According to the CDC, almost half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. The odds are that you may count your marriage among them. That said, you and your spouse can minimize angst and suffering by agreeing to divorce amicably.
If you are planning to divorce and want to learn about your options for divorcing amicably, call the Philadelphia divorce lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. We have over 40 years of experience helping our clients navigate the complex procedure of separating lives and assets, determining spousal support and child support, and creating child custody arrangements that are the best for the whole family. Put our experience to work for you.
What is an Amicable Divorce?
An amicable divorce is simply one where the parties work together as much as they can to solve the questions that arise in a divorce, such as division of property, support, and child custody. When the parties can’t agree, they can agree to enter into mediation, where a third party professional mediator helps them arrive at a decision.
In Pennsylvania, the most amicable divorce process is an uncontested divorce.
Uncontested Divorce in PA
In Pennsylvania, an uncontested divorce is also called a no-fault mutual consent divorce or a mutual consent divorce. In an uncontested divorce in PA, the parties agree to divorce and have come to an agreement on all or most divorce-related issues.
Amicable Divorce Benefits
An amicable divorce, also called no-fault divorce or uncontested divorce in PA, can take as little as three or four months to conclude, and a bit longer if the parties need to mediate some issues. However, because an amicable divorce does not require litigation, it is a faster process and much less expensive than a traditional divorce. Also, the parties come out with skills they may need to continue to co-parent their children.
How to Divorce Amicably
In Pennsylvania, to file an uncontested divorce:
- You must agree that your marriage is “irretrievably broken”
- You both must agree to divorce
- You both must sign an affidavit consenting to the divorce
- You both must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months prior to filing
If necessary, you can wait to resolve child custody and child support issues until after you divorce, but when you file your uncontested divorce in PA you must have determined how to divide your property and whether one party will pay the other alimony. Unresolved property division issues are waived if they are not addressed and resolved before the Divorce Decree is entered.
The Process of Divorcing Amicably with an Uncontested Divorce in PA
1. Determine Whether Any Issues Arising from Your Divorce Require the Help of a Professional.
A professional divorce mediator can help you both negotiate difficult issues and come to an agreement so your divorce proceeds as an uncontested divorce and resolves quickly and inexpensively.
2. Complete the Uncontested Divorce Forms for Your County in Pennsylvania
Each county has its own uncontested divorce forms that you must complete. These forms may be available online. You will file them along with the required filing fee with the county clerk’s office.
3. Serve Your Spouse With the Uncontested Divorce Paperwork
Within 30 days of filing your uncontested divorce paperwork, your spouse must be served with a copy. Since you are working together to make the divorce process more efficient and less painful for all involved, have your spouse sign an Acceptance of Service form so that you can mail a copy of the uncontested divorce paperwork to them by regular mail. You then file that Acceptance of Service with the Clerk of Courts.
4. Complete and File Your Consents
You both will sign Affidavits of Consent (written declarations) stating that you agree to divorce at least 90 days following the date you first filed your divorce papers (23 Pa. Const. Stat. Ann § 3301 (d)). Both parties can sign a Waiver of Notice. All of this must be filed with the Clerk of Court.
5. Complete and File Your Final Uncontested Divorce Documents
Last, you will complete and file a Praecipe to Transmit Record, a Final Decree of Divorce, and any other forms required in your county in PA and pay the filing fee.
Tips for Having an Amicable Divorce
1. Stay Kind, Polite, & Professional with Your Spouse
Remaining civil no matter what will help the process go more smoothly.
2. Focus on Family, Not Fault
You may not be ready to forgive your spouse, or they to forgive you, for perceived wrongs that led to your divorce. Shift your focus to – resolve the divorce.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Consult a Professional
A divorce lawyer or a divorce mediation lawyer may help you and your spouse work through difficult decisions.
4. Have Faith in the Process
Divorce is not easy, but may proceed as smoothly as possible with little disagreement if you both agree to work together. When you reach an impasse, all is not lost – you can meet with a professional and resolve your differences.
Five Options for an Amicable Divorce in PA
1. Divorce Mediation
Mediation is an amicable and less expensive way to resolve issues arising from divorce than going to court. A neutral trained divorce mediator meets with both parties and helps them negotiate and resolve any outstanding issues. This method often helps couples proceed with their uncontested divorce when there are matters the parties cannot agree on.
2. Divorce Arbitration
As in mediation, the parties meet with a neutral trained professional to discuss outstanding issues, however, in this case the arbitrator’s finding is binding upon both parties.
3. Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is another form of alternative dispute resolution. Both parties have attorneys, and the attorneys are bound to withdraw from representation if they cannot resolve the issues without going to litigation.
4. Filing for Divorce Without an Attorney
It is possible to file all of the uncontested divorce paperwork yourselves and many couples have done so successfully.
Limitations to Representing Yourself in a Divorce
If you own a business or have considerable assets and/or income, you may need help assessing the value of marital assets and determining equitable distribution and support. In this case you should consult with an experienced high asset divorce attorney.
If you have young children, you may not be aware of every child custody arrangement possible and what may work best for your family. An experienced child custody attorney can help you determine what parenting arrangements benefit everyone involved.
5. Hiring a Divorce Attorney
The paperwork of uncontested divorce alone can be overwhelming, especially when you are in the emotional throes of divorce. If you are struggling with the paperwork or with working with your spouse to file or complete your uncontested divorce, do not hesitate to consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on some of the issues arising from your divorce, you need professional help, perhaps in the form of mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce. If you seek professional help and are both committed to making it work, the help of a neutral third party often resolves outstanding issues and allows the uncontested divorce to proceed.
Are Amicable Divorces Often Successful?
Yes. If a couple commits to the process and seeks professional help when they need it, they come out of the divorce process sooner than those having to litigate the issues in a traditional divorce, they have negotiation skills to use going forward, and they’ve created less emotional trauma for each other and their children.
Our Divorce Lawyers Can Help
Considering filing an uncontested divorce? Call us to discuss the issues. We have over forty years of experience helping families in the Philadelphia area with the divorce process, and we can help you get the best result possible. Amicable divorce works. Put our experience with uncontested divorce in PA to work for you.