce Related Matters and Settlements
In an uncontested divorce, the parties still have to negotiate important matters such as alimony or spousal support, property division (e.g. savings accounts, retirement funds, and real estate), child support, and child custody. However, when both parties do consent to the divorce, the parties are more likely able to amicably resolve these other matters. In order to do this, the parties must understand their rights and obligations in each of these areas under Pennsylvania law before coming to an agreement. The parties should each retain an experienced divorce lawyer to assist them. These decisions can be complex and sometimes the decisions require negotiations. Divorce lawyers can help their clients understand the issues, provide clients with guidance, and help facilitate the discussions and negotiations that can lead to an agreement. For the most part, spouses who are willing to give and take with one another can find a way to reach an amicable agreement and obtain the benefits of an uncontested divorce.
After both spouses reach an agreement on divorce related matters, a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can help with the drafting of a marital settlement agreement. The agreement can provide specific provisions for child custody schedules, amount of alimony, length and duration of alimony payments, identification of all the marital assets, and how the parties want to divide those assets. Even though the parties must engage lawyers to assist with this agreement, this process is much cheaper than having a court appointed master or a judge resolve any disputes.
PRO: Relationship after Divorce
When parties proceed with an uncontested divorce, and they are able to amicably resolve the other matters, the parties are often able to better manage their post-divorce relationship. Usually divorced couples do not maintain any relationship; however, when minor children are involved, divorced couples still have to co-parent. This requires constant and almost daily communication between the parents. When spouses have avoided a bitter and acrimonious divorce process, they are often better suited to work together as parents for the best interests of the children.
Uncontested divorce and amicable agreements between the spouses can be a bad idea if one spouse is intimidated by the other spouse. Divorce attorneys can find themselves in situations where their clients choose decisions, not based on what is best for the client, but based on a desire to move to rapidly through the process. These situations usually arise when one spouse is intimidated or was abused by the other spouse during the marriage. Individuals facing a divorce must be careful not to give up their rights because they feel frightened or because they want to appease the other spouse to avoid further hostility. Good Pennsylvania divorce lawyers will see this and take necessary steps with their client to make sure that their clients do not make decisions based on fear of retribution.
Sometimes, no matter how bad the parties want to reach an amicable uncontested divorce with a property settlement agreement, it is just not possible. Emotions can run high through an uncontested divorce process and a spouse who is angry may find it difficult to “give and take” during negotiations. Divorce lawyers can be invaluable in these situations because they can add a level of pragmatic thought for decisions, removing any emotions from the choices that the client has to make. The client can hopefully take the cues from the unemotional lawyer in order to make the best decisions.
CON: No Lawyer
Many people believe that removing lawyers from the equation will save money and time. In my experience, as a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, I have found that it is much easier negotiating important issues such as child custody and property division when the other spouse has a lawyer too. Since lawyers can help facilitate discussions and remove any emotional reactions, lawyers can help their clients make the tough decisions. Spouses should only make important decisions if properly guided by lawyers who know the law and their client’s rights under the law. There is no tougher situation than an individual who “thinks” they know the law because they are getting incorrect advice from the internet, a friend, family member or work-colleague. In these situations, agreements are almost impossible to make if one spouse is asserting a position that is contrary to the law. If both sides to a divorce are getting legal advice and guidance from their lawyers that is consistent with Pennsylvania law, then the parties should be able to reach an agreement.
The Martin Law Firm, P.C. Uncontested PA Divorce
The Martin Law Firm, P.C. is a divorce and family law firm located in Blue Bell, PA. We take pride in our ability to earn our clients’ trust and to help our clients with an uncontested divorce process. Call us today for a free case evaluation at (215) 646-3980..