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Does Pennsylvania have a waiting period for divorce?

You have probably heard horror stories about divorces that drag on for years and wonder if this is true of all divorces. It is not.

It is true that some divorces can last years, but it is usually because they are high-conflict divorces involving complex property division or couples who, for whatever reason, cannot resolve the divorce issues.

Although your divorce may not take years to finalize, there is a waiting period under Pennsylvania law. This waiting period can range from a minimum of 90 days to over a year.

The exact length of a divorce depends on factors including the type of divorce, property division and child custody arrangements.

A mutual consent divorce involves you and your spouse signing a sworn statement agreeing to end your marriage because it is irretrievably broken.

This type of divorce cannot be finalized until 90 days after the filing of the initial divorce petition. The reason for the 90-day waiting period is to give the spouses enough time to confirm they want divorce and to allow time to negotiate practical matters, such as property and custody.

In cases involving one spouse who does not agree to the divorce, a divorce cannot be finalized until the spouses have lived separately for one year. After the one-year period has passed, the spouse wanting the divorce can sign the sworn statement declaring the marriage irretrievably broken and obtain a divorce.

Once the waiting period is over, ideally, you have negotiated and resolved all divorce-related issues and can obtain a judgment of divorce. However, this is not always the case.

Reasons divorces go beyond the waiting periods

When a divorce complaint is filed, the other spouse must be served within 30 days. If the spouse is unavailable and service does not happen, there are other ways to eventually obtain service, but this can prolong the process.

Another common reason divorces take longer than the required waiting periods is that all divorce issues are not resolved yet. You may still be in the negotiation phase of the process. However, with the waiting periods over, once you resolve your divorce issues, you are generally able to finalize your divorce immediately.