While uncontested divorces are ideal, divorce cases can be difficult and stressful. It can be even more stressful when the process is prolonged. There are a variety of reasons as to why a divorce takes longer than expected, but there are steps you can take to mitigate their influence.
At Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, our Pennsylvania divorce attorneys have spent over 40 years successfully guiding individuals through the process of exiting a difficult and painful chapter of their lives.
This article covers why your divorce may be taking longer than expected and what you can do to address it.
Possible Reasons for Divorce Taking Longer Than Expected
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were 31,691 divorces in 2021. As each case is unique, there are many possible reasons why your divorce may take longer than expected. Understanding why your divorce is taking so long can help you navigate the process more effectively and can help reduce your mental stress.
While Pennsylvania is a jurisdiction which permits uncontested divorces, there are instances in which spouses cannot agree on some or all issues. It can prolong divorce proceedings if you and your spouse cannot agree on important issues such as property division, child support, or alimony. A contested divorce needs to be resolved through negotiation or by court order.
The court system can prolong the divorce process. Court schedules can be busy, and it can take time for your case to be heard and adjudicated. Additionally, case backlogs can lead to delays in obtaining a final divorce decree.
Discovery is a feature of the litigation process which involves each side requesting, gathering, and producing information and evidence related to the divorce. In addition to collecting and producing documents, discovery can also involve depositions of the spouses and potential witnesses. The process of conducting Discovery can be time-consuming but is necessary to fully prepare a divorce case.
Lack of cooperation between you and your spouse can also prolong your divorce. Sometimes, spouses agree to cooperate, but then one spouse reneges or withdraws from such an agreement. If you and your spouse cannot communicate effectively and work together, your divorce case will likely be delayed.
Continuances are a common feature of the judicial system as one side, or the other, often needs more time to prepare, which in turn requires court hearings or trial dates to be postponed. If either you or your spouse requests a continuance, it can add extra time to the divorce process. However, you can seek attorney’s fees for a divorce or child custody case under Pennsylvania Law if your spouse prolongs your case in bad faith. Continuances can occur for a multitude of reasons, such as illness of a party, an attorney or the Judge; multiple court listings for a lawyer on the date of your hearing; parties or lawyers needing more information to adequately represent you, etc.
While it may be tempting to represent yourself, it can prolong the divorce process if you do not hire a divorce attorney. Hiring a divorce lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. Specifically, a divorce attorney can correctly draft your divorce papers, properly prepare your case, and ensure your arguments are well presented and conform to Pennsylvania divorce law.
What You Can Do If Your Divorce Is Taking Too Long
It is easy and natural to become frustrated during a prolonged divorce. There is no quick or convenient solution to speed up your divorce case. However, you are not completely without options, as you can do a few things to speed up the process.
In very limited situations, Pennsylvania law may allow a divorce to be bifurcated. In short, bifurcation allows a court to grant a divorce decree before resolving other matters, such as property division. Unless both spouses consent, courts only permit bifurcation if the moving spouse proves:
- Grounds for divorce have been established.
- A compelling and unusual reason exists for granting a divorce
- There are sufficient economic protections for the non-moving spouse, e.g., the moving spouse has already provided the other spouse with significant financial assets.
Find a New Divorce Attorney
If you feel your current attorney is not doing enough to move your case forward, consider obtaining new legal representation. A new Pennsylvania divorce attorney can bring a fresh perspective and renewed energy to your case. At Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, our Pennsylvania divorce lawyers will fight to protect your rights and help you start a new chapter of your life. However, before you change lawyers, speak with your current lawyer and express your frustration with the pace of your matter. There may be reasons you are not aware of as to why your matter is not proceeding as quickly as you prefer.
How Long a Spouse Can Lengthen a Divorce in Pennsylvania
The length of time a spouse can drag out a divorce in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case. Your divorce can become prolonged if you and your spouse have children and significant amounts of marital property. Additionally, if you or your spouse are unwilling to negotiate in good faith regarding equitable division of marital property, or do not want to proceed with an amicable divorce, your divorce can become prolonged.
Why Do Divorces Take So Long to Finalize?
Many factors can contribute to why a divorce takes so long to finalize. Some of the most common include contested issues, court schedules, discovery, lack of cooperation, continuances, and lack of representation.
Summary of Why a Divorce May Take Longer
A divorce can take longer than expected for many reasons, including contested issues, court schedules, discovery, disputes regarding child support, hiding assets, lack of cooperation, continuances, and lack of representation. Consider options such as bifurcation (in limited circumstances) or retaining a new Pennsylvania divorce attorney to speed up the process. To learn more about our services, contact the Pennsylvania divorce lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman today!