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How long does a divorce take in Pennsylvania?

Wondering how long a divorce takes in PA? We cover what you can expect and which factors will impact the timetable of a divorce in Pennsylvania.

evident Editorial Team
November 20, 2023
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Getting divorced can be a stressful and complicated process.

If you are going through a divorce in Pennsylvania, you may be wondering, “How long does a divorce take in PA?"

The short answer is that a divorce in PA can range anywhere from 3-4 months to a year or more, depending on the type of divorce it is and the particular circumstances involved.

In this article, we provide a general timetable for finalizing a divorce in Pennsylvania and the different factors that affect how long a divorce in PA takes.

While a variety of factors can impact a PA divorce timeline, two critical questions are (1) whether the divorce is a fault or no-fault divorce; and (2) whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce. 

Let’s begin with a quick look at fault vs. no-fault divorce in PA before exploring the other things that impact the timeline for divorce in Pennsylvania. 

Key Takeaways

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in PA

When a couple files for divorce in Pennsylvania, they must state the “grounds” for their divorce. Grounds for divorce are the legally acceptable reasons for separation, and they vary by state. 

Pennsylvania courts recognize both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. In a fault-based divorce, the spouse who files for divorce first must prove that the other spouse's actions caused the end of the marriage.

On the other hand, no-fault divorces occur when neither spouse is to blame for the end of the marriage and the marriage simply ended due to irreconcilable differences.

The need to prove fault can complicate the divorce process and extend the time it takes for the divorce to be finalized. Thus, no-fault divorce in PA is typically faster than fault-based divorces, although there are applicable waiting periods for no-fault divorces that do not apply to fault-based divorce in Pennsylvania.

PA No-Fault Divorce Waiting Period 

Many people ask, “Is there a waiting period for divorce in PA?” The answer depends on what type of divorce is at issue. 

There is no waiting period for a fault divorce in PA. That said, the timeline for a fault divorce in PA is often still longer than a no-fault divorce given the added complexity of having to prove fault. 

So, what is the waiting period for a no-fault divorce in PA? Pennsylvania law imposes a 90-day waiting period for mutual consent divorce in PA, which is the most common form of no-fault divorce. 

There is no “waiting period” per se for the other two no-fault grounds for divorce, which are Irretrievable Breakdown and Institutionalization. Keep in mind, though, that there are other timing requirements for each of these grounds for divorce. 

For instance, a divorcing couple must have lived separately for at least one year in an Irretrievable Breakdown divorce, and one spouse must have been confined to a mental institution for at least 18 months before filing for divorce on the basis of Institutionalization. 

Next, we’ll examine the timetables for contested and uncontested divorces in Pennsylvania.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces in PA

One of the most important factors that affect how long a divorce will take in PA is whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. 

Generally speaking, an uncontested divorce in PA typically takes less time than a contested divorce. And though contested divorces usually take longer, the length of contested divorces can vary substantially. 

In the next sections, we take a closer look at these two types of divorce and how they affect the timeline for a divorce in Pennsylvania. 

How long does an uncontested divorce take in Pennsylvania?

An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree to end their marriage and agree on all of the terms of the divorce, which include property division, child support, child custody, and alimony

Uncontested divorces usually require minimal court involvement since the spouses already agree on all the issues, which shortens the typical uncontested divorce timeline in PA.

Generally, an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania will take about three to four months. (Remember, there is a 90-day waiting period if it is a “mutual consent” uncontested divorce).

The process may take longer if the couple discovers that they don't agree on all the terms of the divorce and need to go to court. Late filings or incorrect paperwork may also lengthen the timeline.

How long does a contested divorce take in Pennsylvania? 

A contested divorce is when the spouses do not agree on all the terms of the divorce or when one spouse may even oppose the divorce altogether. Generally, a contested divorce requires far more oversight and involvement from the court.

Because each contested divorce is different, it's difficult to estimate how long a contested divorce in Pennsylvania typically takes. A contested divorce in Pennsylvania can take five to twelve months, but the complexity of the couple's affairs will ultimately dictate how long it will take. 

If the divorce is complicated or contentious, it can easily take a year or more. Keep in mind that the court schedule can also impact the PA divorce timeline in such cases. 

What other factors affect how long a divorce takes in Pennsylvania?

Here are some other factors that are likely to impact how long a divorce takes in PA.

Whether your divorce involves minor children

Divorces involving minor children require agreements on child custody and child support, both of which can complicate and lengthen the divorce process. Even if the divorcing couple can work together amicably, these issues add complexity. If the spouses cannot work together, child custody battles or fighting over child support can extend the PA divorce timeline even more. 

The size of the marital estate

Generally speaking, couples with more shared assets will face a longer divorce process. 

Divorce agreements must address the division of assets before a judge will issue a divorce decree, meaning decisions must be made on who gets to keep which assets for the divorce to proceed. The more marital property there is to divide, the more complicated things can get, and the more there could be to fight over.

The complexity of the marital estate

Divorce cases with complex marital assets often take longer than those without. For example, property division will be more complicated if one or both spouses: 

  • Own a business or have a significant ownership interest in a business 
  • Have a broad range of investments. (E.g. if one spouse has significant investments in real estate, stocks, or commodities)
  • Have significant debt 
  • Receives income from a business that is based outside of the United States 

Whether a spouse is financially dependent upon the other 

If one spouse has not worked for much of the marriage, the divorce process will probably involve a discussion about alimony in PA and how this spouse should be financially supported after divorce. Divorcing spouses may also have to sort through spousal support or equitable reimbursement during the divorce process, which are similar forms of support but differ from alimony. (For instance, spousal support is a form of support paid before a divorce complaint has been filed).  

Having to sort through alimony arrangements can extend divorce proceedings.

How contentious the divorce is

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Finally, whether or not the spouses can cooperate will have a huge impact on the timeline of divorce in PA. There is a wide spectrum of how contested divorces unfold, and not all contested divorces are scorched-earth legal battles.

So even if you and your spouse do not agree on everything, finding points of agreement and working cooperatively will help move the process forward. But the more contentious your Pennsylvania divorce is, the longer it is likely to take.

Additionally, note that these factors affect how much a divorce costs in PA, too.

Is there a waiting period for divorce in Pennsylvania?

There is a 90-day waiting period for mutual consent divorce in PA, which is one of the most common types of divorce in the state. 

There is no waiting period for other types of divorce, including fault-based divorce, but keep in mind that the timeline for these other types of divorce might still be longer than a mutual consent divorce. 

For instance, proving the other spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage can add complexity to the proceedings and ultimately can take longer than a no-fault divorce on the basis of mutual consent. 

The Bottom Line

So, how long does divorce take in PA? Every divorce is different, which makes it difficult to provide a single timeline or estimate.

That said, a PA divorce timeline can be as short as three to four months, or it could take a year or more.

Generally speaking, uncontested no-fault divorces will move the fastest. Contested divorces or those filed on fault-based grounds tend to add complexity and, therefore, time to the divorce process.

If you are curious for a more accurate estimate of how long your divorce will take, consider talking to an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney today.